The Value of Public Engagement Campaigns in Ensuring the Success of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Implementation

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Executive Summary

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), commonly referred to as “smart meter” technology, was introduced more than a decade ago to electric and water utilities. AMI is far more prevalent in the electric sector than in water; however, a number of water utilities have considered how the technology can improve their operational efficiency.

This paper focuses on the value that communications campaigns add to AMI investments by improving adoption of the technology and encouraging behavior change. This paper applies behavioral science models and strategies to prove the tangible benefits utilities can gain from investing in public engagement and outreach campaigns.

The case studies in this paper show that some utilities are also beginning to realize the benefits of improving customer satisfaction using AMI; however, this role for AMI is often overlooked or viewed as secondary.

Water and electric utilities may not always have the budget or man power to invest in communications, the recommendations provided in this paper can be adopted by any utility staff who sees value in it. Introducing a new technology requires a communication campaign designed with an understanding of the target customer’s values, perceptions, and behaviors. In the case of AMI, utilities often struggle to encourage customer uptake of the technology.

The insights into human behavior, perceptions and attitudes offered by behavioral science can help shape smart communications and outreach campaigns that resonate with target customers — increasing social and environmental awareness and appreciation of the value of the public services offered by water and electric utilities.

The case studies presented as a compliment to this white paper, are additional examples of how behavioral psychology is applied to bring about a desired change by water and electric utilities through the U.S. While, there are not always metrics available to measure the success of the public outreach efforts during an AMI roll-out, one thing is clear, the utility staff see value for such initiatives in the long and short-term.

About Sapna

As the leader of Hahn Public’s water practice area, Sapna consults with clients on water issues ranging from conservation outreach to rate structure communication. Sapna has over 10 years of expertise in water finance and policy, and environmental education and policy.

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