News and Events

2019 Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium to Focus on Smart Utilities and Smart Customers in the Age of Digital Transformation

Industry’s Leading Smart Grid Event that Focuses on Customer Benefits of Grid Modernization to Take Place in Washington, DC this October

WASHINGTON – June 03, 2019 – SmartEnergy IP™, a division of SmartMark Communications, announced today its 9th annual Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium. This year’s event, which will focus on the impact of digital transformation on smart grid customer experience, including optimization of AMI infrastructure as a platform for improved customer communication, smart cities, smart homes and smart customers.

The 2019 Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium will take place on October 29, 2019 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC.

“This is an exciting time for utilities, as they continue to evolve and improve their relationship with customers,” said Juliet Shavit, President of SmartEnergy IP. “From the latest applications to educate and engage consumers, to the tools now available in our homes and in our communities to improve our lives, utilities have become powerful central forces in the investment and optimization of emerging technologies’ innovative applications.”

This is the 9th year of the conference, which has always been focused on the customer benefits of smart grid. The event is designed to educate utilities, regulators and stakeholders on best practices in educating and engaging consumers on the benefits of their smart grid technology investments. Today that means not only AMI deployments, but dynamic pricing, time-of-use programs, advanced bundled services and new applications designed to empower consumers to save energy and money.

To learn more about speaking opportunities or to register for the 2019 Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium, visit www.smartgridcustomereducation.com.

SmartMark CEO Talks “Smart Cities” at 2019 Southern California Public Power Authority Annual Conference

Industry Expert Addresses the Need to Keep Customers at the Focus of Technology Investments and Smart Cities Planning

May 16, 2019 10:36 AM EDT

BURBANK, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–SmartMark Communications, LLC and SmartEnergyIPTM announced that their founder and CEO, Juliet Shavit, will speak today at the 2019 Southern California Public Power Authority Annual Conference on the topic of Smart Cities. A world-renowned expert on smart grid customer education, Shavit has become widely recognized for her efforts to encourage utilities to leverage innovative business models and emerging technologies to improve the utility-customer relationship and shape the Utility of the Future.

Shavit will be speaking today at 12:45pm in the panel entitled “Smart City: What, Why and How?” The conference is taking place at the Marriott in Burbank, California.

“California has long led the US utilities market in innovative approaches to optimizing new technologies to improve efficiency and customer experience,” said Shavit. “I am excited to speak with the innovators at public utilities in California about their smart cities roadmaps and learn more about the path they are forging in the adoption of new technologies.”

SmartMark Communications is a global strategic communications firm. SmartEnergy IPTM is the division within SmartMark dedicated exclusively to customer experience in the energy and utilities markets.

Learn more about SmartMark Communications at smartmarkglobal.com and SmartEnergy IP at smartenergy-IP.com.

 

About SmartMark Communications, LLC

SmartMark Communications is a global leader in communications, helping businesses strategically position themselves as thought leaders and utilize media and influencer relations to help shape their industries. The company is recognized for its ability to innovate and use technology applications to improve customer experience and drive behavior change. To learn more, visit www.smartmarkglobal.com.

About SmartEnergy IP

SmartEnergy IP is a strategic communications and research organization within SmartMark Communications dedicated to helping articulate the benefits of energy technology investment and innovation for consumers. The Company helps utilities and stakeholders define the technology and business requirements necessary to develop and implement customer-focused programs that benefit communities and meet policy goals.

Contacts

Lyndsay Pocorobba
215-504-4272
lyndsay@smartmarkusa.com

SmartMark Communications CEO Juliet Shavit Named “Most Influential CEO of the Year” by Corporate Vision Magazine

Magazine’s Corporate Excellence Awards Honors Executives Who Innovate, Grow Respective Industries

PHILADELPHIA – MAY 2, 2019 – SmartMark Communications, a global leader in strategic communications and the parent company of SmartEnergy IP™, announced today that founder and CEO Juliet Shavit has been named the “Most Influential CEO of the Year” in strategic communications for 2019 by Corporate Vision (CV) Magazine’s Corporate Excellence Awards.

Shavit was awarded for her innovative approach to communications and market positioning, working with companies and organizations to help understand the role of how emerging technologies improve customer experience. Her areas of expertise include smart grid, smart city, smart home and the integration of music in customer experience.

SmartMark Communications was recently named top utility solutions provider to watch in 2019 by CIOReview magazine.

