Energy Thought Summit Raises Key Questions

Energy Thought Summit

We took part in the Energy Thought Summit (ETS) at Austin last week. The one-day lineup of thought-provoking energy leaders was a follow-up to the inaugural ETS event this past March. Aside from our participation in the “Next-Gen Energy” panel, we especially enjoyed the unique Austin touches like the musical interludes during breaks and free electric vehicle rides.

A few noteworthy themes emerged from the day’s discussions that we think are helpful reminders for all of us working so hard to change the way power is made:

  • The customer reigns. During a panel on “Texas Utilities of the Future,” one of the panelists commented on its evolution in thinking about its customers: from a historical perspective of viewing them as “ratepayers,” to customers to whom the utility is delivering a service, to incorporating customer satisfaction as a performance measure, to their current focus on delivering an enjoyable customer experience.We’ve been focused on our customers from day one.Without you, we could never achieve our mission of changing the way power is made. We take your happiness seriously, and it shows – we recently earned the “Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Residential Retail Electric Providers in Texas” from J.D. Power. To all our customers out there, thank you for your confidence in us!
  • The world is integrating. There was a general consensus that the energy industry does not operate in a vacuum and that, if energy companies want to be relevant, we must recognize that energy is just one piece of our lifestyles and a relatively small piece at that. If spending is a measure of importance, then consumers value entertainment (cable, internet) and safety (home security), for example, above energy. Many electricity providers are recognizing this trend and are integrating to become your household’s all-in-one service provider.Here at Green Mountain, we put a different spin on the concept of integration: We want to enable our customers to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, so we’re looking at the various intersections of energy and other forms of resource consumption, including transportation (did you know we offer a special 100% wind energy plan for electric vehicle drivers in Texas?) and water (many renewable energy technologies use little to no water, and every drop of water saved equates to energy not consumed in treating, delivering, and heating that water).In fact, the Public Utility Commission of Texas is working with water experts at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that issues water rights for power plants and others so that the two agencies can collectively make smart decisions about energy and water production and use in Texas.
  • Technology isn’t the end all, be all. Technology is a consistent theme at energy industry gatherings, but the discussion at ETS took a little twist. Several panelists raised the question of whether technology alone can deliver the energy future we want. Some were looking for technology to negate the need for individuals to be engaged in their energy decisions, like remotely controlled thermostats that can be programmed to shut off without human input during periods of high energy demand, while other panelists pondered whether technology can truly mimic human behavior.For example, can automated cars be aggressive enough to merge in dense traffic, or can their robot drivers distinguish between a deer and a kid in the road? We think you need both: technology as a tool to empower individuals to make smart energy choices—like our Nest Learning ThermostatTM and Goal Zero® portable solar power offerings—and humans to take action and recognize the interconnectedness in how they use energy beyond keeping the lights on.

What do you think? Do any of these ideas resonate with you? Have another perspective? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.