What Your Customers Want

Back in June, Virtual Peaker announced our partnership with SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) to rollout PowerMinder, a real-time, cloud-based technology that we designed to adjust hot water heaters that create maximum efficiency without giving up comfort.

Then earlier this month, I was honored to share the stage at the PLMA conference—with Deepak Aswani of SMUD—to talk about connected devices and the future of rate design. Our goal was to compare and evaluate three modes of delivery for heat pump water heaters including baseline (no active load shaping), Time of Day (ToD) rate optimization, and utility influenced load shaping based on utility day-ahead electricity costs.

(You can download the slides and content here).

In the simplest of terms, here’s what everyone wanted to know: Does PowerMinder work, and does load shaping make a difference?

Of course, the answer is a resounding yes! PowerMinder is one of many initiatives deployed by SMUD that promise to help the innovative utility reach its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Through our SMUD partnership we’ve learned a lot about customer attitudes—and utility behaviors. I’d like to share a few highlights from our presentation, “Load Flexibility and Rate Design Considerations for Heat Pump Water Heaters,” with you:

  • Customer comfort is—and always will be—king.
  • Simple enrollment is a must—don’t let your complex forms get in the way of easy adoption.
  • Few consumers are willing to change their behaviors, so the real changes need to happen in the cloud and behind the scenes.
  • Fixed schedules just don’t work—delivering energy (and more importantly, reasonably priced comfort) is a 24/7 business, so don’t subject your customers to your timeline.

So, at the end of the day, the most critical thing we’ve learned so far in our partnership with SMUD is that while utility rates undoubtedly will become increasingly more complex, the customer doesn’t need to know and doesn’t care. But, if you deliver high-quality, reasonably priced solutions that require little to no thought or action, you’ve probably got a customer for life.

To dive deeper into what we’ve learned about customer behavior and program adoption, contact us.

About The Author
Bill Burke blog author

Bill is a serial entrepreneur with a PhD from UC Berkeley in Controls and Artificial Intelligence and 10 years of experience with high performance residential energy management and connected appliances. He was previously at GE as an Advanced Systems Engineer in the Connected Home Software Group, but left that role in May 2014 to pursue entrepreneurship full time. Bill grew up in Louisville and returned with his family in 2010 after a long stint in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves Louisville and is working to make it a better and more attractive city for high tech startups.

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