The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) published its latest primer on Artificial Intelligence for Natural Gas Utilities this week, highlighting the value of AI applications to solve the biggest challenges faced by the gas industry, including those related to customer engagement and programs.
The primer asserts that, “by leveraging customer data, survey design, and behavioral economics, utilities can improve how their customer-facing programs are designed and advertised and achieve program objectives more efficiently.”
In keeping with Bidgely’s commitment to ensure our utility partners are always future-ready, NARUC distinguishes Bidgely as an exemplary leader in AI solutions and highlights the effectiveness of the UtilityAI™ Gas Solution.
“Using a machine learning algorithm, Bidgely can identify appliance fingerprints and compile a portrait of gas use for various services. Using AI, Bidgely can also develop gas usage insights and recommendations for customers on how to manage their gas use. Utilities can leverage the data and insights to build customized demand side management and energy efficiency recommendations that are more likely to be implemented,” says the primer.
Primer authors go on to present a case study detailing how Bidgely’s UtilityAI delivered impressive engagement and program outcome gains for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). “SoCalGas successfully deployed Bidgely’s UtilityAI-driven Home Energy Report (HER) program in less than four months and immediately exceeded their program’s energy efficiency goals, with 286,540 therms saved between December 2019 and February 2020. Beyond demonstrating measurable gains in program participation, HER 2.0 yielded an overall boost to customer satisfaction and engagement. Over the course of thousands of emails disseminated to the utility’s gas customers, email open rates averaged 50 percent — double the utility industry norm . Email recipients also gave the email communications they received 81 percent “likes” via thumbs up and thumbs down voting buttons included with every message.”
The primer emphasizes that, “knowing precisely where the savings opportunities are on an appliance-level basis improves the outcomes of demand side management programs traditionally thought to be less effective at delivering results.”
“AI and data-driven programs have the incredible ability to increase customer savings, engagement and satisfaction through Advanced Meters,” said Dr. Liza Legaspi, program manager at SoCalGas. “With the goal of expanding energy efficiency among average consumption customers through cost-effective digital channels, we have used Bidgely’s solution to personalize our approach and better understand our customers’ needs and motivations.”
When it comes to improving gas customer engagement and customer-facing programs, the UtilityAI Gas Solution has also delivered meaningful results for Columbia Gas of Ohio, a NiSource Company.
In 2019 Columbia Gas of Ohio partnered with Bidgely to develop a multifaceted program designed to simultaneously improve customer engagement and satisfaction while also producing greater energy efficiency and sustainability gains — all with cost effectiveness in mind.
Columbia Gas of Ohio wanted to replace its first generation paper-only Oracle Home Energy Reports program through which they had been treating approximately 450,000 high consumption customers with a more engaging next generation HER approach that enabled greater, ongoing meaningful interaction with a wider range of its customers. By upgrading to Bidgely’s UtilityAI Gas Solution and HER 2.0 program, the utility was able to reinvigorate the existing paper reports program, layer on digital HERs for those paper report customers for whom the utility had email addresses, and also treat an additional 250,000 customers with digital-only alerts — extending and democratizing the program to also serve low to medium consumption customers who were also potentially low to medium income. The HER program was further enhanced through the addition of a new Utility-AI driven embedded portal within the Columbia Gas of Ohio website.
The program grew and diversified the number of customers served with HERs from 450,000 to 700,000 with no additional spend, surpassing annual MCF savings targets by thirty-three percent. More than ninety-three percent of customers rated the HER communications they received with a favorable, thumbs up.
“Our customer experience goal is to drive top-tier customer satisfaction — which we know is predicated upon the ease of doing business. That’s why our focus is to make sure that we are driving a seamless experience for our customers and making things as easy as possible for them. The ability to offer a more engaging, personalized HER program together with enhanced web tools provides precisely the sort of positive customer experience that we’re committed to delivering,” explained Hanna Balla, Director of Customer Experience at NiSource.
Though the utility engaged Bidgely to provide a next generation HER program and enhanced online engagement tools, the ancillary benefits of the UtilityAI platform have further benefited operations organization-wide and delivered a far greater and lasting ROI than a typical HER program investment. Our AI-powered disaggregated appliance-level data has revealed deeper insights that have informed strategic planning and grid optimization efforts, including an in-depth understanding of cooking, water heater and space heating consumption patterns and trends at customer, regional and service-territory-wide levels.
As the Artificial Intelligence for Natural Gas Utilities primer points out, gas utilities have unique challenges in today’s environment and the use of new technologies like AI is critical. That’s why Bidgely created its UtilityAI Gas Solution based on deep insights into both gas customer energy use and habits, as well as gas utility operational demands. To learn more about the results UtilityAI Gas Solution has realized for SoCal Gas and Columbia Gas of Ohio and how the platform can help you achieve your goals, watch our on-demand webinar: Unlocking the Value for Gas and Dual-Fuel Utilities.