Heather Anderson is a leading expert in residential demand response.
As a manager at Baltimore Gas and Electric, she's responsible for designing, implementing, and operating one of the world's largest peak-time rebate programs. And she's found incredible success: in just two summers, her program has helped BGE's customers save more than $13 million on their energy bills.
In less than two weeks, Heather will share her story at PowerUp, our annual utility innovation summit. Here's a sneak peek of what she'll cover — plus some key takeaways in case you can't make it to Miami.
Opower: You’re an industry leader in residential demand response, which is one reason why we’re so excited to have you on stage at PowerUp this year. What brought you to this point in your career? People jump into the utility industry from all kinds of paths, and we’re sure you have a good story to tell.
Heather Anderson: After earning a degree in marketing, I led product management and marketing at Provident Bank for over 15 years. Banks and electric utilities may seem different, but during my time in the banking industry it was undergoing similar challenges that utilities are facing today. Not that long ago, banks were highly regional with limited to no online presence. This restricted the need and capability to communicate with and engage customers outside of traditional branches. The digitization of information enabled deeper customer engagement, satisfaction, and choice. My responsibility was to develop and implement solutions and products that brought the bank into the 21st century by exceeding our customers’ increasing expectations for service and services, like online banking.
"At BGE, we are focused on translating energy information into real value for customers — in the form of efficiency and demand response — in order to build stronger, deeper customer relationships."
Today, utilities across the nation are facing similar trends. Digitization of energy information creates opportunities for new products and solutions, and deeper customer engagement. At BGE, we are focused on translating energy information into real value for customers — in the form of efficiency and demand response — in order to build stronger, deeper customer relationships. In this role, I’m able to draw on much of my past experience in banking to design effective, innovative demand-side management programs that help customers save energy and money.
O: Data analytics are a big part of the utility industry’s future — but they’re also huge buzzwords right now. How is BGE using analytics to achieve real business outcomes?
HA: Data analytics only matter if you use them to yield outcomes. Using high-level analytics, you can know the hours of peak electric demand. But by using detailed data, you can create a customer’s baseline to provide them with a personalized incentive to decrease their use during peak times.
"Data analytics only matter if you use them to yield outcomes."
Information is most useful when you can translate it into action. At BGE, we are focused on delivering these insights to customers so they have a better experience, are able to make energy savings decisions, participate in our programs, and are more likely to save energy and money. Messages are personalized — imagine an email or text message designed specifically for you, with your own data. This is a more compelling way to communicate than via a generic message with a menu of programs that may or may not be applicable to you. This approach has worked well for BGE’s Smart Energy Rewards program, a peak-time rebate program. It's saved customers nearly $13 million over the two summers since the program launched in 2013.
O: After a successful launch in 2013, BGE expanded Smart Energy Rewards to over 850,000 customers this year — and the initial results seem really strong. What’s your next step? Now that you’ve dramatically scaled your DR approach, what’s the next mountain for BGE to climb?
HA: After the successful launch of the BGE Smart Energy Rewards program in 2013, the next step is to fully deploy it in summer 2015 to 1 million customers who are eligible to participate. It will be one of the largest peak-time rebate programs, with very high participation and customer satisfaction. Our goal is to maintain and grow our results, and continue to provide customers with choices on how to participate in demand response programs.
"Our goal is to maintain and grow our results, and continue to provide customers with choices on how to participate in demand response programs."
At the same time, we are actively exploring pilots to learn and take advantage of new technologies, such as the use of Wi-Fi thermostats, to further integrate our energy efficiency and demand response programs. By integrating demand management, we can provide an enhanced and more consistent customer experience.
O: Let’s step outside the utility world for this last question. We’re obviously going to see you at PowerUp, and we’ve put together a packed agenda for our attendees. What part of the event are you looking forward to most?
HA: I am most looking forward to learning more about behavior programs from other utilities and other innovative approaches in the sunny backdrop of Miami.