When you turn on the lights, turn up the air conditioning or plug in an electric vehicle, it generates data. As the push for smarter infrastructure puts pressure on energy professionals to innovate their business models, they look for insights in all that operational and customer data. Utilities use analytics to help them enhance sensor data, analyze smart grid data and study customer behavior so they can uncover opportunities for improvement and make more precise decisions.
Southern Company continues to improve its understanding of the residential customer base by analyzing their big data. At last year’s SAS Analytics conference Southern Company showed how it is utilizing predictive modeling to improve collections processes. In this year’s conference Southern Company Manager of Customer Analytics Chris Nickerson shared the analytical insights they have gleaned from studying a closely related area, customer payment arrangements, another important yet complex aspect of customer service.
“In this era of big data, energy companies are expected to understand their customers better and use resources more wisely,” said Professor Tao Hong, Associate of the Energy Production & Infrastructure Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Achieving this goal can require advanced analytics, including forecasting and optimization, as well as integrated data management.”
Regulators increasingly call upon utilities to improve their relationships with customers so that they may add a wide range of efficiency measures to the existing infrastructure. Such efficiency will become imperative when electric vehicles become popular and add new load to the grid, and when the intermittency factors of renewable power sources are configured. Regulators will see customer intelligence as an enabler of a wide range of programs that can and should be implemented, especially as more advanced utilities prove that these systems and programs can work. The utility that has a customer-centric view focused on gaining and using customer intelligence will likely be received more favorably by public utilities commissions, especially when rate cases arise, or when the utility seeks allowable expenses.
From many perspectives – ranging from efficiency improvements to infrastructure optimization and regulatory relations – moving from a consumer- to a customer-centric orientation makes perfect sense. The transformation will be particularly worthwhile for utilities that use the right blend of technology systems to optimize existing services, integrate data and power analytics.
Read the white paper Analytic Strategies for the Customer-Centric Utility to explore the outreach and operations strategies that can provide opportunities to boost return on analytic investments and transform how utilities view customers.