Information and Telecommunication Technologies: The Next Generation of Residential DSM and Beyond
Many electric utilities are conducting pilot programs that offer a broad array of energy information and other services to residential customers utilizing advanced information and telecommunications technologies. We summarize current market trends based on a survey of 21 utility projects, which includes discussion of the types of services offered and the characteristics and costs of several competing communications systems (e.g., wireless radio, hybrid fiber-coax cable, and telephone). Projects that utilize wireless radio communications systems are the farthest along in terms of large-scale system deployment but typically offer only energy-related services. Cable-based projects offer a broader array of energy and non-energy services, but projects are still in the pilot or proof-of-concept stage. Currently, installed costs per household are substantially lower for wireless radio projects than cable-based projects, although cable-based projects offer increased functionality and upside revenue potential from non-energy services. We also report results from a focus group and a series of customer interviews that explored customers' perceptions of and interest in a set of fourteen proposed services. Most respondents indicated an interest in specific energy information services (e.g., appliance energy consumption breakdown, neighborhood comparison of energy use, historic monthly consumption). However most wanted the services only if they were free or were only willing to pay a nominal amount; thus bundling of these services as part of a comprehensive package will be needed. Customer-controlled load management and time-of-use pricing were the two energy-related services viewed most favorably by customer respondents.