bad PR for your project.
6. Being consistent with your processes
and your messaging. When utility
employees say different things about
the same subject it makes the organization and the project look disorganized. Consistency is key in all areas
ranging from terminology, content
and overall professionalism.
Smart grid projects can be a success with well-defined and implemented public relations campaigns. As with
all things, a utility must identify the
goals and objectives and then a strategy
to accomplish them. When the project
draws to an end, it’s important to “keep
the conversation going.” Utilities should
communicate post-installation on their
successes and lessons learned not only
to their local community but to a broader
industry audience if there is value there.
After going through its first smart grid
PR campaign, a utility will have begun to
initiate a new rapport with its customers,
one that is often more proactive and
less reactive. This is a great way to build
customer satisfaction and continue to
engage customers with new offerings and
insights. These projects often become a
new opportunity to completely redefine
a utility’s relationship with its customers.
It important to do it right.
to developing a strategy to avoid the
major pitfalls that have been seen in the
industry. This requires:
1.First and foremost, understanding exactly what your program can
accomplish. It is far better to under
promise and over deliver.
2. Educating internally first. Often utility
employees are customers too and can
provide valuable insights to the public
3. Involving and educating customers.
Customers want to be engaged and
educated, not just told what they are
going to experience or worse yet hear
nothing at all. The latter is a worst case
scenario that often ends with customer
mistrust. Pilot programs, focus groups
and other communication forums can
be an invaluable way to engage customers. Opt in or opt out opportunities
need to be vetted, fair and consistent
across the customer base.
4. No advertising. Giveaways and incentives can easily be misconstrued by
5. Validating your processes with a pilot
project if possible. Lack of validation
procedures and due diligence, particularly for smart metering can result in
high bills, customer complaints and
the fullest extent possible.
As part of the campaign design, the utility will need to develop its communication strategy by target audience, including
community leaders, government, utility
employees, customers (based on deployment schedule), the media and more. All
of these factors should be built into a plan
for the utility to track its efforts. For applications that have a rolling deployment,
such as a smart metering or AMI program,
many public relations activities will be
driven by the project milestones (such as
smart meter pilot start and finish).
An extremely important, and often
neglected task within the public relations
campaign is the validation of its effectiveness. During the initiation and planning
phases, the utility should map out its
objectives with a method to measure
success. This can include things such as
measuring website traffic, quantifying
and categorizing customer contacts, surveying customer satisfaction/sentiment,
as well as tracking media attention. At
the conclusion of the campaign, these
outcomes should be documented and
referenced for future outreach initiatives.
Once a utility has built and implemented a successful smart grid public
relations campaign, it must turn its focus
THE SMART GRID AND AMI
The City of Ruston is at the forefront of the Smart Grid
movement. The electric industry as a whole is making
the transformation from a centralized, producer-driven network to one that is more interactive for
consumers. The Smart Grid is characterized by a two-way fow of electricity and information. By incorporating innovative technologies into an improved electric
infrastructure, the Smart Grid will advance utility
performance and provide better service to customers.
The foundation of the Smart Grid is a term coined
“Advanced Metering Infrastructure” or “AMI”. An AMI
system utilizes smart meters which automatically
communicate consumption and other system data
directly to the utility. These new meters measure and
record usage data at a minimum, in hourly intervals,
and provide usage data to both consumers and
energy companies at least once daily. 1 Most utilities
currently have one month ready, which is used to
estimate consumption and billing.
BRIGHT DEVELOPMENTS FOR RUSTON
LIGHT & POWER
The City of Ruston successfully completed the design,
procurement and implementation of a Smart Metering
Pilot Project in 2009. During the course of the pilot, the
City applied for the U.S. Department of Energy Smart Grid
Investment Grant Program. Ruston was selected late
October, 2009 to receive $4.3 million in funding as one of
only one-hundred recipients nationwide. Utility Automation and Engineering T&D Magazine awarded the City of
Ruston the Smart Grid Project of the Year in March, 2010
for its innovative design in the grant application.
Goals for the Smart Grid Grant project include:
• Rene wable energy generation for targeted city
• A 50% reduction of distribution system
• Fuel reduction of 7,500 gallons
• A 5% energy reduction overall for customers
• An estimated community cost savings of over
According to Darrell Caraway, Public Utility Manager, the
three-year project also focuses on enhancements to
customer account soft ware, automation of the electric
distribution system, and testing of energy storage devices
including electric vehicles.
Mayor Dan Hollingsworth said that when fully deployed,
the new system will make Ruston’s power grid more
efcient and user-friendly. “These improvements will
save Ruston customers on their power and water bills. It
will also ensure more accurate meter readings,” says the
AMI technology enables:
• Revenue recovery
Smart Grid extends these
benefts to include:
uston Power Smart
The City of Ruston is building an electric system that is more
efcient, resilient, cleaner, reliable and responsive – a Smart Grid.
A good example of communication that articulate the benefits of a
smart grid program. Courtesy city of Ruston, Louisiana
A good example of developing strong brand recognition using taglines, slogans and mascots. Courtesy: Westar Energy