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Data, customers and climate are changing the industry

“The industry with the greatest potential for analytics is this one,” said Tim Fairchild, director of global energy practice of SAS opening the first full day of Utility Analytics Week in Atlanta this morning.

Fairchild additionally looked at factors driving the uncertainty of the power industry (which also represents the opportunity for that greatest analytics potential). He included climate and carbon as the first factor, echoing Georgia Tech’s Dr. Tim Lieuwen from his talk the evening before.

Fairchild’s second driver is the customer. His view of the customer of the future involves EVs, smart thermostats, drones, but Fairchild also noted that many customers will be in a group not in that energy-invested category, including apartment dwellers, those without the financial ability to participate and those who are simply not interested. Lots of slices of the customer category with lots of interesting variables, Fairchild noted.

So, to help all categories of customers and to tackle the climate factor, Fairchild championed what he called “the connected utility.”

“We see [utility] leaders connecting data across company silos and deriving value from it,” he added.

One utility leader taking a good look at that value data can bring her company is Kim Greene, the chief operating officer of Southern Company, who followed Fairchild in the opening session.

“This industry is changing,” Greene said. “The world is changing. And we, as an industry and at Southern Company, have to learn how to embrace that change, how to lead that change.”

“We have data, but I think there is a difference between data and information. How do we put that data to use? How do we look at all those numbers and make sense of it? How do we use that data to better understand the customer?” she added.

And, sometimes, that “sense” has multiple answers, especially when it comes to customers and their variety of needs and wants. Greene noted that Southern still provides a local walk-in payment offices where people come in and pay their bill. Consultants often label this a waste of money and tell us no one pays with cash. But the data showed that many Southern customers do pay with cash.

But Greene acknowledges that there is also a demographic who never wants a personal relationship with their power company.

“We’ve got all kinds of data that we can provide to people that will also help us maintain relationships with customers,” she added. “And the discipline of data science is becoming so much more advanced,” allowing for increasingly detailed, increasingly interactive customer relationships.

“We at Southern are trying to be at the forefront of this,” Greene said. “We recognize that we don’t have all the answers and we cannot do this on our own, either as a company or as an industry. We have to learn, collaborate and share so we can all move forward.”


The collaboration at Utility Analytics Week continues today and tomorrow in Atlanta. Keep an eye out for more insights from Utility Analytics Week live right here in Energy Central’s communities and on Twitter @utilanalytics (the Utility Analytics Institute’sTwitter handle). You can also follow the conference hashtag on Twitter: #UAWeek16







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