Shavit is considered an expert on the importance of customers in the adoption of new technologies. She recently authored a smart cities roadmap for the American Public Power Association and is the founder of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Customer Engagement Working Group. Her firm also hosts the Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium annually.

“This award comes at an exciting milestone for SmartMark Communications, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary of delivering public relations and strategic communications to businesses and communities worldwide,” Shavit said. “This honor wouldn’t be possible without the support of my clients, who every day trust me and my talented, dedicated staff to bring their news and thought leadership to market. They are the ones moving their industries forward with meaningful business solutions, and I’m happy to play a role in guiding them.”

Annual winners of the Corporate Excellence Awards are handpicked following a comprehensive analysis and qualitative and quantitative research by CV Magazine, ensuring those who innovate, grow and improve their respective industries are awarded.

Learn more about Shavit, SmartMark Communications and its clients at www.smartmarkglobal.com.

Juliet Shavit, CEO of SmartMark Communications, is “Wonder Woman” on the Cover of this Month’s CIOReview

Issue Names SmartMark Communications Top Utility Tech Provider 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA — February 20, 2019 — SmartMark Communications, a global leader in strategic communications and SmartEnergy IP™, the premier provider of customer education for the utilities industry, announced today that Founder and CEO Juliet Shavit is on the cover of the recent issue of CIOReview and that the Company has been named the top utility tech provider of 2019.

Referred to as “Wonder Woman” on the cover, Shavit is lauded for her innovative approach to the adoption of emerging technologies in the utilities industry. The company is a pioneer and advocate for educating customers and stakeholders on the benefits of AMI and grid modernization. Shavit is considered a foremost expert in smart grid, smart city and smart home adoption.

Shavit recently authored the smart cities roadmap for the American Public Power Association and she is the founder of the U.S. Department of Energy Smart Grid Customer Engagement Working Group as well as the annual Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium. Today she leads SmartMark into the new frontier of utility innovation—helping shape and define “The Utility of the Future.”

“This is an incredible time in the utility industry, with consumers and stakeholders as excited about technology and grid modernization as their utilities,” said Shavit. “This offers up unprecedented opportunity for the industry to redefine the role of utilities, with the focus on customer benefits at the core. New business models can be created that help drive innovation and sustain long-term tech investment.”

Learn more about how SmartMark and SmartEnergy IP are helping shape the future of the utilities industry at smartenergy-ip.com.

Fortnightly

Five Questions to Guide Aspiring Smart City Utilities

Public Power Participation
Paul Zummo and Juliet Shavit
Fortnightly Magazine – February 11 2019

Smart cities have become a buzzing topic in the past few years. There would seem to be a natural fit for public power utilities, which are generally overseen and owned by local governments, to be active participants in smart city initiatives.

Indeed, some public power utilities have undertaken bold smart city plans, though many utilities have taken a wait-and-see approach until now. As the trade association representing public power utilities, the American Public Power Association has offered a roadmap for public power utilities considering getting involved in smart cities. The roadmap lays out key questions utilities need to ask before developing a program and offers a path for utilities to take.

Before looking at the key questions, we must define what we mean by smart city. Today, the definition of smart cities is not universally agreed upon. For example, it can refer to a city that focuses on carbon reduction or is introducing electric vehicles.

It could also refer to a city that has implemented municipal Wi-Fi or integrated solar and distributed energy resources. Many utilities identify smart city initiatives as the next phase of smarter grid efforts, piggybacking on advanced metering infrastructure investments and deployments.

As defined in the roadmap, the Association defines smart as the intersection of digital with intelligence. Smart city, therefore, refers to a city that leverages digital connectivity and data analytics to drive intelligent decision making.

Paul Zummo: There needs to be accountability, and the person in charge of this initiative must have control over people and processes at the utility, possess strong leadership and management skills, and strong communication skills.

In short, a smart city is a city that betters the lives of residents and businesses through mindful investments and deployments of advanced technologies. Specifically, these efforts can improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and improve reliability and customer service.

Having identified what a smart city means, the fundamental question the utility must then ask is, will this investment improve the community and the lives of the people in it? Going back to the original definition of smart, it also means asking if each technology decision is an intelligent and meaningful investment for customers and the community.

If the utility answers in the affirmative, then it must begin devising a plan. The roadmap lays out five questions to ponder before establishing a smart city program.

