Investing in Technology
We face a different kind of challenge when we lay the groundwork for a future focused on energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. The past 100 years was about building the infrastructure to make electricity accessible to everyone. Today, our mission is to deliver affordable, reliable energy in a way that’s increasingly clean. In response, we are investing in digital energy technologies that have the potential to transform our industry — the way we generate energy, the way we deliver it and the way our customers use it.
I’ve often said that Duke Energy is a technology company disguised as a utility. New nuclear, advanced coal, and renewable energy resources, all seamlessly integrated into a digital grid, will create the foundation for a future that continues to bring reliable, affordable and cleaner energy to all our customers.
Our power grid delivers electricity over more than 170,000 miles of lines and scores of substations and related equipment. It uses technology that has changed little since the days of Thomas Edison. In 2009, we began a $1 billion upgrade to move from an analog system to an advanced digital grid. Sometimes called “smart grid,” today’s modernization efforts bring 21st century technology to the 20th century power grid.
The technology also makes possible the integration of appliances and other in-home devices, so customers can — if they choose — use the tools and information we provide to reduce their energy usage and control costs.
As part of the upgrade, we have installed state-of-the-art digital meters at some customer locations. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved our digital upgrade plans in 2008. Since then, we have installed approximately 140,000 electric meters, 100,000 gas meters and 22,000 communication nodes in Ohio.
With this technology in place, we have begun residential energy management pilot programs in Ohio and in a small area of Charlotte, N.C. Participating customers have realized savings in their monthly energy bills.
Customer Service Improvements
In addition to improvements in our power delivery system, the digital grid will help customers become more involved in managing their energy use. We’ll be able to give them the information, choices and control to make wiser energy decisions, conserve energy and save money, in a way that works best for them.
The digital grid technology investments we are making in Ohio, and eventually in the other states we serve, will create a customer experience similar to other technological revolutions, like the Internet and the smartphone. Of course, taking action is optional — and we feel strongly that customers should be the ones to make that choice.
We are not waiting to build out the smart grid, however, to create new opportunities for customers to connect with us. Today, in addition to person-to-person services, customers can communicate with us via social media and online tools, so that we can respond more quickly to their suggestions and concerns. Our storm feeds on Twitter – @DukeEnergyStorm, and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/DukeEnergyStorm, are great examples of how we are reaching customers with information they want and need.
The efforts of our employees to offer prompt and effective customer service were recognized in 2010. In a customer satisfaction survey for electric utilities, Duke Energy was ranked third in the nation by the Key Accounts National Benchmark Survey. Additionally, in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study,SM Duke Energy Carolinas ranked highest among large utility companies in the South region, and our Midwest operations moved up three spots to sixth place among 17 providers. We are proud of our employees whose actions embody our long-standing culture of safety and service.
We are working with the manufacturers of vehicles, batteries, and charging stations to expand the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles. In 2010, the Electric Drive Transportation Association, of which Duke Energy is a board member, launched GoElectricDrive.com — an online resource providing a wealth of plug-in electric vehicle information. The site includes information about environmental benefits, charging infrastructure, purchase incentives, and a virtual showroom. A “Plug-in and Save” calculator shows you the financial and carbon footprint savings from driving a plug-in electric vehicle.
We’re also helping to shape state and federal policies and standards. This technology is good for the planet and good for our profits, helping drive electricity sales.