EMI Consulting Announcements
  • Posted 11.21.18 by Julie Scrivner, Consultant
    Five Ways to Tackle Utility Engagement in the Electric Vehicle Space

    Held on November 14 at the Georgia Tech campus, the ACEEE 2018 National Convening on Utilities and Electric Vehicles was an opportunity for a variety of stakeholders in the transportation electrification sector (including the Georgia Public Service Commission, Greenlots, ChargePoint, Kansas City Power & Light, Rocky Mountain Institute, Nissan, and Lyft) to come together and discuss the rapidly-evolving electric vehicle (EV) space. During all-day discussions on the opportunities and challenges for different actors, five pressing actions emerged as opportunities for utility engagement. These actions included:

    • Educating customers
    • Modifying rates
    • Optimizing the grid
    • Building infrastructure
    • Creating partnerships

    First, utilities can support EV adoption by educating and engaging customers with simple and easy messaging on EVs to raise awareness across all customer groups. Utilities already have experience in customer outreach through outage updates and energy efficiency program marketing—experience they can leverage to take advantage of the opportunity to market EVs and build a stronger customer relationship that goes beyond a customer’s electricity bill. Transportation electrification can benefit all customers from decreased emissions, decreased maintenance costs, decreased fueling costs, and more. Various organizations at the National Convening discussed best practices for how to market EVs to customers, including:

    1. Butts in Seats – Offer test drives or short-term (at least one week) leases.
    2. Lead by Example – Electrify and brand fleets.
    3. Give EVs a Broad Appeal – Cater EV messaging to customer and politicians’ interests in the area, moving beyond “green” messaging when needed.

    For example, Tim Echols from the Georgia Public Service Commission shared the difference between the state’s positive response to solar, which benefited counties across Georgia, compared to the state’s extremely negative response to EVs, which are perceived to only benefit certain counties and politicians.

    Second, utilities should develop usable, understandable, and predictable rates for public EV chargers. Right now, demand charges make up a significant portion of public charging costs for both charger owners and users. The EV market will have a hard time driving (pun intended) ‘early majority’ adoption if it is more expensive to fuel an EV outside of the home than a gas car. Modifying rates to make the cost of fueling EVs competitive with the cost of gas will enable EV adoption by customers who need to charge publicly (e.g., residents at multifamily properties without home or work charging options, customers who are driving long distances). Utilities in California, New Jersey, and Minnesota have proposed a variety of rates that focus on right-sizing demand charges with charging station utilization, upon which other utilities can build.  Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) recommends a rate structure that starts the demand charges at zero and then increases the amount as charging station use increases.

    A third action is for utilities to use EVs as a grid asset to balance demand and increase grid utilization. Right now, the majority of EV drivers charge their car at home after work during ‘peak hours’ when the demand for energy from the grid is the highest. Smart EV charging management is a unique opportunity for utilities to balance demand for electricity across the day which can lead to additional revenue, lower the cost of electricity for customers, and mitigate the impact of carbon-intensive plants that go online during peak times of demand. That being said, it is important for utilities to manage charging behavior in a manner that makes sense for their customers, which may or may not include a time-of-use rate (TOU). Kansas City Power and Light (KCP&L) pointed out that TOU pricing only lasted in the cell phone industry for five years. Whatever approach utilities choose to use should always include a focus on education and ease. For example, one stakeholder found that customers responded well to ‘happy hour pricing.’ Most importantly, utilities should implement these smart charging management strategies now, as the ‘early majority’ adopts EVs, to embed behaviors from day one.

    A fourth action is for utilities to update buildings so that they are ‘EV-ready’ and/or own EV charging stations. As of now, there is no business model for profitable private investment in charging stations. Utilities have been making power plant investments that impact the next 50 years, not just the near future, and have the opportunity to do the same with charging infrastructure. Utilities can provide ‘patient capital’ while utilization rates are low and then allow the private market to take over once use of charging stations increases to a profitable rate. Furthermore, now and in the future, utilities can help serve low-income communities by building out and owning infrastructure for communities that cannot afford to purchase and install charging units.

    Finally, utilities should seek to create partnerships with a variety of stakeholders to drive adoption efforts. There is an opportunity to take advantage of the nascent market now, building important partnerships with a commitment to long-term engagement. For example, when KCP&L found through their research that dealers were not selling EVs because they didn’t have customer-facing materials or encouraging commission incentives, the utility created educational materials and gave out EV incentives to dealers. Greenlots partnered with the City of Los Angeles to help the city figure out what infrastructure would be needed for city vehicles like refuse trucks and pursuit vehicles, and they have held discussions about how they might prepare for evacuation via EVs during natural disasters. Lyft partnered with Georgia Power to give an incentive ‘cash boost’ to EV owners to encourage them to join the platform as a driver in an effort to electrify the rideshare network.  