Who is Best to Lead?

There needs to be accountability, and the person in charge of this initiative must have control over people and processes at the utility, possess strong leadership and management skills, and strong communication skills. It doesn’t matter if it’s the CEO or someone else in the organization, but there must be someone with the vision to lead and follow through.

What Does a Team Look Like?

Juliet Shavit: From an operations standpoint, the utility should identify concerns and a process for the development of a smart city security plan.

Once a project lead has been identified, consider who else will be on the team and what roles they will take on. There should be a process lead — someone who will be responsible for developing schedules and core functions and processes. Someone should also manage regulatory and stakeholder communications to ensure these groups are looped into the process. Communications support will be critical in developing public-facing materials and managing public relations.

Who Are the External Stakeholders?

City council and board members, key industrial leaders, and consumer advocates are just a few potential stakeholders who must be engaged. Once these stakeholders have been identified, then the public power utility must determine what the engagement looks like, whether this engagement is formal or informal, how frequently to engage with key stakeholders, and what level of engagement is recommended and when.

What Materials Must be Developed?

There are several potential considerations for developing materials. It is advisable to develop a smart city mission statement with goals as identified by the utility that align with enhanced grid infrastructure efforts.

The utility and the city might want to establish clean energy and reduced carbon emission goals, develop an external communications plan to support community buy-in, outline project costs and a funding plan, and identify key milestones and metrics for the next five to ten years. A projected timeline by phases, which is a living document that starts with the utility’s operating plan and budget, which then is reviewed by the project management office, would be beneficial as well.

What Are Key Considerations?

From an operations standpoint, the utility should identify concerns and a process for the development of a smart city security plan. The roadmap also suggests identifying key areas of automation that are currently part of smarter grid efforts and any alignments with the smart city model, as well as to identify opportunities to leverage current and future infrastructure for smart city efforts. The utility should also look at the overall goals of the smart city plan to see where the utility can contribute in areas of lifestyle and convenience.

Once a utility has answered these questions, it can develop a clear map to guide the city and the utility on the road to becoming a smart city.

Electric Energy Online

Powherful Forces

Powherful Forces | Juliet Shavit, CEO and President of Smartmark Communications

by Elisabeth Monaghan

Juliet Shavit is not an engineer, but that doesn’t prevent her from being the recipient of titles like “Queen of the Smartgrid,” “Woman of Power,” or from being featured in magazines like EE T&D. Because she grew up in a family of engineers, Shavit understands how they think and speak. What’s more, she is a deft communicator, who asks the right questions and is able to translate the thought processes of both engineers and everyday day consumers. As Shavit explained, “Even though I’m not an engineer, I spend a lot of time wondering how and why things work The primary difference between myself and engineers is that I focus on another dimension as well—what is that thing’s impact on me.”

It helped that Shavit grew up around engineers, but her willingness to take risks and her desire never to be bored has pushed her to do even more with her communication skills. After working at The New Yorker after college, Shavit left to become a marketing writer for a telecom company. From there, she joined a former colleague at his telecommunications billing company. Witnessing the struggles that came with technology adoption made it clear to her there was a critical need for better communication between telecom providers and their end-users. Deciding it was time to enable that communication, Shavit founded SmartMark Communications in 1999. SmartMark is a communications, strategy and new media company, where Shavit and her team serve as a bridge between marketing communications departments and engineers and technologists. They also help technology-focused companies and industries understand how to communicate these benefits to customers.

When utilities first began deploying AMI, while leveraging their network communications, Shavit was approached to assist with decoding the benefits of this new technology for industry partners and consumers alike. While she had not worked with energy clients, Shavit found the parallels between the telecommunications sector and that of the energy sector rather striking. “I had just lived through the technology transformation in the telecom industry. I have an appreciation for how those networks transform businesses. I definitely can hold my own in a room full of technologists on the energy side. I also have a business appreciation for how that technology works, because not only did I see and understand what was happening on a technology level during the telecom transformation, but it was also my job to understand the business value proposition of that technology. It is the same with energy.”

Since founding SmartMark, Shavit has established herself as an expert in translating tech-speak, while conveying to technologists the importance of engaging customers and eliciting their buy-in. Shavit has also been instrumental in changing the perception of customer value in utility business cases—something she is passionate about. This has made her popular with regulators and utilities alike—particularly now, in the age of grid modernization and large scale utility technology investment.

