How Electric Vehicles are Driving Utilities to New Opportunities
March 9, 2020 •Eddie Webster
Electricity is becoming the fuel of choice for mobility, launching electric vehicles (EV) into mainstream society at full velocity. And while EVs may not have yet reached widespread adoption in the United States today, Rocky Mountain Institute predicts sales of electric vehicles could account for one-fifth of new car sales globally by 2025.
Utilities stand to benefit dramatically from this shift in the marketplace. The winning strategy goes far deeper than simply meeting increased energy demand and supporting infrastructure buildout via distribution system upgrades and support of public charging stations. Coupled with a healthy dose of customer engagement, EVs could serve as a catalyst for utilities to form deeper relationships, and provide new products and services to their customers, and create new revenue streams while they are at it.
Compelling research indicates that the increased electricity sales associated with EVs and the charging flexibility they offer translates to lower rates for ALL utility customers. When charging is concentrated to off-peak hours, utilities are able to sell more of their product with little increased costs by leveraging the excess energy resource and grid infrastructure capacity that exists in the belly of the duck or middle of the night. For example, in California, which accounts for half of all US EV sales, EVs have increased utility revenues more than costs, leading to reduced pressure for rate increases as utilities face declining sales associated with solar.
How are forward-thinking utilities using customer engagement to benefit from the EV boom?
- Customer-centric program design. True utility standouts have spent the time to engage with their customers to understand the many motivators and journeys for EV adoption and are responding with customer-centric program design. For many, this includes an EV-focused website with EV and EV charging education resources to advance each customer to the next step in their EV adoption journey. For some customers, that next step is purchasing an EV, while for others it could be purchasing a level II charger from the utility’s product marketplace and enrolling in a managed charging program or EV rate. By focusing on streamlining the journey and simplifying messages with intuitive digital tools sized for each customer, utilities are influencing customer charging behavior and strengthening their position as a trusted energy advisor.
- Multifaceted approach. A successful EV program is about more than the utility and their customers. The real winners engage auto dealers, trade allies, and customers with intuitive-lead management tools, providing clear presentation of rebate-eligible equipment options, multiple rebate channels, and establishment and support of a certified EVSE trade ally installation network to automate and streamline workflows for all stakeholders.
- Integrated solutions. Utilities are seeking an easier way to address the complexity of program management by using integrated, online solutions that connect utility and device databases to ensure relevant systems remain up-to-date on a daily cadence with customer eligibility, enrollment, incentives, connectivity and consumption data. These same solutions track portfolio performance, run reports on trade ally participation and leverage data analytics on targeting and segmentation, DSM tracking, DER reporting and meter-based savings, offering a real-time look at what’s working, and where to make tweaks to maximize engagement and ROI.
By focusing on deeper engagement with customers, utilities are turning EVs into a flexible load that can be managed through smart chargers that ramp up and down, connected vehicles that respond to control signals from utilities, and pricing structures that encourage customers to charge during off-peak hours—all to ensure that EVs end up being the rising star we hoped they’d be in the utility world.
To begin your journey benefitting from all EV has to offer, reach out to one of our experts today. We can help you deploy a customer-centric program that motivates customers to take action and supports dealers and trade allies with intuitive lead-management tools and integrated solutions.