Energy service providers have always advised businesses on the best ways to save money on power. There are many opportunities now for utilities to offer greater value to their customers, and utility analytics are key to uncovering them.
Today, achieving net zero emissions introduces a new challenge for utilities and their commercial and industrial (C&I) customers. This new energy landscape is unlike anything providers have seen before. Utility providers must offer more clean energy options, while still prioritizing reliability and affordability. An increasingly fragmented and complex grid makes this hard. Add to this intense storms that hammer infrastructure, pressure from customers who must work to meet net zero targets to satisfy their investors, plus growing calls for environmental justice.
To start, leading utilities are cutting their own fossil fuel emissions. They’re accomplishing this in part by partnering closely with C&I companies — huge energy consumers — to manage demand and incentivize clean power. Along the way, they reinforce their reputation as the go-to energy expert for C&I companies. Here’s how they’re doing it.
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Help C&I companies reduce Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions using utility analytics
Given that C&I businesses can easily burn over 50 MWh every month, it’s no surprise they prioritize the purchase of sustainable energy over fossil fuel as a foundational step in their path to net zero. In the process, utilities can either be sidelined by distributed energy or step up with clean energy offerings.
Energy providers have an opportunity to become valued business partners as they advise C&I customers on ways to reduce direct, indirect, and value chain-related emissions. They can do so in a number of ways:
Tailor a net zero strategy based on the C&I’s square footage and carbon footprint
Providers already have critical customer data like square footage and carbon footprint available. Based on those inputs, utilities can advise on the viability of renewables like solar, wind, or geothermal.
Use utility analytics to show the return on clean energy investments
Utility-supplied predictive analyses help C&I leaders weigh the costs and benefits of investments — like onsite power generation — that get them to net zero faster.
Deliver on transparency promises
It’s not enough to talk about net zero — there is increasing pressure on C&I companies to be transparent with internal and external stakeholders. With a purpose-built platform, utilities can quickly deliver the data C&I companies need to create comprehensive, accurate reports to their customers, regulators, and stakeholders.
Balance load and demand to avoid using dirty power during peak usage times
The move to clean power isn’t only about replacing fossil fuels with clean energy. Utility providers still need to balance the load and ensure generation capacity meets the demand of the entire community. That often means keeping plants that use coal or natural gas online until clean energy sources can supply 100% of the need. But there’s no reason to have to fire up “peaker plants,” the additional plants brought online during peak load times, which are usually fossil-fuel-based.
This matters for C&I customers, who use a large portion of a community’s total electricity demand. To protect the grid and maximize clean energy usage, utilities are using analytics to monitor the effect of C&I load on the grid. When grid capacity is stressed, utility demand-response programs incentivize C&I customers to shift their usage.
C&I customers are especially budget-sensitive. Utilities help C&I customers optimize energy-intensive industrial processes by recommending times when a clean electricity supply is cheap and plentiful. Recommendations for the best times to shift usage are not just for the utility’s benefit. They can be optimized for a commercial customer’s business requirements, and customers can choose not to take an incentive if they need to keep critical processes running.
Imagine a C&I customer that’s invested in level-two power stations to charge their fleet of electric vehicles. Charging the trucks during the day increases the load on the grid. Day rates are also more expensive. To nudge C&I companies to shift load to times when power is cheap and sustainable, the utility offers a rebate to incentivize the company to charge the trucks at night. Everyone wins: the utility successfully balances load, the C&I company saves money and operates more sustainably, and everyone gets an uninterrupted supply of power.
Utilities and C&I customers journey together to net zero
With the right digital tools, providers can advise their C&I customers on the best ways to save money and protect the environment:
- Identify large and small devices that are wasting energy
- Use predictive analytics to anticipate when devices will need service or upgrades that will reduce usage costs
- Price clean power options based on available suppliers, usage timing, and consumption patterns
- Design incentives that encourage C&I companies to use power during off-peak hours
By leaning into their vast stores of data with utility analytics, energy providers can remain a trusted advisor — and enable the biggest energy consumers to win the race to net zero.
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