Engaging Customers through Smart Technology

With the press of a “Green Button,” PG&E customers now have another tool to help save energy and money.

At homes and businesses across our service area, PG&E works to help customers understand, actively manage and reduce their energy use. To support this goal, we are enabling new tools and technologies to spur innovation and provide customers with broader choices for rates, products and services. This includes providing SmartMeter™ technology to give customers increased control over their energy costs, while at the same time helping the environment by enabling wider adoption of electric vehicles and greater use of renewable energy.

Laying the Foundation with SmartMeter™ Technology

PG&E’s SmartMeter™ program is a critical part of statewide efforts to better manage energy. It’s also helping to lay the foundation for a Smart Grid that will power California’s future.

The program represents North America’s largest upgrade of automated metering infrastructure. By the end of 2011, PG&E had replaced about 8.9 million analog gas and electric meters throughout our service area with SmartMeter™ technology. Many of the remaining meter installations are in less concentrated geographic areas, involve addressing less common meter types or require customized solutions.

With hands-on experiences at a digital kiosk, the SmartMeter™ See Your Power Mobile Tour has travelled around PG&E’s service area to help customers learn about what SmartMeter™ technology enables. Customers play interactive games to better understand how much energy devices and appliances consume in their homes. Customers also can learn more about the SmartMeter™ program from on-site teams.

PG&E’s SmartMeter™ program provides powerful tools for our customers. The system’s wireless communications capability enables us to provide more reliable service, making it possible to restore power faster after a disruption or reconnect a customer after a move to a new residence.

Customers also receive access to more frequent information about their energy use, which in turn enables them to better manage their energy consumption and costs. That’s because SmartMeter™ technology “reads” energy usage throughout each day, as compared to traditional meters, which are manually read on a monthly basis.

Building on SmartMeter™ technology, we are beginning to offer customers new tools to help them learn more about their energy use, understand how their use affects their bills and take steps to save energy and money. These tools include pricing plans—such as PG&E’s Time-of-Use, SmartRate™ and Peak Day Pricing plans—that are designed to help customers save money.

We also support individual choice for residential customers when it comes to the meter at their home. PG&E welcomed the CPUC’s decision to enable PG&E residential customers to “opt out” of the SmartMeter™ program if they choose to do so, and choose analog gas and electric meters instead of digital SmartMeters™ at any time and for any reason.

Innovating with the Press of a Green Button

PG&E responded to a challenge from the White House to design a standard format for customers to access energy usage data online. Now, with the press of a “Green Button,” PG&E customers have another tool to help save energy and money.

The button allows customers to download their hourly energy usage information in an easy-to-use format. The standardized data format also encourages third-party developers to create innovative apps that maximize the full potential of this energy information.

In fact, PG&E joined with the U.S. Department of Energy and Itron Inc. in 2012 to sponsor a $100,000 competition to develop the best Web or mobile apps using the Green Button.

PG&E customers can also share and compare their energy use data with friends on Facebook, using a new social energy application. The app, created by Opower in partnership with Facebook and the Natural Resources Defense Council, provides insight into individual energy use while fostering friendly competition among participants to conserve.

Empowering Customers with New Tools and Technologies

More than 2.4 million customers have used My Energy, a new website we launched last year to enable customers to more effectively analyze their energy usage and develop plans to save energy and money.

We enabled natural gas customers to participate in Winter Gas Savings, a program that rewards customers for reducing usage during peak winter demand months. This included a new Facebook-enabled Winter Gas Savings Progress Tracker application that allowed customers to follow their progress toward earning a rebate online and adjust their energy consumption accordingly.

Customers can review their detailed energy use and cost data so they can better connect the amount of energy they use with the price they pay. This is particularly important to our customers since California’s tiered rate structure encourages conservation by charging more per energy unit as the energy use increases. PG&E’s Energy Alert tool, based on SmartMeter™ data, enables customers to be proactively alerted by text message, e-mail or automated phone call as their electric use changes and they move from one tiered rate to another.

Customers can also view a rate analysis to determine if they are on the best rate for the way they use energy. The online energy survey is another tool that provides customers with energy saving tips based on their household profile and energy usage patterns.

We also maintain online education and enrollment support for Peak Day Pricing (the non-residential electric demand response initiative) and SmartRate and SmartAC pricing plans (residential demand response programs). Over time, PG&E may provide new features and tools to help customers see how and when they use energy, to help customers reduce their overall energy usage.

We also continue to offer a variety of online tools, including a Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Calculator and a Solar Calculator.

Through Home Energy Reports, we are giving customers valuable information about their energy use, along with personalized tips on how they can save energy. The Home Energy Reports show customers how their energy use stacks up against approximately 100 similar, occupied homes in their area. Easy-to-understand charts and graphs show changes over time and across seasons. The reports also include custom tips to help customers manage energy use and costs by making quick fixes, smart purchases or long-term investments.

For large business customers, we are using an energy management analytics and planning tool that will enable us to work strategically with customers to recommend the best mix of our products and services to meet their needs. The tool enables PG&E to show customers how their facilities compare in energy use to one another and to established industry benchmarks. For our small and medium business customers, we also will be providing an online survey tool that identifies the largest end uses of energy and recommends energy saving opportunities.