Her comfort level with engineers and industry acronyms, combined with her capacity for connecting with all levels of utilities and stakeholders, has earned her speaking opportunities with the likes of the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), GridComms, Digital Transformation World and TIA Jam.

As new technology emerges, and as more utilities migrate towards grid modernization, Shavit sees a tremendous need for a greater customer education effort. In response to this need, Shavit launched SmartEnergy IP, a research and consulting organization within SmartMark Communications that is focused on helping utilities understand how the smart grid benefits their customers. Shavit uses SmartEnergy IP’s findings to ensure effective communication between companies and their stakeholders. More important, she draws upon the information to stress the importance of the customer’s role.

“I’m really passionate and very excited about how tech companies are paying more attention to the consumer on so many levels,” said Shavit, “whether it’s making the customers’ lives easier, addressing data privacy or including them in conversations on the roadmap of where this technology is headed.”

In spite of her optimism, Shavit cautions utilities to keep in mind that at the end of the day, they’re serving customers and not ratepayers. “We’re on this journey together,” said Shavit.

“Our lives have become more digital, and businesses are trying to wrap their head around the impact digital will have on the customer experience. Companies need to use customer responses as a barometer when budgeting for and plotting their technology roadmap. If utilities can harness what that means and optimize this new customer/utility dynamic, they will see success. If we exclude customers from that discussion, I would not be too optimistic about these technology investments working out.”

If you are looking to establish a stronger communication channel, you may wonder how to get the conversation started between utilities, stakeholders and consumers. On the SmartMark Communications’ website (www.smartmarkglobal.com), visitors can find links to Shavit’s presentations she has given at industry events, as well as interviews in publications where she explains the role of the consumers in smart grid modernization.

Read the original article here.

Connect World

IOT: What does the Customer Want?

IoT and the Customer
By Juliet Shavit, President and CEO of SmartMark Communications, LLC

I recently sat in a room full of telecom network engineers to discuss the topic of IoT and the customer. I followed several presentations on U/X and BSS, but when it came to my presentation, I felt a sudden stillness in the air. Radio silence. It was terrifying.

A week later I delivered the same address to a number of telecom CEOs at a business conference, and the response couldn’t have been more different. Thankful and full of relief, I began to understand what the critical difference was between the two audiences. The first audience really had no knowledge of the customer outside BSS metrics or click-through numbers. The second audience had a greater urgency to understand what customers wanted. They understood that the future of their business depended on it.

I’ve deduced from that experience that the urgency of this topic is truly critical for C-levels because their future business models depend almost entirely on uptake of consumers; However, the message must be delivered throughout the organization, so that it resonates with the engineers.

But what do customers want? What are a bunch of lazy millennials willing to pay for and what will keep existing customers from jumping ship to new OTT providers? Will Amazon take over the world or is there a place for innovation among infrastructure-heavy incumbent providers?

The answer lies in an operator’s approach to innovation, because at the end of the day, innovation is what will catch the attention of a customer glued to their smartphone screen. It will make them look up. It will make them engage, and it will more importantly make them subscribe. I will also argue that that innovation must be linked directly to customer control.

The Business of Innovation
If IoT is a tricky word, then the word “innovation” is even trickier. For the purposes of this argument, IoT is the digitization of traditionally non-digitized industries. How do industries and business models embrace the world of the Internet and what opportunities will such an embrace entail?

To really understand the business behind monetizing IoT, service providers must look at before and after scenarios around some industries that have drastically been impacted by IoT.

Energy and Utilities
One can argue that the energy industry has undergone one of the most transformational evolutions of any industry as a result of IoT. According to a recent report, the global Smart Grid technology market is poised to grow at a CAGR of around 29.5% over the next decade to reach approximately $830.56 billion by 2025.

The introduction of Smart Grid, with an emphasis on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) has allowed for utilities to better collect, understand and analyze customer usage information with the ultimate goal of forecasting and managing load reduction. More importantly, the technology has allowed customers to better understand, manage and control their energy use.

The deployments of new wireless mesh networks coupled with a wave of innovation around personal energy management, have offered up opportunities to those companies with the motivation and the tech know-how to help utilities transform their businesses. Whether it is management of those newly enhanced network operations centers or the systems necessary to help utilities understand the data now available, communications service providers have more than ample opportunity to support and collaborate with utilities on the future of energy distribution and management.

