PowerRadar: Tech Spotlight with Shawnie McBride

Shawnie McBride
Vice President, Sales Operations | Direct Energy Business

I’m truly excited to be a part of the TEPA Tech Committee! I appreciate the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of members who are passionate about bringing transparency into how technology can be leveraged in various ways across the industry. Ultimately, we all share the goal of providing better energy solutions to our customers, offering key energy insights and delivering superior customer experience.

Share your “a-ha” moment when you realized how technology was a means to a better future
I can’t say I had a specific “a-ha” moment, as I’ve always embraced technology throughout my career. For me, technology plays a significant role in enabling automation and connectivity. I believe automation delivers the efficiency that’s needed to focus on more value-add activities.

From my wholesale energy days, automation was imperative to converting large quantities of portfolio data to quantify and manage risk. In the retail space, not only can we use automation to deliver key customer insights, but it also helps make processes easier to navigate, translating in better customer experience.

Connectivity allows us to establish and deepen relationships. Whether it’s using social media to create brand awareness and share relevant energy information, providing self-serve options on our customer and broker account management portals, leveraging mobile device interactions or the use of APIs to deliver transactional data, Direct Energy Business was already increasing our ability to digitally connect with customers and brokers. This has become even more applicable in the context of how we are all navigating new ways of working during the pandemic response.

What led you to choose this technology to highlight?
With the rise of Artificial Intelligence(AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), this is truly an exciting time for the energy industry, and will be interesting to see how these technologies revolutionize how businesses take advantage of unique energy solutions.

Technology-enabled Demand Response solutions are becoming more and more critical. With utility response time requirements now being within minutes, customers need ways to meet those requirements in a more automated fashion.

That same technology can help with scenario analysis, financial opportunity planning and operational deployment. Being able to share this type of technology with the Committee allows for a robust conversation on the advantages for customers and what still needs to happen in the industry to make this more accessible.

During the July monthly meeting, Direct Energy Business and Centrica Business presented PowerRadar to the TEPA Tech Committee, which includes a mix of Suppliers, Brokers and Vendors.

With the energy industry rapidly evolving, Direct Energy Business and Centrica Business Solutions offer a nearly unrivaled suite of next-generation energy solutions for businesses. This portfolio of commodity supply and distributed energy solutions can help customers improve operational efficiency, increase resilience and inspire growth.

How does this technology seek to benefit end-use customers?
The PowerRadar platform opens a range of different capabilities for end-use customers. Offerings like Demand Response (DR) have been part of the energy world for many years. However, they continue to evolve and become more technologically advanced.  In order to keep up with the changes, creating an energy ecosystem can be a game changer.

Many companies that participate in these programs have data loggers or other types of metering that can give them an hourly view into their usage. For example, having a sensor on your HVAC unit can tell you exactly what its usage is and offers insight into its individual operational performance. Through device level capabilities, customers have the ability to plan in advance for curtailment opportunities in various independent system operator (ISO) DR programs. Imagine being able to identify exactly what you can turn off to participate and understand how much usage that translates into!

During a live event, you can watch in real time to know if you’ve met your obligation for reduction. In addition, customers who want to try to reduce peak demand obligations can use the same type of real time monitoring for live results during a peak event. After the peak season ends, the platform will even calculate your estimated capacity tag for next year, which can be extremely beneficial when putting together budgets – especially in many markets where demand components like capacity and transmission can make up nearly half of a customer invoice.

As advancements continue and customers start to look at things like renewables and energy efficiency, technology is no longer a nice thing to have. It becomes something that you can’t live without. You can’t run around turning off lights anymore whenever a DR event is called, and when programs require five or 10 minute response times, technology is your only way to participate.

How does this technology help retail brokerage firms or retail suppliers serve customers?
The PowerRadar technology can help both brokers and suppliers in numerous ways. For example, it can give them additional ways to have touchpoints with their customers and change the conversation. They can have more detailed discussions with their customers about usage and opportunities for demand management, which can lead to additional offerings that they may be able to put in front of customers – like DR, energy efficiency or even solar. The platform’s planning capabilities for DR can be used to help customers become comfortable with their level of curtailment. This can also lead into discussions which can help to differentiate brokers in terms of commodity recommendations.

What were the key takeaways from the conversations with the Tech Committee?
This is only one of many different technology offerings that exist in the marketplace. Therefore, helping to identify the right customers and finding ways to navigate the different options in the marketplace presents an opportunity for brokers and suppliers.

In order to increase adoption of these types of technology, this is an area that TEPA can help to explore in terms of offering potential certifications or educational opportunities for brokers in this space.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not reflect an official policy, position or endorsement by TEPA.