    Stakeholders at the conference all agreed utilities should play a role in EV adoption. Even if a utility isn’t ready or able to take all five actions outlined above, they can make huge strides by taking two steps: (1) educating customers across their service territory about EVs, as all utility customers can benefit from EVs, and (2) modifying demand charges to reflect actual charging impact on grid. As with any new technology, utilities should create space to support and allow this market to grow without defining how the market will look in the future.

  • Posted 10.5.18 by Brett Close, Managing Consultant
    Market Transformation off to a Healthy Start with RPP

    As energy efficiency compliance goals continue to increase and savings opportunities for some technologies are increasingly harder to capture cost-effectively, utilities have begun shifting their focus to longer-term market transformation programs.

    These programs seek to transform how markets operate to increase adoption of efficient practices, rather than changing individual purchase or design decisions. The ENERGY STAR Retail Products Platform (RPP) program, a nationally-coordinated effort between participating utility sponsors and US EPA ENERGY STAR, is one of the most promising market transformation programs being implemented today.
    EMI Consulting is excited to have the opportunity to work with RPP program administrators across the country and to have completed one of the first evaluations of an RPP program with our report for Consolidated Edison’s program. EMI Consulting’s evaluation approach applied a variety of methods, including shelf surveys, model-level sales data, and combining in-depth interviews with the results of national retailer interviews to develop a comprehensive picture of the program’s operation and its effect on the retail market in Con Edison territory. We found that the Con Edison RPP Program, even though relatively new, is already starting to increase sales of some types of efficient products.

    EMI Consulting is undertaking similar efforts for other utility clients, where we provide evaluation, adoption modeling, and regulatory support services. This reflects another example of how EMI Consulting is on the cutting edge of examining market opportunities for its clients.

    The full report for Con Edison, can be found here.

  • Posted 6.6.18 by Emily Rich, Consultant
    Utility of the Present: Observations from the Efficiency Exchange Conference 2018

    I recently attended the Efficiency Exchange conference in Tacoma, WA along with three of my EMI Consulting colleagues. The conference brings together energy professionals across the Northwest to discuss the evolving world of energy efficiency. The phrase “Utility of the Future” has become commonplace in the industry, and this conference was no exception. The theme was woven throughout the sessions at the conference and popped up in the conversations in between. Professionals in the region are grappling with an industry that’s changing rapidly in terms of technology, policy, finance, and customer preference.

     

    Yet, the big takeaway from this conference is that the Utility of the Future is here now. Utilities are already making strides along the path to a new utility future, and each step is reshaping the industry, making the transformation that has been talked about as if it were on the horizon a tangible reality.

     

    At EMI Consulting, we’ve been taking a deep look at the shifts taking place as utilities transform their business models to meet customer needs in this new context. Below, we cover a few of the examples brought up at the conference that indicate an industry in transition. Innovative utilities are taking these steps as they transition—not all at once, and not all to the same degree—but each one is a clear signal to the industry of a new norm developing.

     

    Transitioning to an Energy Platform

     

    As Val Jenson, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), mentioned in his keynote address that ComEd is embracing the transition by serving as an energy platform. Rather than generate and distribute its own resources, ComEd envisions itself operating as a network that enables customers to connect with each other through a modern grid. In this future, ComEd would measure value by customer touches through its platform rather than through kWh sold to customers. This paradigm shift reflects ComEd’s circumstances as a utility serving a large customer base with no remaining generation assets.  

     

    Rolling out EV Fast Charging in Seattle

     

    Seattle City Light presented on their electric vehicle (EV) strategy, which includes investment in public charging infrastructure. City Light research found vehicle charging investment to provide a net benefit to all customers and to satisfy strong customer demand for charging infrastructure. By implementing this strategy, City Light provides customers additional touchpoints with their utility around the city, creating, as a result, a new value stream for the utility. Seattle City Light is making this transformation equitably, and in a way that works with their unique urban context.

     

    Using Data to Target Program Offerings

     

    Every customer has distinct needs, and data is now allowing utilities to provide offerings that feel more relevant and personalized to the customer. Two representatives from Tacoma Power talked about how they are using data to segment their customers at a more granular level to better target program offerings to the people most likely to use them. For their weatherization program, for example, Tacoma Power used compiled data sources to map customers and geotargeted accounts most likely to be eligible for the program. This is one example of how Tacoma Power is leveraging customer data to replace one-size-fits-all marketing of program offerings with a more personalized scheme.  

     

    Overcoming Barriers to DR-Capable EV Charging

     

    A Flathead Electric spokesperson talked about the obstacles his electric co-op faced in rolling out an EV program in Montana, including figuring out how to deploy public chargers with demand response (DR) capabilities. This deployment has the potential to change the customer relationship by allowing customers to participate in two-way transactions, where the customer plays a part in demand-side management through EV charging. To do this, Flathead put together a cross-functional team that brought a diversity of perspectives from across utility departments—from engineering to demand-side management to customer service. The integrated nature of this team was crucial in creating a viable program offering that enhances the customer experience.  