And, if AMI is not sexy enough, the race has already begun for building smart cities and enabling smart homes. The prize goes to those fastest and most innovative to market, with the customer at the center of their story.

Financial Services
By the time my children turn into responsible, account holding adults, retail banks may be obsolete. So is the direction we are moving in with the financial services industry. Despite the largest looming cyber threats ever, people are flocking to their computers to utilize online banking and money management tools. Direct deposit has become so popular it has threatened to make the U.S. Postal Service nearly obsolete.

But what is really driving the mad rush to online banking? I would argue that it is the same thing that is driving customer demand across all industries – control.

The Internet has introduced consumers to unprecedented control over their money, and everyone from applications developers to managed service providers have caught on. Telcos must sit up and smell the data centers.

Banking is a highly deregulated market, so helping the banking industry understand and help guide consumers through the digital channels to optimize investments and secure their futures is a challenge made possible only through the introduction of IoT. Therein lies great future opportunities for service providers.

Retail
There is arguably no industry greater impacted by IoT than retail. One needs to only take a visit to the abandoned storefronts in the local mall to see the physical implications of such a transition. And customers, my friend, are the grand prize for those businesses who can differentiate themselves in a highly competitive, overly crowded virtual world.

The market opportunity here is for those communications providers who can leverage their history of customer experience and stacks of data analytics tools to help online retailers hook customers – and not just for the moment — but for the long-term through cookies and other session data. The most innovative and qualified party able to help to reel in customers wins.

The opportunities in the retail environment for service providers is not a secret. Everything from online storefronts to billing, rating and charging to entire U/X designs are currently some services the telcos are offering their retail business customers.

In the olden days (when I was a young person), telcos would have one lonely opportunity, to offer telephone services. Even triple play seems like an ancient and underwhelming opportunity in comparison.

Real Estate
I can hardly remember the days before Realtor.com. In fact, I have bought at least three houses as a result of my own ability to surf and sort, itemize and customize. Long gone are the days of waiting for your real estate agent to drive by with the print outs and take you on never-ending site visits.

Managing information, data analytics and customization are all ways today’s operators are helping the real estate industry identify customers and manage their experiences.

IoT has reinvented the real estate customer experience. Putting control in the hands of the customer, as we saw similarly in the previous examples, once again, is critical to this industry’s evolution.

Industry Pressures from IoT Mean New Opportunities to Innovate for Operators But not all industries have seen a surge of business opportunity thanks to the proliferation of the Internet. Here are a few examples where IoT has disrupted industry is a strongly negative way. The question then arises from these examples is what is the role of the telecom service provider in these disrupted industries?

Music
The music industry is a clear example of a once thriving industry crippled strongly by the increased popularity of digital streaming. For an industry that moves from physical to digital mediums, purchase price has dropped astronomically. In addition, in today’s environment, where you can simply stream or download your favorite songs instead of being forced to buy an entire CD, the overall cost for music is going down.

As alluded to in the introduction to this section, the music industry is just one hit hard by the rise in IoT. Yet, telecom service providers can drink a glass half full if they are agile, innovative enough and hire a new group of hungry young millennials.

The upside of this industry challenge is the increased popularity of subscription services outside traditional voice, text, video and data. Can music be a service? Should telcos be looking at these models themselves, given their infrastructure capabilities to host and deliver content? It certainly makes for an industry discussion, particularly to those slightly weathered incumbents looking at competing against the hip younger players.

Education
Thankfully I haven’t yet heard of medical degrees being offered online, but chances are that is a matter of time. These days, to gain any level of education, one need only sit in front of the computer. While maybe not making us more social creatures, IoT is forcing a new generation of people to get educated online because it is easy.

But one of the greater challenges with the proliferation of online high education courses, means that the costs normally allocated to traditional brick and mortar universities are declining. There is no need to room and board. College textbooks are all online. According to a recent article, nearly 2.5 million fewer students are enrolling in colleges and universities.

This means that the education industry may be in desperate need for technology support from those who can best help them transform their businesses and make new investments in cloud infrastructure and related services. Whether it is the upward trend in purchasing solutions to meet the rising demand for online education or finding the right managed services strategies to partner with schools across the globe, telecom service providers should be paying close attention. Those with the desire to innovate and explore new territory will have much to gain from this industry’s need to adapt better to an IoT world.

