Electric companies focus on creating energy solutions to meet goals of largest customers

Published on June 08, 2018 by Kevin Randolph

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SAN DIEGO – As energy technologies advance, large electricity customers are increasingly looking for customized solutions from electric utilities to meet their renewable energy goals in a cost-effective way.

Large corporations like Walmart seek to meet aggressive sustainability targets. Customers like the U.S. Air Force want to strengthen resiliency. Representatives from both organizations spoke on a panel Wednesday at the Edison Electric Institute’s annual convention held this week in San Diego, along with Holly Benz, senior vice president of emerging growth at CLEAResult, a provider of energy efficiency services. Geisha Williams, president and CEO of PG&E Corp., moderated the session.

In order for electric companies to win those projects and complete them successfully, Benz emphasized the need to develop ongoing relationships with a continued focus on meeting customer needs.

“Solve the problem in one stop,” Benz said. “It is a challenge. With utilities you have to get through these various silos that we may all have, but we need to be very customer-oriented and think of the consumer product point of view.”

According to Steve Chriss, director of energy and strategy analysis at Walmart Inc., having conversations with more types of customers and staying engaged with them is key. Walmart, he said, has contracts for amounts ranging from the energy consumption of several gas stations to 83.3 megawatts. He also highlighted the importance of understanding the regulatory process and knowing who will be involved in the process to support projects getting to market more quickly.

David Irwin, director of opportunity development for the United States Air Force Office of Energy Assurance, noted that the Air Force wants to hear ideas from electric companies and potentially host their assets. These projects could benefit electric companies, he said, because they can enable utilities to try out new ideas in an environment that is a mix of residential, commercial and industrial.

“As you’re planning generation assets, programs, etc., we’re interested in talking to you about how we can partner on those,” Irwin said.

Additionally, Williams suggested, electric companies may want to look forward to the potential future needs of their customers, such as growing electric vehicle fleets.

“It’s going to be a big thing for us,” Chriss said of electric transportation. “We are at the beginning stages of really discovering what that looks like.”

Walmart’s transportation team, Chriss said, plans to speak with electric companies and other groups at the company’s upcoming utilities summit to start determining how to get started with the electrification of its fleet.