ESource Forum 2019: A Retrospective
The E Source Forum continues to drive the conversation around electrification, customer experience, and modernization within the Utility industry. At this years Forum, this was perfectly captured by John Morris of D+R in a panel when he stated, “rarely does a technology come along that benefits the Utility top line, the environment, and the customer like EV’s do.” As AIQUEOUS representatives, our CEO Jonathan Kleinman and Vice President Dan Merchant had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Forum and left with valuable insights on the state of the industry and where its headed.
There were a number of new providers who we had not personally seen before, some entering the energy efficiency space for the first time. For example, Ada is an artificial intelligence chatbot already at work in the call center, financial, and airline sectors (among others). Another is Clean Power Research whose WattPlan® Grid and Advisor products target distributed energy resource adoption.
We also observed what consolidation over the past year has done to the industry. Uplight being the biggest beneficiary of this consolidation with the roll up including Tendril, SimpleEnergy, FirstFuel, EnergySavvy, EEme with the intent of unifying customer experience. They had the biggest booth and their sponsored reception on Wednesday evening was the highlight.
On Industry Attendees
Relatively new to the space we also saw Oracle Utilities forging deeper inroads into the industry with their recently announced collaborations with EnergyHub, Powerley and Agentis. The purpose being to drive a broader portfolio of energy efficiency and peak demand savings with a more complete customer experience. Oracle was the only enterprise technology company present. Salesforce, Microsoft, Google (Nest) were all oddly absent from the conference this year even though many of the solution providers leverage their platforms (including ourselves).
What struck me the most at this E SOURCE Forum was the evolution of both technology solutions and technical sophistication of the E SOURCE attendees themselves.
Utility attendees were also asking more informed questions about technology platforms than at the 2018 Forum. A year ago, we received basic questions about Salesforce, customer relationship management, and platform flexibility. This year the questions went one or two levels down – about system integration and middleware solutions, specific details about platform configuration and data field limits on objects, and the relationships among the various technology providers. By choice or by necessity, utility staff are “learning the ropes” about information technology and are becoming more sophisticated buyers.
Overall, it seemed that technology providers were more prevalent than traditional implementation contractor providers. And even the booths of CLEAResult, Franklin Energy, and Nexant were more technology-oriented than we had seen previously.
We do want to acknowledge and recognize E Source for their focus on carbon and climate change on the Forum this year, both at the keynote and in subsequent panel discussions. The keynote address called out the RE100, the companies committed to securing 100% renewable power, and subsequent discussions focused on customer interest in climate change and what utilities are doing about it. It was well-timed with the 2019 Climate Change Summit happening this week. As AIQUEOUS sits here in upper-90-degree weather at the end of September and our reservoirs falling again below 90% capacity, highlighting the connections between climate and customer experience was an important direction for the Forum this year.