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Overcoming Challenges to Increase Participation: iDSM Style

Integrated demand side management (iDSM) offers many benefits to utilities and consumers. However, it does present a few challenges as well, and utilities must meet these head-on to provide their customers with the utmost peace of mind to gain their trust and participation in these programs. To learn more about these challenges and how to meet them head-on, download our free iDSM ebook.

One issue is that the high-tech process of iDSM requires customers to allow utilities a peek inside their daily usage habits through smart meters and smart appliance technology, and not everyone is comfortable sharing that kind of information. In order to address this issue, utilities and their implementation partners must convince customers that their personal data usage can be shared without compromising their privacy, and then they must be completely diligent and respectful in following through on that promise. One of the main reasons consumers don’t feel comfortable sharing their information is that they don’t understand how it will be used. Deploying a two-phased approach in educating customers about the importance of data sharing toward future product innovations and bringing down the costs will help promote trust and participation in these iDSM programs.

Another issue utilities are currently facing is the declining housing market. According to the October 2017 U.S. Census, only 64% of Americans owned their homes. This is the lowest home ownership rate in the United States since 1965, and it’s a problem for utilities because people who rent are less likely to participate in energy efficiency and water conservation efforts.

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Making a consumer aware of a program offering or an incentive isn’t necessarily enough to seal the deal, however. Another issue utilities face is that potential customers are not taking the steps to engage in available programs. In fact, Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative recently issued a survey in which two-thirds of respondents said they would “probably or definitely participate in real-time energy usage information programs,” yet only 4% of those respondents said they were actively participating in these programs. The task for implementers and utilities then becomes identifying emotional drivers of participation to discover what truly motivates consumers, and adapting to their desires.

By addressing the above issues, successful iDSM programs can be achieved through comprehensive privacy policies and integrated technology systems that seamlessly transfer preference data across platforms. Utilities must seek ways to share data without compromising privacy, through data encryption and related methods. For example, utilities in Illinois created a platform that anonymizes data to allow approved external parties access to the data without sharing any personal information about the users.

Having the right program design along with the targeted customer engagement strategies is critical to create the interest and maintain a strong iDSM program.  The first step is to educate the customers, and then gauge their emotional drivers to understand what will motivate them to participate. This will not only ease their apprehension, but will encourage them to willingly participate and reap all the benefits. Developing a process that on-boards customers in a convenient, streamlined, and engaging manner is essential to converting interest into action. 

To learn more about the challenges presented by iDSM and how to best meet them, download our free ebook below.

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Craig Catallo
Written by Craig Catallo

Craig Catallo’s combination of market knowledge, operations experience and amiable personality make him the perfect Franklin Energy representative to meet with existing and prospective clients, demand side management organizations and other firms in the industry. Craig launched two of the largest statewide DSM programs in Michigan and Indiana in addition to providing leadership for key commercial clients in Texas prior to his role in BD. He currently creates strong relationships with utility decision-makers throughout the Central Region and engages them in discussions about their needs and the solutions Franklin Energy can provide. Craig holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University.

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