We were surprised to read Georgia Power's "Hourly Usage Information Compliance Filing" (Docket 36989; 3-page PDF) because it reveals how a large utility disparages the idea that customers should have a right to know how much of a utility's product they consume. GP starts by saying: "Georgia Power's residential customers also have access to a wide variety of usage information to help them manage their energy usage." What tools do customers have available to them? Their monthly bills, the utility's call-center, and, of course, customers can "read their own meters." Amazingly, these pearls of customer service wisdom are coming from one of the nation's largest electric utilities in the 21st century.
It gets worse. In a thinly veiled attempt to derail customer data access, GP cites examples from the My Power Usage program in which customers expressed little interest in their usage data. GP solicited 70,000 customers for the program, but "less than one half of one percent demonstrated interest in seeing hourly usage." Of course, if GP's "solicitations" are anything like the junk that appears regularly in our mailboxes, it isn't hard to see why the participation rates are low. GP charges $150/month for access to their "Energy Direct" website, making uptake understandably low. But more importantly, why does GP think that it, and not entrepreneurs, are best suited to deliver the value of energy data? Surely some GP employees know that a simple graph of hourly energy usage is not enough to delight your customer; the data must be transformed into information and insight first. With technological advances in the last few years, innovative companies are much more likely to discover those data-driven insights than regulated monopolies.