Panelistsat Edison International's"New Energy Future" event March 29 supported the company's position thatits new unregulated company, Edison Energy, is riding the first wave of a sea changein the electricity industry toward a competitive, customer-driven model.
A commontheme throughout the event,held at the University of California, Irvine, was that utility companies can nolonger simply provide a regulated commodity because technology is driving customersto want far more.
AllanSchurr, president of the new business unit, said Edison Energy is well-positionedto provide energy management services to large energy users across multiple industriesin a rapidly changing world of technical innovations in on-site energy production,microgrid management, energy efficiency, energy quality and sustainability. Energycustomers are increasingly looking for resiliency and power quality, price predictabilityand guidance in selecting and implementing technologies that best fit their energyneeds, Schurr said.
"It'snot energy as a commodity. … It is having energy the way they want it at their site,tailoring it based on their needs so that a site in one jurisdiction in one statemight have a different situation than a site doing the same thing in another state,"Schurr said. "And they should have a different solution to it. Energy as aservice is a different way of thinking about energy than energy as a commodity,the more traditional way of doing it."
EdisonEnergy Group President Ron Litzinger said that what has fundamentally changed overthe past decade is the development of distributed energy resources. Edison International'schief executive, Ted Craver, has also spoken of a transformation occurring in the industry.
The energyservices business used to be just demand response and energy efficiency, for whichopportunities were limited. Distributed generation, such as with solar panels orfuel cells, or an off-site agreement for a solar or wind farm, presents a game-changerfor energy services, Litzinger said.
"Nowyou have both supply and demand to work with so there are synergies where one plusone equals three," he said. "People want customized solutions now. Theutility has been a socialized commodity with standard tariffs, but people are willingto pay more than the socialized cost if they get services in return."
EdisonEnergy's target customer is large commercial and industrial energy users, and severalparticipated in the Irvine event. Mike Demsky, senior commodity, regulatory andsupply manager at General Motors Co.,said his company looks for help with utility business partners to reduce costs,improve manufacturing processes and control sources of supply. The company alsohas energy conservation and renewable energy managers, but partnerships are essentialfor its facilities around the world.
's global energy director,Michael Bates, stressed his company's commitment to renewable resources in effortshe called "replacing carbon with silicon." Intel makes components andsystems for smart homes, buildings and the grid, he said.
"Thereare huge opportunities for utilities to get into this space, and we applaud Edisonfor doing so. But the real answer is the consumer. We will look back on this eventtoday as a company responding to consumer need and moving the market forward byhelping consumers move forward."