DTE Energy Creating a "Plus One" Experience

Steven B. Ambrose, VP & CIO, DTE Energy
268
460
95

Steven B. Ambrose, VP & CIO, DTE Energy

In addition to excellent customer service, DTE Energy sought to create a truly distinctive experience for our customers–to provide them with innovative and engaging access to real-time data about their home energy usage. We built an easy-to-use platform that brought together cutting-edge consumer hardware, engaging mobile software and our expertise on energy efficiency, and we offered it for free to our customers.

Introducing the DTE Insight Platform

The DTE Insight platform gives our customers the ability to understand and analyze their energy usage and offers recommendations to help them increase their savings through energy conservation. Many app-only solutions already offer tips about energy efficiency, and we wanted to provide something truly distinctive–we sought to enable real-time usage information, requiring us to go “beyond the app.”

Leveraging our smart meter investment, we provide our customers with direct data connections to their homes’ advanced meters through our new DTE Energy Bridge. The Energy Bridge is a free device that customers can easily install in their homes. It automatically binds with their smart meters through a ZigBee radio signal, allowing the DTE Insight app to see their homes’ live energy consumption.

The design of the app is visually friendly and delivers to customers their real-time usage and historical trend data through easy-to-understand charts that show electrical and natural gas consumption. In addition, customers with iPhones can hold their phone to power cords and view the energy consumption and monthly operating costs of electrical appliances. Other features such as personalized energy-saving tips, projects and weekly challenges give our customers information they can use to reduce their energy costs materially.

We are just getting started. This year we are introducing new features that will allow customers to set energy-use targets with alerts and notifications if they approach or exceed their target-usage levels. Additional features will include the ability to set a monthly energy dollar budget and monitor their progress toward meeting that budget. We are proud to provide our customers with a one-stop experience that is real-time, engaging and informative.

  We strive to delight our customers through innovation–creating value by doing new things 

Innovating in the Energy Sector

Aligned with and inspired by our company’s aspiration, we strive to delight our customers through innovation – creating value by doing new things. Like many in our industry, our culture has not always been quick to explore new, undefined ideas, and yet we know that as a company we cannot fully achieve our aspirations and goals without innovation. To that end, DTE Energy is nurturing a culture that, along with continuous improvement, embraces experimentation, and the Insight platform is an example of those intentions.

Our IT organization has a long history of providing IT products and services for our internal business partners, primarily the delivery of IT projects, operations of IT assets, and security of our company’s data. We sought to leverage these capabilities and collaborate with a local technology firm to tap its strengths, including excellent user experience designs and mobile platform development.

Together with VectorForm, a company experienced in innovation, we designed the Insight platform to ensure our customers experience a stress-free download, easy registration and an auto-binding experience with the custom-designed Energy Bridge hardware device.

The DTE Insights mobile app and the Energy Bridge have been a great success, with more than 150,000 mobile app downloads and 30,000 Energy Bridge requests. While we did not embark on this journey to win accolades, our work has been recently recognized with a CLEAR Consumer Education Award from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

Along with increasing our customer satisfaction, the platform has been well received by important state and regulatory communities. Our Michigan legislators and the Michigan Public Service Commission see this as a leap forward in energy consumer relationships. Our governor, at a recent energy address, spoke about delivering energy saving tools to Michigan consumers – and he held up his smartphone to the audience with our Insight platform running on its display.

As we celebrate this success with our customers and state legislators, DTE Energy recognizes that this success has the opportunity to change the perception of utilities as moving slowly. This disruptive platform demonstrates that in these exciting times in the energy sector, utilities can and do innovate with high-tech solutions.

Powerley – the Opportunity to Partner

We had intended to deliver a truly unique experience, and the DTE Insight platform did that and more. As we demonstrated the platform and its unique real-time user experience to others in the industry, they realized the benefits they could gain from this as well. We recognized an opportunity to take this to market, and in partnership with VectorForm, created Powerley, a utility innovation-led development joint venture that focused on cutting-edge home energy knowledge and management.

Companies in our industry are uniquely positioned to deliver “behind the meter” services for smart, connected and intelligent homes. As utilities, we are well-established, trusted service providers already in the home. While some local telecom companies provide services to some customers, it is the utility that touches every home in its service area. This provides us with the opportunity to enhance the growing end-to-end customer experience.

Powerley has been created by utilities for utilities. Its primary mission is to build the next generation of smart home-energy management solutions that will provide both power utilities and their customers a new level of connectivity and energy use intelligence. As Powerley delivers these solutions to other interested utilities, DTE sees Powerley as a broad invitation to partner with others in the energy sector.

I believe that utility IT organizations are at a key moment in time. We want the success with our DTE Insight app to help trigger an innovation renaissance in the energy sector. Through Powerley, we seek to build an innovation consortium that will define and drive the future of intelligent operations and engaging customer experiences.

Read Also

The Digital Utility Powering the Next Generation

Henry Bailey, Global VP, Utilities IBU, SAP [NYSE:SAP]

Interconnecting Applications to Revolutionize Energy Industry

Jerry Sullivan, VP, IT & CIO, OUC, The Reliable One

The Power of Purpose in Motivating a Workforce

Waco Bankston, General Manager Corporate Services, Senior Leadership Team, STP Nuclear Operating Company