EMC News 2021


  • WHY REJECTING THE ENERGY SECTOR ‘NORM’ IS LONG OVERDUE

     Why Rejecting The Energy Sector ‘Norm’ Is Long Overdue

    By: Alexandrea Isaac

    While most of the world is anxious to get back to “normal” in 2021, the energy sector is no different. However, one question that many of us in the industry are not asked is what is our definition of “normal”?
    For me, when it comes to energy policy, “normal” is synonymous with status-quo and frankly that is no longer what is in the best interest of the energy industry or consumers. Perhaps you have heard the phrase that “evolution is the key to survival”. While that may be true for most industries, it does not resonate well across the entire energy sector.

    From a retail supplier point of view, we have seen year-after-year regulatory and statutory changes implemented to improve our industry and make it more transparent and understandable for consumers. While some of these changes have been the impetus to the development of new technologies, such as data collection from smart-meters or demand-side generation calling for the need of net-metering, not all changes have been positive. Some regulatory and statutory changes have peeled away at the core principle of consumer choice – from product-type restrictions to states mandating what renewable generation products can be sold to its residents. Subject-matter experts have written extensive papers on each of these topics — some of which are currently being litigated in our courts.

    It is not my intent to argue for, or against, any of those statutory or regulatory changes here. I simply bring them to your attention to provide you with a basis of comparison to the negligible statutory or regulatory changes that have occurred for electric utility distribution companies. Since electricity became a commodity that could reach end-users in their homes or businesses, utilities have largely enjoyed being a monopoly. Lack of competition has translated into being able to shape the rules and have a strong influence over the governing bodies that were put in place to oversee them.

    Relatively speaking, energy competition has been enjoyed by consumers in 14 restructured states for nearly 20 years. While retail suppliers have varied in corporate structure and size, few, if any, have the institutional political capital or deep pockets to fund the efforts necessary to provide an even playing field with the incumbent utilities. Utilities have had a stronghold on the energy industry for decades. And they have shown in recent years they will spend millions of dollars to keep it this way. In 2016, Nevada voters were given the option to break up NV Energy’s monopoly and liberalize the electricity market to more competition. NV Energy spent an unprecedented amount of money, totaling $63 million on a campaign to defeat the proposal. In short, they out-spent their competition using a fear-driven campaign and tactics. Sadly, they were successful.

    However, the results from the Nevada election does not match what RESA’s scientific, national poll found, that overwhelmingly customers want to have the right to choose. Having the right to decide if we want to stay with the incumbent utility or select a supplier that may offer different products should be a choice enjoyed by all Americans, not a limited opportunity. Similar to other markets – such as picking a mobile phone provider – why would Energy be any different? It shouldn’t be – but unfortunately, it is.

    As we begin 2021, I call on our policymakers, industry leaders and consumers to have their voices be heard on how they think the energy industry should evolve and provide choice. I am encouraged by the efforts taken recently by Jonathan Scott from the Property Brothers, who recently released his documentary “Power Trip” that sheds light on the very topic raised here. I also commend the recent actions taken by Connecticut’s Public Utility Regulatory Authority to move Connecticut’s utilities onto a performance scale model, where they will be compensated based on their ability to serve their customers. These are just two small steps in the right direction, but many more are needed. The evolution of the energy market demands an even playing field between competitive suppliers and incumbent utilities. Rejecting the “normal” or status-quo is what will create a truly competitive and well-functioning market that will deliver the best options for consumers.

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    Alexandrea Isaac is the General Counsel of Starion Energy, Inc., and Board Member of RESA


  • How To Speed Up The Energy Transition

    By: Jason Beck

    Over my 15 years in Retail Energy, I’ve often heard the term “the energy transition” while discussing the growing trend or adoption of renewable generation and other non-commodity services. If you run a business and want to be “investment grade”, a new term to be aware of is your ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) Strategy. Investors are now keying on corporations’ ESG Strategies to identify how they are positioning themselves in our near-term future society. One fact we can all agree to, as a Retail Energy industry, we are well-positioned to play a large role in this transition. The regulated utilities and generators with fossil fuel resources may not have as strong of a desire to speed up the energy transition, but for Retail Suppliers and Retail Brokers/Channel Partners, this transition will lead to more products, more services, and a deeper connection with end-use customers of electricity and natural gas.

    So, if this is a benefit to Retail Energy, the next logical question is “How can we help speed up the energy transition?”

    Here are a few thoughts that I’ve been spending my personal time on, and in my humble opinion, will significantly help!

