What if you, the customer, ran your electric utility? Well, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) is giving its customers the chance, rhetorically of course. Now I can’t claim to know how every utility in the country has engaged its customers, but I am not aware of another document quite like the one we just helped MGE write to explain to its customers the situation the utility faces.
Let me give you a taste of their candor:
Imagine that you are now in charge of running MGE. . .Now imagine that the customers you serve are becoming more energy efficient (e.g., LED lights, efficient appliances) and thereby using less of your product. Plus a growing number are choosing to produce their own electricity from renewable sources, such as solar. . . .while you know intellectually that both energy efficiency and more customer-owned renewable energy are good for the environment and for society, they may reduce revenue for your company under today’s regulatory framework. At the same time you face this steady erosion of your traditional sources of revenue, you are still legally obligated to. . .
I hate to be coy, but to see how that sentence ends—and to get a nice primer on the future of the electric grid coming to a town near you—you’ll have to read the discussion guide that MGE now has posted on its website (or at least the bits that interest you; they’ve made that easy with separate links for each section).
MGE plans to use the Guide to inform a large number of focus groups with their customers, and then to use the feedback from those “community energy conversations,” along with input from organizations that MGE is working with, such as the Citizens Utility Board and Clean Wisconsin, to inform the company’s future energy plan.
Since GPI helped MGE write Building a Community Energy Company for the Future, we would welcome feedback on the content, particularly if you see the electric sector evolving in a way that differs from what’s described in the document.
MGE’s discussion guide is just one more signpost that we are entering the ‘utility age of the customer.’