The Roadmap to IoT Customer Innovation


There is one common thread in all of the industries highlighted above. It is opportunity. So, for telecom service providers in need of better understanding how to monetize IoT investments, I encourage them to look at IoT in a different way—as a door to the development of new innovative services. It is no secret that B2B revenue far exceeds residential, but with this gift of opportunity comes a great responsibility for operators.

Communications service providers must open their minds and step outside their comfort zone. They must engage with consumers better, remind themselves what it is like to be a consumer in industries outside telecom. They must also remember that what customers want now, more than ever, is control.

At the heart of this opportunity lies innovation and the demand for communications service providers to make a better effort to understand customer behavior outside traditional telecom services. They must re-examine their business service strategies to really appreciate the opportunities that IoT brings with it. If they don’t, their younger, more agile and music-listening competitors will.

Smart grid 2.0: the role of consumers in grid modernisation

Smart Grid Utility-Week

01/04/2018 By Juliet Shavit
SmartMark Communications

The last meter is in – now what?
Utilities learned an important lesson during the rollout of smart meters – that customers would not be passive participants in the technology decision. Further, that educating customers before, during and after the deployment about the benefits of technology advancement was beneficial to all parties. Of course, now that many utilities have achieved recovery for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) deployment efforts, questions are raised once again about the continued need to engage customers in the dialogue around technology advancement and investment. One would think that the lessons learned in Bakersfield, California nearly a decade ago would have remained strongly engrained in the minds of utilities. But, new grid modernisation efforts are proving otherwise.

Utilities that have successfully deployed AMI are now faced with some important questions, namely:

  1. What do they now need to do to optimise these investments?
  2. What are the benefits to consumers to make these technology advancements
  3. How much will it cost to educate consumers and what is the risk/benefits analysis of doing do?

Let’s take a closer look at the current dilemmas facing utilities looking to further undergo transformation in the area of grid modernisation and the role of the consumer during the process.

How can utilities optimise AMI investments?
A key mistake utilities made when they built their AMI business cases was to assume that technology transformation would end with the last meter in, and when the networks were optimised. Of course, regulators needed a defined timeline and cost to approve AMI, but any technologist would understand inherently that technology transformation is a process—one not ordinarily a one-time deal. That is because, of course, digital infrastructure must be upgraded and maintained as technology advances.

Furthermore, those networking companies that promised transformation of the grid through AMI should have mentioned that the smart meter network is simply a platform from which transformation blossoms. It is the backbone for new applications to run over it. The end game was never just understanding customer energy use.

What are the customer benefits of grid modernisation?
The conversation around smart technology is an ironic one. Why does one assume that enabling equipment with a wifi capability or plugging into the Internet makes something smart? IoT has most certainly brought about the introduction of smart solutions, and enabling infrastructure to respond in real-time to a changing landscape does make something smart, but an important piece of the equation is how utilities deploy this kind of infrastructure or utilise advanced technologies to modernise the grid. This means that smart people must know what to do with smart technologies to solve real world problems.

In the case of the grid, reliability and security remain top priorities for modernising the grid. While those functions may not necessarily rely on customer engagement, customers most certainly can understand the benefits of those investments.

Yet, kWh reduction is an example of a component to grid modernisation that involves people making intelligent decisions to understand, manage and control their energy use. While automation helps, choosing to automate homes through use of smart home appliance or smart devices is a responsibility that falls on the consumer. So, while customers may not see the need to protest in the streets about self-healing networks, there are significant benefits to those utilities that keep the benefits discussion going with customers, as well as the responsibility to educate, empower and sometimes arm customers with the tools and technologies necessary to help them participate in a sustainable smart energy lifestyle.

What are the benefits to consumers for these technology advancements?
As mentioned above, lower energy bills are not always the primary benefit to consumers when it comes to grid reliability. This means that utilities should be careful about what they promise in their messages. However, understanding that their communities are safer and more resilient from any kind of threat—whether that is man or nature made—is a real benefit that should be articulated to consumers around grid modernisation. Furthermore, environmental benefits around carbon reduction most certainly can be seen as a benefit to consumers.

So, for those utilities and policy makers who are tasked with allocating funds for grid modernisation, or approving business cases related to these investments, it is wise to ensure that the customer is not left behind. Consumers can be the largest proponents of these advancements and play a critical role to both deployment of new technology and adoption of it.

