Solar roadways have captured the public’s imagination – see, for example, the viral “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” video produced by Solar Roadways and viewed more than 22 million times. And we certainly do use a lot of land for roads and parking lots – 61,000 square miles by some estimates. So why not use this space to also produce power?
Over the past several years, Market Strategies has been consulting with many of our energy utility clients to help them gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ changing expectations. To be viewed as a “utility of the future,” customer relationships must evolve from simply providing reliable service to offering new product/service offerings—such as community and rooftop solar, electric vehicle charging stations, home automation and back-up power. But it also means enhanced customer service and related capabilities like improved automated self-service systems and interactive communications to meet the growing demand for multi-channel and mobile communications.
This innovation explosion has resulted in countless stories of mass interest, from the release of the Nest thermostat to consumer demand for Tesla’s electric cars to the UK-based company that figured out how to generate power from cheese by-products (here’s hoping it’s not limburger cheese). I recently read a news story about some specific activities that utilities are undertaking to leverage the demand for new technologies that also enhance their brand presence in the marketplace, and I wanted to share them with you.
Chicago isn’t what I would think of as a “hot spot” (pun intended) for solar energy. So I was surprised to learn that in one of our recent studies, Chicago-area residents expressed strong interest in solar energy and a willingness to seriously consider it for their homes. Based on national data, this shouldn’t be a surprise: In our 2014 Utility Trusted Brand and Customer Engagement Syndicated Study, 46% of customers said they would be interested in taking advantage of solar incentives from their utility (or already do), but only 16% are aware if their utilities offer such incentives.
Why the sudden increase in consumer interest in solar, and how can forward-thinking utilities make the most of this trend?