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Energy industry gets smart

IABC Victoria Vice President, Damien Batey, reflects on how smart meters are changing the face of the energy industry.

Affordable, secure, reliable and, by all means, let’s make it renewable and measure how much we’re using.

The challenges faced by the Australian energy sector are the same across the globe. Right now our power industry is at the crossroads in the evolution of the global power landscape. It’s the perfect irony that an industry which can be quite conservative in nature finds itself is in the midst of such considerable change.

Globally, the energy market is undergoing transformation through a combination of factors, leading to a radical rethink of how we source, consume and measure our energy. 

I spent the first six years of my career in corporate communications in the energy sector, where I experienced the challenges power companies face in communicating change to customers, regulators, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Back then, the rollout of a fundamental technology to modernise the state’s electricity networks had only just begun – smart meters. By the end of this year they’ll be in every Victorian home and business.

Delivering communication that sends the right message about the technology has never been easy. Mind you, creating positive engagement wasn’t easy back in 2009. While we started paying for them immediately, experiencing the benefits has been a more recent development.

Now we have in-home displays and web portals that enable consumers to see in close to real time how much power they’re using, and importantly – how to manage consumption to reduce their bills.

When I was in the sector one of my primary objectives was publically defending a technology that didn’t have an immediate public pay off. I always took pride in my work and probably judged myself too harshly when results didn’t go my way. Today I look back on my time in the sector with greater objectivity. 

I still think it will be some time before smart meters shift the needle on consumer engagement, but I also realise there’s no magic wand for communicating their benefits. The most critical aspect to communications success will be consumer engagement. The industry’s challenge is to bridge the gap between our worry over rising bills and the way technology can give us greater control.

Getting it right will take time, strategic thought and, most importantly, a clearly understood value proposition for the entire community.

As communicators I know we often find ourselves pushing against a greater force. That’s what makes our jobs so rewarding and our skills so important to business.

Overcoming challenges makes us better communicators. The best thing about the IABC Victoria network is that it’s full of stories and experiences we can learn from. I’d love to hear your story. Drop me a line at dbatey@porternovelli.com.au

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