How much will it cost to educate consumers?
Isn’t this always the trick question. Rather than put a dollar amount next to the grid modernisation line item, perhaps it is wiser to calculate a price per customer that equates to a percentage of the overall technology investment. If customers are indeed necessary to the success of grid modernisation, that technology education should be part and parcel to the funding of any grid mod business case.

What are the risks of not educating consumers?
One can already hear the naysayers in the room. They are the same utilities that felt it was completely appropriate to put smart meters on homes and businesses without letting anyone know. These are the same utilities that say, “there is no need to educate customers about operational investments of the utility.” Those are the same utilities that spent three times as much money on crises communications when their customers complained of higher bills and/or their meters caught fires.

One can argue that the risk of lack of education is twofold—one is the slow adoption of behavioral change, and the other are the costs associated with crises communications should customers decide they have been taken advantage of.

Advice for utilities and policymakers
The new year is upon us and one of the great advantages that the Internet and advanced technology has brought us is the ability to communicate better, louder and more directly than ever before. For those utilities and policy makers who are struggling with how to address the needs of customers during the grid modernisation process, it is best to remember the power of the customer has never been greater. Whether it is the ease and wide availability of social media or the ability to reach regulators more directly and profoundly than ever before—the voice of the customer is loud and wants to be heard. Best to harness it for its ability to improve our energy future, not wait for what happens when it is ignored.

Four Corners of the Utility of the Future

Electric Light & Power

12/12/2017 By Juliet Shavit
SmartMark Communications

These days, there is a lot of talk in our industry about abstract ideas—whether that is the smart home, smart city, digital customer, and of course utility of the future. Nearly every utility I meet with seems to be on this path for the Holy Grail, but not one seems to know how to define it exactly. But, the task is not impossible for those of us that have come out of AMI and smart grid deployments and are actively engaged with people outside our industry. Below is a look at what key requirements are necessary to become the utility of the future, based on lessons learned from technology innovation and industry leadership.

Lesson #1—Customer First
One of the greatest lessons learned from smart grid deployments is that customers matter. Not just that they can disrupt large-scale investments, but that they legitimately matter in the adoption of tools to help meet the needs of the business case. For example, we have seen utilities with strong operational business cases simply not get recovery. Whether that is because they overextended themselves in terms of rose garden promises or that they misjudged the power of strong stakeholders that argued against cost recovery, it is the case. And these same utilities did not do an adequate job of educating their key constituents including stakeholders, policy makers and consumers on the benefits of smart grid investment.

Educational programs were ignored because the funding was not deemed meaningful to the business case. Unfortunately, these same regulatory attorneys who made that case unfortunately did not weigh customer benefits into the cost recovery process. It was a missed opportunity. We learned from those utilities that did, that the investment was well worth it. Further, for those utilities that are now contemplating optimizing those investments through more sophisticated demand response and time of use programs, the early education will pay off triple fold. Those utilities that did not educate are left at ground zero of the process and many with an already heavy burden of AMI line items on the bill. Now they must educate customers why they must increase peak rates in addition to paying a fee for other operational benefits for the utility.

For those utilities that began customer education early and invested in a more meaningful two-way relationship with the customer, you are already winning the race to Utility of the Future.

Lesson #2—Smart Technology Adoption
Meters are in. Customers have been told that utilities are future proofing their infrastructure. Now what is the story line for technology adoption. For those utilities who have communicated a long-term commitment to technology adoption and already have begun introducing benefits, the path to next phase customer control is clearer. New in-home energy management technologies and tools are more prevalent than ever before, and the utility has an opportunity to take advantage of this.

How does the utility take advantage of the marketplace for in-home smart energy technology and ride on the current innovation tidal wave? Those utilities that can develop strategic partnerships with some of the technology vendors and build awareness around what products and applications map best to their segmented audiences, will rise ahead of the pack. The bonus is that they will help automate energy use for customers and make long-term smarter energy lifestyles attainable.

Lesson #3—Commitment to Education
We have discussed how early education has become the advantage for those utilities coming out of AMI deployments and thinking about dynamic pricing or TOU rates. We have also noted that education around the tools and technologies available to consumers is a pathway to sustainable energy reduction. That makes a strong commitment to customer education a key requirement for the utility of the future.

