Utilities and other providers of essential services will be critical in the deployment of smart cities. To learn more about the role the electricity industry will play, we caught up with Tim Nichols, Strategy & Product Manager for Jemena’s Victorian electricity distribution business.

Can you tell us about some of the programs and or innovations your utility is rolling out to make the provision of your products and services smarter?

We are using technology and data to create innovative programs to benefit our electricity customers in Melbourne’s north-west as well as the broader community. These include our demand response trial, Power Changers, to help customers keep their bills down while relieving pressure on the grid and our Creating Solar Friendly Neighbourhoods trial which is exploring how existing infrastructure can better integrate with solar power and other new technologies. We are also improving the customer experience with simplified SMS power outage alerts and our new poles and wires fault reporting tool.

How important is it that providers of essential services move to adopt smart technologies within their networks?

Many people think energy is about “poles and wires”, but our industry has always been technology led. Today, we have the opportunity to use new technologies, data analytics and industry innovations to better understand customer demands and deliver safer, more reliable and sustainable energy to homes and businesses.

Can you tell us about the plans that you have to help customers optimise their utility usage?

Increasingly, we connect with customers through online and social media platforms. Our Electricity Outlook Portal on the Jemena website, enables electricity customers to monitor their energy use through smart meter data, get notified by SMS if there is a power outage in their area, see an estimate of how much their electricity is costing every day and better understand their electricity consumption habits.

What plans do you have to enhance the experience your customers have when dealing with you?

Customers are at the heart of what we do and we place a huge emphasis on customer engagement. We are doing much more to engage directly with, and listen to, customers to ensure we provide relevant and sustainable services. This includes giving customers access to their electricity use through our Electricity Outlook Portal. By proactively engaging with customers this reduces the need for them to call our call centre and provides the information they need much faster. We will continue to utilise technology to identify smarter ways to deliver electricity to customers and ensure we have the capacity to support tomorrow’s cities and communities.