Innovative ideas for every utility

Babies and electric vehicles through the utility customer engagement lens

Here’s a connection I’ve noticed that most people paying their electric bill would never make: in aggregate, newborn babies and electric vehicles (EVs) look very similar from a utility viewpoint.

No, utilities aren’t so myopic that they literally can’t see the difference between a baby and a new automobile. But when a utility helps a customer understand their power consumption, the newborn in the crib and the EV plugged into a home charging station look amazingly the same.

Earlier in my career at a utility, I investigated high power bill complaints, before EVs were even a twinkle in a utility’s eye, and I realized that the increased power usage when parents brought home a newborn created a “sticker shock” when they opened their ensuing month’s power bill. Those sleepless nights with lights on, and appliances running at odd hours make for a higher than normal energy usage. That same “sticker shock” follows a new EV home when the new owners recharge its batteries.


Balancing the “EV boom”

It’s undeniable that electric vehicles (EVs) have grown in popularity in recent years. Between Super Bowl ads, and weekly statistics proving a wide appeal for all drivers, EVs are here to stay. As more and more EVs connect to the grid, there will be a much greater energy demand from utilities.

The increased power usage from EVs creates a need to balance that spike with additional energy savings. Our team at Oracle Utilities has learned that charging an EV can increase a typical household’s energy usage by 15 percent or more and potentially double usage during peak demand times.  This presents a huge potential for demand side management to address the challenges that EVs may present for utilities and customers. 

One tool to help manage that sticker shock is the EV presence detection capabilities powered by Oracle Utilities Analytics Insights. This machine learning algorithm can detect new EVs plugging into a utility network, which gives utilities and customers an opportunity to realize energy savings.

Failure to deepen energy savings in homes with an EV is a lost opportunity. Utilities need to consider their EV customers when looking to meet the full potential of behavioral energy efficiency.

Mining for EV load profiles

Most utilities are not truly ready for the oncoming EV boom, in the US, or worldwide. Preparation to detect EVs on their network, and communicate with owners regarding optimal charging times will be critical to maintaining network balance, and greater energy savings.

A recent study by Esource suggests that perhaps the EV boom isn’t quite as imminent as everyone assumes. The study shows that EV familiarity has remained relatively unchanged at 75% since 2015. However, it seems that EV sales are not expanding beyond the current core base in the near term.

The study also suggests that utilities can play a major role in marketing EVs to their own customers. Utilities that look at EVs as a potential resource, and plan ahead for the impact of increased demand, will be better prepared once a future tipping point is reached.

A key takeaway from the presentation: utilities can help push EVs by doing targeted marketing rather than assuming everyone is EV ready.

Time to tame and train your charging

It’s apparent that while many analysts predict a boom, others suggest utilities aren’t yet ready for it.  And, while many consumers may now realize that EVs can provide numerous environmental benefits, and utilities are looking to tap into the potential grid sided benefits we’ve come to understand that:

  • The industry can benefit from the accelerated adoption of EVs, but in a manageable way;
  • Some utilities may not be doing enough yet to get ready for the rise in demand; and
  • While marketing may come in handy, it’s going take a more targeted and personalized approach – so that utilities can help their customers mitigate against higher bills with energy saving automation.  

I believe it’s going to take an effective customer engagement approach, and some very tactical nudging from the utility – with the assistance of an effective customer engagement partner like Oracle Opower.   Oracle Utilities is already helping our utility partners with their EV adoption and customer engagement goals – while looking into how to make it all manageable for them too. 

We know that new parents will have sleepless nights, and some higher energy bills. Utilities can help their new EV owners reduce their “sticker shock” from the higher power bill through education, and communication.

Come join our session on Building the Electric Vehicle Customer Journey at the 2020 Oracle Utilities Customer Edge Conference March 3, 2020. #OpowerOWN


Oracle Utilities, including Opower, partners with the world's hardest working electric, water and natural gas companies to empower, enhance and enable your every single day. From cloud-native products and better grid management tools to support for every single step of your customer's journey, we have the answer. Learn more at oracle.com/utilities. Get specific product information as quick as clicking right here.


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