     

    While none of these examples alone is a silver bullet capable of transforming a utility, each is an important step in a transformation pathway that is happening right now. We are excited to be part of the Northwest’s current transition to the Utility of the Future.

     

  • Posted 4.17.18 by EMI Consulting
    EMI Consulting Names Wil Marquardt Director of Finance & Operations

    Seattle, WA (April 17, 2018) – EMI Consulting is pleased to announce the appointment of Wil Marquardt as Director of Finance and Operations. He will be
    responsible for driving financial strategy, planning, and processes, as well as business operations as an integral part of the company’s growth strategy.

    Prior to joining EMI Consulting, Wil held senior consulting positions at SumBridge, Strong-Bridge, and Two Degrees consulting firms, and he’s worked with companies as varied as Starbucks and T-Mobile. While the common thread in these engagements was primarily finance and operational management, Wil has also applied his skillset to the leadership of customer experience and technology initiatives. He also held tenure as Vice President at Washington Mutual, where he was charged with several business-imperative directives, including operational excellence and long-term forecasting.

    “Wil’s deep and varied background creates the perfect blend of financial acumen and operational experience needed to help grow and sustain our firm,” explained EMI Consulting President Julie Rey. “His experience as a consultant also brings an understanding of the unique pressures of the space, which I believe is vital for this role.”

    Julie added, “Wil is also an approachable and well-respected person, who has a passion for the environment, which aligns well with our desire to cultivate a Utility of Future initiative.”

    In fact, Wil chose the University of Washington for his MBA specifically for their concentration in environmental management. He explained, "I chose my MBA concentration because environmental sustainability is important to me, and I genuinely believed my career would eventually intersect.”

    “EMI Consulting is in a really strong position – there is significant change stirring in the industry, great business opportunities, and this very committed and talented group of people I get to work alongside will help to realize the goals of a sustainable, clean energy future for utilities and their customers,” said Wil. “I am thrilled to use my background and experience to help drive important growth goals and set the company on course for long-term financial success.”

  • Posted 1.31.18 by EMI Consulting
    EMI Consulting Appoints Julie Rey as President

    Global Consulting Executive to Drive Expansion of Company’s “Utility of the Future” Strategic Service Offerings and Market Share.

    SEATTLE, Wash. – January 31, 2018 – Energy advisory firm EMI Consulting today announced it has hired Julie Rey as president. Recognized for her expertise in driving business growth and supervising global consulting teams, Ms. Rey will be responsible for expanding EMI Consulting’s market share, deepening its strategic “Utility of the Future” service offerings, and managing the company’s growing staff.

    “We’re pleased to have Julie join our leadership team,” said Rob Bordner, EMI Consulting founder and CEO. “It’s an exciting time for our industry. The nation’s energy future is in the middle of a radical shift driven by unprecedented technological innovation, global climate change, and geo-political uncertainty. We see this as a perfect opportunity for the expansion of our clean energy ‘Utility of the Future’ consulting initiatives. Julie’s leadership will be instrumental during this time of company growth.”

    With a twenty-year track record of profitability, premier clients, and consulting bench strength, EMI Consulting is poised to achieve significantly greater success. As president, Ms. Rey will report to CEO Rob Bordner, joining him in defining the company’s long-term strategies and fostering efficient business growth. The creation of this position enables Mr. Bordner to focus on strategic market direction, high-level project conceptualization and design, and new business development.

    “I’m excited about working with this visionary and talented team,” said Julie Rey, EMI Consulting president. “The company is well-known for its in-house strategic and analytical talent, depth of industry partnerships, cutting-edge technological expertise, and passion for delivering the best consulting experiences. Being able to lead the company to greater levels of growth is a fantastic opportunity.”

    Ms. Rey was most recently vice president and market lead for global management consulting firm North Highland Consulting. Prior to that she held positions as managing director for Strong-Bridge Consulting, vice president/business process improvement for Safeco Insurance, and director/Six Sigma Black Belt for Western Wireless Corporation. She brings expertise in leading companies through substantial growth cycles, designing and streamlining service processes, advancing consulting methodologies for enhanced client experiences, training leaders, and improving profitability. Ms. Rey holds a master’s degree in organizational communication from the University of Washington, and bachelor’s degrees in rhetoric and Italian from the University of California at Davis.

     

    About EMI Consulting
    EMI Consulting advises electric and gas utilities nationwide on business strategies related to new market opportunities, distributed and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and customer engagement. Founded in 1995, the company is recognized for industry leadership in three key areas: strategy and evaluation, data analytics and modeling, and customer experience research. Headquartered in Seattle, the company also employs staff in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Portland, and Los Angeles. More information is available at www.emiconsulting.com

     

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    Media Contact: Wil Marquardt | (206) 621-1160 | wmarquardt@emiconsulting.com