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Industry Trends in Smart Grids: The Consumer. Ron Ambrosio Global Research Leader, Energy & Utilities Industry Senior Technical Staff Member IBM TJ Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY U.S. Dept. of Energy GridWise Architecture Council Chairman.

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industry trends in smart grids the consumer

Industry Trends in Smart Grids:The Consumer

Ron Ambrosio

Global Research Leader, Energy & Utilities Industry

Senior Technical Staff Member

IBM TJ Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY

U.S. Dept. of Energy GridWise Architecture Council Chairman

The convergence of new realities will force our energy and utility clients to rethink their business

Customer Innovation

Business Model Innovation

Industry Value Chain Innovation

Energy Flow

Information Flow

Lighting the Way | 10/20/2014In the current environment, integration of consumers’ wants and needs is critical for success regardless of geography

As utilities prepare for a period of major new infrastructure investments, consumers worldwide are reconsidering their role in the electric power value chain because of a combination of environmental, economic, and technology-driven factors

New customer behaviors are emerging based on income, desire for control, ability to take control, and age that will be a critical factor in how successfully these new investments can be leveraged

To fully understand and benefit from these changes, utilities must take steps now to integrate the “consumer voice” into strategic planning, as stakeholders will challenge them to show how the public benefits from new investments

Lighting the Way | 10/20/2014As this industry model unfolds, customers will gravitate toward specific behavioral patterns based on two key factors

Residential and Small Commercial Energy Customers

  • Two factorswill determine the nature of the interface between utilities and consumers in the future:
  • The degree to which consumerstake initiative in decision-makingin their energy supply and usage toward meeting specific goals
  • The consumers’disposable income available for energy choicesin supply and conservation

Energy Stalwart (ES)

Frugal Goal-Seeker (FG)


An energy consumer who has specific goals or needs in energy usage, and has both the income and desire to act on those needs

An energy consumer who is willing to take modest action to address specific goals or needs in energy usage, but is constrained in what they are able to do because disposable income is limited



Decision-Making Initiative Taken

Energy Epicure (EE)

Passive Ratepayer (PR)

An energy consumer who is relatively uninvolved with decisions related to energy usage and uninterested in taking or unable to take added responsibility for these decisions

A very high-usage energy consumer relatively unconstrained by budget limits, but with little or no desire for conservation or active involvement in energy control






Disposable Income Available for Energy Choices

Sample Size = 5084

Sample Size = 5084

using survey responses we evaluated these types of consumers on six key attributes
Lighting the Way | 10/20/2014Using survey responses, we evaluated these types of consumers on six key attributes

Focus on Environment: Interest in green products, willingness to make changes to reduce personal environmental impact

Hunger for Information: Desire for more frequent and more detailed information around the cost and impact of personal energy usage

Willingness to Take Control: Motivation and desire to actively manage energy usage, cost, and environmental impact

Motivation to be Efficient: Willingness to take steps to increase energy efficiency through some combination of lower-cost and higher-cost actions

Knowledge about Providers: Overall awareness of energy provider and options that the provider makes available to manage efficiency, environment, and cost

Sensitivity to Cost: Degree to which behavior would change (or be limited) by the cost or energy or of options made available

Source: IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) analysis

Lighting the Way | 10/20/2014Several important findings emerged from this year’s survey, particularly in comparison with last year’s survey
  • The emphasis on climate is as strong with consumers as it was in 2007, but there has been a significant and consistent pullback of desire to spend more on green products over the past year
  • Cost remains the most powerful motivator for desire for control and willingness to change behavior, more so than environmental concerns, reliability concerns, or other factors
  • Consumers are having a hard time getting (or understanding) information about the availability of new utility programs
    • In particular, provider messages are not reaching the youngest consumers in our survey (18-34 years old)
    • This is an emerging issue of concern, because this age bracket is most likely to be willing to pay for new products and services
  • Major generational shifts in how information is obtained imply that multiple communication channels across a broad array of old and new media are needed to be effective
  • Over 90% of respondents indicated that they would like to see a smart meter and tools for managing their usage available at their home, with 55-60% of those respondents willing to pay a fixed or monthly fee for that capability
Lighting the Way | 10/20/2014This will lead toa future for energy providers driven by technological evolution and increasing consumer control

Utility Industry Models 2007—2017

Participatory Network

A wide variety of grid and network technology evolve to enable shared responsibility, and consumers’ strong interest in specific goals creates new markets (virtual and physical) and new product demands, which balances benefits more equally between the consumers and utilities

Operations Transformation

Some combination of grid and network technology evolves to enable shared responsibility, but consumers either cannot exert much control or elect not to and the balance of benefits favors the utility

Distributed and Dynamic

Technology Evolution

Passive Persistence

Traditional utility market structures dominate, and consumers either accept or prefer the traditional supplier-user relationship

Constrained Choice

Consumers take firm steps to move toward more control, but are limited to certain “levers” (technologies, behaviors, or choices in providers) by regulatory and/or technological constraints

Centralized and One-Way



Degree of Consumer Control

Source: IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) analysis


Ron Ambrosio

Global Research Leader

Energy & Utilities Industry

Ron Ambrosio/Watson/IBM@IBMUS

+1 914-945-3121

IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

P.O. Box 218

1101 Kitchawan Rd. / Route 134

Yorktown Heights, NY 10598