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The Utility Challenge: VEIC Director Scott Johnstone at 2014 NEEP Summit

Jul 14, 2014

The climate change crisis will force utilities, and the energy efficiency industry, to be bolder and more creative than they have ever been before – and it will fundamentally change their relationship with customers. That was the key theme underlying VEIC Executive Director Scott Johnstone’s “Power Talk” at the 2014 Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) Summit.

One of eight featured speakers at the event, Johnstone noted that developments which could not have been foreseen just a decade ago – such as smart grid, electric vehicles, the rise of distributed generation, and microgrids – are already having a disruptive impact on the policy and regulatory structure of the utility industry.

Customers are seeing these changes, and are demanding more from their utilities as a result. To take one example, businesses of all sizes are increasingly feeling the impact of energy price volatility. They are looking to their utilities for stability, support, and solid guidance to rein in their energy costs. At the same time, low income customers, many of whom spend 35% or more of their income on energy costs, are looking to utilities, regulators, and policy-makers to make sure that in the face of all this change, they don’t get left behind.

These challenges present an opportunity for positive and lasting change, Johnstone noted, and he offered three guiding principles in helping shape the future of the energy system:

  • Energy builds community, society, and economic vitality. It is no longer enough to deliver service and reliability. This narrow view undervalues the critical importance of energy in shaping our impact on the environment, improving lives, and driving economic development that is sustainable over the long term.
  • Opportunity. The current system does not deliver enough service and value to low-income customers and small businesses. As the energy industry continues to evolve, this inequity must be addressed.
  • Engagement. Engagement can no longer be a buzzword for the latest smart phone app or digital platform. Meaningful engagement with customers means addressing their pain points and guiding them to choices that are easy and impactful.

The choices facing the energy industry are stark and daunting, said Johnston. But the relationships that VEIC and our colleagues in the energy efficiency sector are building with our customers – and the solid results that we are delivering every day – give me great confidence that we can help build a future that is brighter, stronger and sustainable for the planet, people, and our communities.

Learn more about VEIC’s history of delivering results in the energy industry – and our vision for the future.

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