Social Media Powering Demand Response Programs

by Carolyn Elefant on September 26, 2011

in Social Media in Regulated Utilities

As I wrote in my law journal article, The Power of Social Media, today’s utilities are using social media for a wide variety of functions: consumer education, outage and crisis communications, customer service, stakeholder engagement and branding. But there’s one function that I didn’t address extensively: the role of social media in demand response.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports on Xcel’s use of social media to curb demand on peak days so as to avoid energy outages. To keep the lights on within its 52,000 square foot balancing area where use peaks — such as during record-breaking heat-waves this past summer –, Xcel can look to reserves to meet the heightened need, or alternatively, call on customers to cut power use to free up supply. That’s where social media came into play. According to Xcel spokesman Wes Reeves:

Social media played a big role and really spread the word. To my knowledge customers have never ignored an appeal.

The nexus between social media and demand response will grow stronger in light of emerging research. For example, as described here, Intelen, a company based in Greece has already developed services that leverage social media platforms like Facebook to disseminate real time energy information to drive demand response services.

Without ready access to time of use data, demand response programs flounder on the granular level. Although Xcel’s customers seem accommodating, in the long haul, most consumers have no incentive to inconvenience themselves by shutting down power in the middle of a heatwave unless they understand the level of savings that accompany their decision. To the extent that social media can aid consumers in making that choice, then those regulating implementation of demand response programs should demand inclusion of social media.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: