Reflections from the NY REV Summit, and What We Can Learn from the Mobile Industry

Mike Kaplan

New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative addresses technology and market changes that will challenge utilities to effectively manage the modern electric grid and adapt to meet customer needs. Regulators, utilities, and service providers around the country gathered at the recent 2016 NY Energy REVolution Summit to examine these very issues, discussing both the progress that has been made as well as the important work that still lies ahead.

Ecova was well-represented at this event. I had the honor of serving as chair of the conference, and Jim Johnson, VP of Sales, was lead panelist for a session on how utilities can monetize REV opportunities. John Rhodes, CEO of the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), kicked off the summit with a keynote address that highlighted the REV demonstration projects being developed by utilities in New York and several related NYSERDA initiatives.

A key theme that several speakers touched upon was the sheer complexity of REV and the demands that will be placed on the electric grid. Many debated questions about the future: when we look back many years from now, what will be the lasting impact of REV? Do the people we’re doing this for care about these efforts? These issues were also on the top of my mind as I prepared my remarks for the event.

Fundamentally, REV is enabling the grid itself to become a platform for innovation. As we enact mechanisms to allow data to flow freely and integrate these networks with new technologies, software analytics and smart devices, customers of the future will react in ways we simply can’t predict. Because of this, the weight of REV is not only to prepare our industry for changes we can see, but also the changes we cannot see coming.

Nearly a decade ago, the mobile industry started to encounter this same phenomenon of hyper-growth in technology and mass-market consumption. A perfect storm of forces changed consumer behavior overnight: smartphones and tablets, improved wireless networks, and next-generation content and apps that accelerated how people used these devices and networks. This confluence of effects happened so quickly that the industry dramatically underestimated the adoption of some of these devices and the rise in data usage that would follow.

Not only did the amount of data change, but also when and how people used that data. More and more people began accessing bandwidth-intensive video at night, which shifted the proportion of data consumption throughout the day. Of course, this type of time shifting can have a profound impact on the way a network is managed and optimized.

Mobile Data Usage Chart

The mobile industry overcame these challenges and adapted – largely because it had the tools to do so. Those tools look a lot like the ones that REV aims to bring: assets and incentives to manage the network, price signals, and new services and technologies for customers.

No single actor can address all that REV seeks to accomplish. The long-term market winners will be those that are able to cut through the complexity as much as possible. We see the emergence of online marketplaces, which transformed industries like retail and hospitality, as one example of how utilities can make this happen and provide a more seamless energy experience for their customers.

Change can originate within our industry (e.g., the killer app or device to manage energy differently) as well as from forces outside of our industry. New technology in the transportation sector, from electric vehicles to self-driving cars and even drones, may influence the needs and wants of energy users.

Our industry’s ability to respond to these needs – to be an enabler rather than a barrier to change – is what the promise of REV holds.

What do you think of the changes happening in New York and the influence of REV? If you have any questions or thoughts we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us today.

Ecova and Con Edison are partnering to deliver the Building Efficiency Marketplace, an innovative demonstration project for New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative that will drive deep energy savings and energy management projects at scale for Con Edison’s commercial customers.

Co-authored by Mike Kaplan and Jenny Zhao


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