There is only one thing about the future that is certain, we don’t know what it will look like. That means that taking all your stakeholders with you on the journey will help make the life of utilities easier. That’s not just customers. That’s education for policy makers and special interest groups – even naysayers.

Lesson #4—Fearlessness to Innovate and Be First
Finally, it is fearlessness that will crown the Utility of the Future. One thing is true about the utility industry—nobody wants to be first, especially when it comes to technology. We have a safety system around pilots. It takes a whole lot of approvals to even try something.

But what if one utility just makes the leap because they think it is best for their customers. I can think of one cooperative that did just that. The Chief Business Officer decided to redesign the bill entirely. He gave a blank slate to the designers and met with customers to talk through what works best for them. The result is industry leadership and the nicest looking bill in the industry. That utility’s customer satisfaction levels remain very high.

In speaking with many regulators over the past year, I find it terribly hard to believe that regulators want to stand in the way of innovation. It is their job to decide who will pay for it, and that is fair. The utility must understand the needs of its customers and present a business case worth approving. But, innovation is not the problem and the opportunity to innovate in today’s world is astounding.

It should not be left up to applications and product developers alone to invest in innovation. Their goals are different than utilities. They want to push products. Utilities need to be innovative and respond in real time to the needs of customers. That makes them leaders in customer service, leaders in technology adoption, and leaders in the industry.

This means that the customer plays a critical role in the definition of requirements around utility of the future. Engaging with customers to partner on technology innovation and adoption will lead all to a better, brighter future.

About the author: Juliet Shavit is head of the SmartMark Group, a family of companies that including SmartMark Communications, SmartEnergy IP, SmartShows, and SmartHoldings. Her companies work with a number of highly visible public and private companies as well as leading global industry organizations and governments. Shavit is also the founder of The Homeland Security for Networked Industries (HSNI) Conference, GridComms, and The Smart Grid Customer Education Symposium series.

Juliet Shavit to Keynote IIEA’s “Take Charge” Energy Conference in Dublin this Month

SmartMark CEO to Focus on the Role of the Customer in the Future of Energy

DUBLIN, IRELAND (November 1, 2017) — SmartMark Communications, a global leader in strategic communications and business innovation, announced today that its CEO, Juliet Shavit, will be keynoting the “Take Charge” energy conference in Dublin this month. The event is hosted by the Institute of International and European Affairs and ESB, Ireland’s largest energy provider.

Shavit will be speaking at 9:00 am on November 23, 2017 in The Round Room adjacent to the Mansion House in Dublin.

Shavit is a pioneer in the area of utility customer engagement and the founder of SmartEnergy IP™, a division within SmartMark Communications dedicated solely to smart grid customer education. Shavit has been instrumental in helping utilities, stakeholders and policy makers across the world understand the critical role customers play in technology investments and deployments.

“It is a great honor to be asked to speak by the IIEA on a subject that is close to my heart,” said Shavit. “It is more important than ever for utilities to understand the critical role customers play to technology investment. Technology for the sake of technology will never be enough — it is only by customers engaging with technology and fully understanding its benefits that we will see the fruits of these investments and a more sustainable and brighter energy future.”

To learn more about how SmartMark Communications is transforming the utility-customer relationship, visit www.smartmarkglobal.com.

About SmartMark Communications
For nearly two decades, SmartMark Communications has been a world leader in strategic communications, helping businesses emerge as leaders in the industries they perform. Today, SmartMark has expanded its services to include consumer strategy solutions for businesses looking to improve their overall customer experience. With end-to-end communications solutions under one roof including: public relations, marketing consulting, design and creative, interactive and web services, and market research, SmartMark remains the ideal partner for companies looking to take charge of their industries and lead the way through innovation.

About SmartEnergy IP™
SmartEnergy IP is a strategic communications and research organization within SmartMark Communications dedicated to helping articulate the benefits of energy technology investment and innovation for consumers. As utilities implement smart energy initiatives – from smart meters to dynamic pricing programs – there are ways to ensure that customers are best prepared to make smart energy choices and positively support these roll outs.

Furthermore, as utilities develop their roadmap for the future, SmartEnergy IP helps utilities and stakeholders define the technology and business requirements necessary to develop and implement customer-focused programs that benefit communities and meet policy goals.

For more information, visit: www.smartenergy-ip.com.

Contact:
Kristin Marcell

SmartMark Communications, LLC
+1-215-504-4272
kristin@smartmarkusa.com