Needless to say, 2020 has not turned out like many of us expected. While the change in the energy industry was clear, with major clean energy commitments made by dozens of utilities in 2019, COVID-19 and extreme weather amplified the attention needed to continue delivering affordable and reliable energy to all users.
Speaking of annual trends and expectations, E Source always knows how to put on a good show with their annual Forum, which kicks off on Oct. 6, 2020. While we aren’t able to enjoy the typical after-hours activities around Denver, we know that the E Source team, including Bill LeBlanc, will entertain us while Wayne Greenberg gathers some of the best in the energy business to share relevant lessons learned since the last forum.
Here are a few of the topics we look forward to hearing about:
- Best practices for addressing equity issues: During hot summer months, as we had in August, we all rely on energy to stay comfortable and healthy. Year-round, we depend on energy to keep our homes and businesses going. But when it comes to costs and the environment, it’s clear that we aren’t all impacted by energy in the same way. How can utilities and partners help to support an affordable clean energy transition that serves customers equitably? Targeted energy efficiency, payment plans, dynamic rate offerings and renewable programs come to mind. Of course, the details are important. We look forward to hearing from the experts during the following sessions: “Low-income customer panel: What we need from our utilities,” “Why it’s imperative to unify your clean-energy and energy-equity initiatives” and “Maximize your impact on vulnerable communities through segmentation and outreach.”
- Advancing new technologies: As the renewable sector continues to mature and exceed 50% of the system mix in many regions, integration of the intermittent generation will increasingly be important. Aligning supply and demand can economically, environmentally and operationally benefit all stakeholders. Demand-side management will be important, but technologies can help make it easier for consumers and utilities to coordinate when it matters most to the grid. We expect to hear about the interaction of consumer-centric programming, data and devices in some of the following sessions: “How technological advancements can shrink call volumes, streamline operations, and support customers,” “Unlocking the value of AMI data” and “Driving decarbonization with demand flexibility.”
- Delivering for customers: The mission statement for many utilities has traditionally been to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy. Now, that is table stakes. Consumers and stakeholders expect clean energy and consumer choices that are easy to access. These presentations should provide some good tips for delivering personalized solutions to customers in an efficient way for utility customer care and program operations: “Design, optimize, and promote your self-service options,” “Turning customer insights into results: A strategy discussion with executives and marketers” and “Creating the perfect experience for your customers: Is it possible?”
- Big-picture changes: Continued reliability, clean energy, beneficial electrification, equity and diversity in the workplace are independently big issues to tackle. We can’t wait to address them one at a time, especially considering the coronavirus crisis accelerated the need for rapid change. We suspect collaboration, feedback and innovation to be key themes for some of the following sessions: “Lives and livelihoods on the line: Utilities’ opportunities as a force for positive change post-2020,” “Utility business strategies for a shifting economic and societal climate,” “Executive insights on the electrification of buildings,” “Ready for change? Preparing for future federal, state, and local sustainability policies,” “A frank conversation on diversity in utilities and energy” and “Sustain crisis-driven innovations and emerge stronger after COVID-19.”
From the best approaches for tackling equity and the advancement of new technology to an increased focus on delivering value to customers and COVID-19’s acceleration of overarching industry changes, this year’s E Source Forum — like conferences from years past — will help keep our industry up to date on current trends, best practices and the critical issues we all face. E Source is consistently informative and eye-opening, and despite being virtual this year, is always an event we look forward to. See you there!