    1. Kill email/excel based communication between suppliers and channel partners and move to system-to-system communication. The process to sign up for a C&I client has many steps. It is essential to reduce the time that each of those steps take, including the removal of duplicate data entry by both suppliers and brokers. The introduction of tools like Digital Signature for LOAs expedites the process of obtaining HU early in the process, which subsequently expedites the custom pricing quotation cycle. If you haven’t heard the term API (Application Programming Interface) before, get used to it! There are several companies that are engineering ways for this communication to be streamlined. This will cause two outcomes: Happier end-use customers (speedier/easier process) & Channel Partners that have more time to adopt new strategies, offerings, and solutions.
    2. Simplify non-commodity service offerings. As hard as the C&I electric and natural gas procurement process is, it still looks easy compared to a lighting/retrofit, demand response, or solar+storage process that has many manual steps. Although this may make solutions less custom-tailored to each unique customer, it would significantly enhance the adoption rate if each of these solutions was a less complex process and offered an easy-to-understand value proposition. Selling anything that the customer was not looking for, didn’t think about, or had any inkling that they could qualify for is TOUGH! Give customers an easy “out-of-the-box” offering with minimal information gathering so they can better understand what the benefits for them are. If a customer wants to tailor it from there, they will not be shy in telling you!
    3. Side-by-side comparisons on a proposal. Channel Partners and end-use customers are used to getting a fixed price offering. Make new products and services, especially those that are bundled, easy for them to understand by comparing it to what they already know. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, strong proposals can be designed to guide the customer to a decision. Showing cost per month over the life of the proposed solution, as compared to their estimated cost on a fixed price contract, would be a strong starting point.

    __________________________________________________________________________________ Jason Beck, is VP – Sales, Enerex – Connecting People through Technology to increase Trust within Retail Energy Markets.


  • My New Year’s Resolution: Smile More Often

    By Jack Doueck

    More than two decades ago I wrote a book about how acts of kindness enrich our lives. One whole chapter was devoted to the simple act of smiling.  The happiest people I know are those who spend most of their time focused on helping others, and the majority of these people have a big, beautiful smile.  They discovered the enormous power of smiling and incorporated it into their lives. 2020 was a tough year for many of us, so, like many people, I need to start 2021 on the right foot and remind myself of this simple, yet powerful act.

    A once-famous poem entitled “The Value of a Smile,” says it all:  

    “It costs nothing but creates much.  It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give.  It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.  None are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits.

    “It creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in a business, and is the countersign of friends.  It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and natures best antidote for trouble.

    “Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anyone ’til it is given away.  And if in the hurly-burly bustle of today’s business world, some of the people you meet should be too tired to give you a smile, may we ask you to leave one of yours?

    “For nobody needs a smile so much, as those who have none left to give.” 1

    There are three good reasons to smile more often: It communicates positivity; it helps you become more productive and creative; and it improves your health.  Here are some of the details:

    • Smiling communicates positivity.
      • Like yawns, smiles are contagious  
      • Smiling makes the people around you happier
      • Smiling makes you more attractive to others
      • It is an international language of warmth 
      • People who smile seem to be more approachable, warm and kind.
      • It encourages trust.
      • It helps you make a good impression on others.
      • It shows through your mask! When you smile, others can see it in your eyes.

       

    •   People who smile are more productive and creative.
      • A 2010 study by Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick Business School over in England, proved that employees who smile more often are significantly more productive and creative in the workplace.
      • 2013 study from the University of California, San Francisco, explored this connection in men and found that those who were happier had a more comprehensive approach to problems, improving their ability to think of more solutions than their negative-minded counterparts.  The researchers connected this finding to the release of dopamine triggered by happiness, since the neurotransmitter is involved in learning, processing and decision-making. 2

     

    • Smiling improves your health.
      • Smiling makes you happier and the added oxygen improves your immune system
      • Studies have shown that endorphins, which function as natural pain killers, are released while smiling which reduces stress.  
      • Smiling releases more white blood cells, which protect the body against infectious diseases.
      • In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science, University of Kansas psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman studied 170 participants who were told to hold chopsticks in their mouths in three formations, making them smile to various degrees without realizing it, after performing a stressful task. The experiment revealed that subjects who smiled the biggest with the chopsticks experienced a substantial reduction in heart rate and quicker stress recovery compared to those whose expressions remained neutral. 3

    So, for three good reasons, my New Year’s resolution is simply to smile more often.

    __________________________________________________________________________________ Jack Doueck is Co-Founder of Energy Marketing Conferences, Advanced Energy Capital and LED Plus.

    Footnotes

    1. How to win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
    2. https://www.prevention.com/life/a20461282/how-a-good-mood-boosts-creativity/
    3. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/smiling-facilitates-stress-recovery.html


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