Over the next few weeks, I’ll be chatting with different leaders in the industry to get their perspective on the opportunity for demand-side solutions in the clean energy landscape, as well as their take on the recent announcement of Uplight’s planned acquisition of AutoGrid.
Today, I’m talking to Brandi Davis-Handy, Chief Customer Officer, US Utilities at AES. With over 20 years of experience in customer engagement and marketing, Brandi leads a team focused on enhancing customer experiences and advancing solutions for reliability, affordability, and sustainability. Beyond her professional achievements, Brandi is an active community leader and has been recognized for her contributions, including being named a 2022 Woman of Influence by the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Dan Burak: Why does the grid need demand-side solutions like the ones offered by Uplight and AutoGrid?
Brandi: All the analyst models that look at the clean energy transformation have energy customers playing a necessary and key role in that work. We’re seeing homes getting increasingly “smarter” in all aspects of technology. For example, by 2030, smart thermostats in homes are expected to go from 10% penetration to 34%, and we expect to see upwards of 26 million EVs on the road in the U.S. Add to that significant increases in electrified appliances like heat pumps to induction stoves.
All this adds up to overall demand for electricity going up at a faster pace than it has in the past 15 years or so. As we drive towards decarbonization in this new reality, utilities are looking for ways to integrate demand-side technologies like those from Uplight and AutoGrid into their planning and operations efforts, as these solutions can have a really positive and significant impact on energy affordability and reliability as the grid transforms.
Dan: How will this create more opportunities for AES’s customers?
Brandi: This has the potential to benefit AES customers, helping them save money, use energy more efficiently, and access more clean energy. We’re always looking for ways to engage energy customers with compelling programs, and this acquisition can do that for energy customers of all types – from residential to small business to large industrial companies and campuses. More program options come with the ability to connect more types of assets to the grid, from smart thermostats to EVs, and from microgrids to fleets.
Dan: As Chief Customer Officer, how do you think about customer experience as the energy market gets more and more complex?
Brandi: The clean energy ecosystem is indeed evolving quickly, and this is generally good given the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for innovative paths to decarbonization.
Keeping the customer experience front-and-center is core to my role at AES. As the market expands with more customers engaging with more grid-connected assets, it will quickly get complicated for grid operators to manage so many relationships, technologies, and integrations.
A platform that can aggregate and simplify the connections among utilities, grid operators, device OEMs, and energy customers will give us greater flexibility and visibility into the overall customer experience, ensuring we can keep engagements compelling, intuitive, and rewarding for all of our customers.
Dan: What about this particular combination of Uplight and AutoGrid makes sense for the market, and specifically for AES?
Brandi: AES already works with Uplight to engage customers in proactive energy management. For us, the acquisition of AutoGrid increases both the breadth and depth of offerings, all in one suite. With Uplight, we have the ability to reach a huge number of energy customers and engage them in a meaningful way, such as providing a smart thermostat with significant savings as part of a demand response program. Creating seamless, frictionless customer experiences is what they do really well. AutoGrid adds depth of expertise with their Flex platform. They add an increased ability to take grid-connected devices in both homes and businesses and orchestrate them to benefit energy customers and the grid.
AES also has a significant renewables business, and we really need customer engagement to happen en masse so that we can continue to put more and more renewables on the grid. Bringing together these complementary, best-in-class capabilities will unlock potential faster as they go to market, bringing an integrated offering to create and manage significant flexible capacity that is so necessary in the energy transformation.
Dan: How does this acquisition fit within the larger clean energy transformation?
Brandi: As decentralization, renewables integration, and electrification rapidly change the nature and needs of the energy system, solutions that provide reliable load flexibility are becoming essential tools to optimize the grid.
Accelerated mass market adoption of grid-connected devices and assets translates directly into greater energy flexibility and a more resilient, reliable, affordable, and sustainable grid.
For more information, read the press release.