Thought Leadership

Innovation in Energy Sparks Our Curiosity

July 21, 2021
Author: Pam Cooper
Innovation in Energy Sparks Our Curiosity

The electric utility industry began in 1882, when Thomas Edison launched the world’s first generation plant in New York City. A hundred and thirty-nine years later, this industry still creates new products and services, evolving for the 21st century. Innovative products and services in the energy space can improve customer satisfaction, increase customer engagement, manage system-level electric load, and help utilities meet energy efficiency requirements. Utilities across the country are already offering some notable, innovative products.

Community Engagement Programs

For more than 30 years, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has partnered with the Sacramento Tree Foundation to offer free shade trees to residents and businesses in the Sacramento area. Community Foresters visit the location of each requester to assess the property, review the options for sustainable tree types and discuss the placement and size of each new tree. More than 600,000 shade trees have been planted to date, improving the air quality of Sacramento and providing natural cooling to homes to reduce energy consumption.

Commercial Customer Industry-Focused Programs

The California Investor-Owned Utilities (Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric) have partnered together to offer food service businesses the California Food Service Resource Centers. These centers offer a “try before you buy” program for energy-efficient food service equipment such as blast chillers, broilers, coffee brewers, ovens and ice makers. The Food Service Resource Centers also provide design guides for the food service industry, such as “Selecting and Sizing Exhaust Hoods.”  All four utility sponsors offer seminars for the food service industry, educating their customers about innovations in commercial food service, considerations for maintaining a healthy water supply system protected from scalding temperatures, induction technologies for commercial kitchens and more.

Electric Vehicle Consideration Programs

Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) partners with local auto dealerships to provide education and sales incentives to dealers who sell electric vehicles (EVs). When a potential EV buyer test drives an EV at one of these dealerships, they can receive a $50 Visa gift card. The program encourages customers to try electric vehicles and encourages dealers to sell EVs by offering dealer payouts based on the number of EVs sold per month. Dealers also receive a training about EV charging and OUC’s EV programs, a promotional media kit and marketing collateral for use onsite.

Proactive Customer Alert Programs

Many utilities now offer text alerts to customers to notify them of bill availability, bill due dates, or outages in the area. Duke Energy Progress takes alerts one step further by notifying customers when unusually hot or cold weather may cause their bill to trend higher than the previous month. Duke sends these alerts midway through the billing cycle so customers can take steps to lower their energy use in time to control their monthly bill amount.

Rate Plans

Salt River Project offers a variety of rate plans to address the needs of customers who produce some of their own energy with rooftop solar or other distributed generation technologies. The Time-Of-Use Export plan allows customers to pay only for the energy they use and sell excess energy they produce back to the grid. Other rate plans incentivize customers to minimize daily average on-peak demand or minimize monthly maximum on-peak demand. There is even a rate plan specifically for customers who have rooftop solar combined with owning an electric vehicle.

Energy Efficiency Product Distribution Programs

DTE Energy offers free energy efficient product installation as part of its Home Energy Consultation program. In addition to helping customers identify what parts of their home use and lose the most energy, customers may receive free installation of LED light bulbs, a water-conserving showerhead, faucet aerators, water heater pipe wrap, nightlights and a programmable thermostat.


In recent months, Escalent has helped many of our utility clients identify new product opportunities and bring new products to market. What creative ideas can we help you bring to life?

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Pam Cooper
Pam Cooper
Vice President, Energy

Pam is a vice president at Escalent. With 17 years of research and analytics experience, Pam has led projects for Fortune 100 clients in many industries, including energy, telecommunications, automotive, non-profits, consumer packaged goods, financial services, healthcare and industrial products. Throughout her career, she has helped clients address a full range of strategic marketing issues including customer loyalty and retention, market analysis and forecasting, branding/corporate reputation, segmentation, new product/service research and competitive analysis. Within the energy industry, Pam has developed and managed research programs for Southern California Edison, Oncor, Pepco Holdings, DTE Energy, Orlando Utility Commission, Tampa Electric/Peoples Gas, Con Edison, Energy Market Innovations and Arkansas Electric Consumer Cooperative. Prior to joining Escalent, she held research leadership roles at DTE Energy and ForeSee, and created the research department at PCGCampbell, the largest privately-owned marketing communications firm in Michigan. Pam earned an MBA in Marketing from The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University and a BA in Linguistics and French from The University of Michigan.