Field Notes: A Multigenerational Energy Journey

By Dana Simone

Editor’s note: From time to time, Dean Seavers will tear a page from his notebook and share what he’s learned from customers, stakeholders, and employees across National Grid’s U.S. footprint.

May 4, 2016: I stood up to speak with the Customer Engagement team one recent morning, and the screen behind me promised: “Executive Connections.”

I’d been thinking about connections. I’d also been distracted over the weekend. News organizations had reported that Prince had died. And that had me spinning scratchy vinyl records on a Sunday afternoon, singing along with my elderly aunts to everything from “Purple Rain” to “Call my Name.”  I introduced my aunts and my children to his music (yes, a few years apart). They found, as I had, that you couldn’t truly hear Prince until you connected with him emotionally. We became a multigenerational family moved by extraordinary music.

solar panelsFast forward to my start at National Grid. I didn’t come here expecting to be as moved by the energy industry or by decarbonization, as I am. It’s because I realized that the decisions we are making today and intend to make tomorrow, are going to have a multigenerational impact. The decisions we’re making as a company might not directly affect my 90-year old aunts and uncles, but they will sure affect those they care about.

From where we sit, we have a chance to make a big impact, even change the world.

But the fundamental question is, “Will we?” The democratization of energy – keeping energy affordable and reliable for all while solving for climate change – puts us in a unique position to speak for and advocate for our customers. Yet while the customer is implied in all we do, we’re missing an explicit mention of their perspective. That needs to change. Because how well we take our customers along on our energy journey will have an impact – on the quality of life for our communities and customers – for generations to come.

We’re very quickly becoming the clean energy company we’ve imagined. Take the astounding progress we’ve seen this past year in solar connection applications: 25,000. Compare that to electricity connections (40,000) and gas connections (24,000) in 2015. In UNY alone, the number of complex solar* applications increased 143% from 2014 to 2015. And many times that since.

Our customers are telling us something.

The Customer Engagement team is innovative and determined that our customers be part of our energy journey. They’re intent on getting customer perspectives through marketing campaigns like “Grid Goes Green,”  “Life on the Grid,” “SolarWise” and more. They’re using small and big data to better listen to our customers, to define what customers want to hear from us, how they want to hear it, and when and where they want to hear it.

Will we change the world? Yes. Because we’ve already made the decision to transition to a decarbonized energy supply chain. We just need to remember that our customers are our best guides.  I can’t imagine a better opportunity to connect with our customers and positively impact many generations to come.

[*Complex solar is larger than rooftop solar; complex solar is above 50KW.]

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