Power and renewables

6 challenges workflow automation solves for utilities

6 Challenges Workflow Automation Solves for Utilities

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Judy McComb

Judy McComb

Consultant, Program Development and Implementation

Manual processes, disparate systems, & limited insights inhibit clean energy programs. See how workflow automation helps utilities amplify success.

To reduce load, drive greener practices, and lower their environmental footprint, utilities pour enormous amounts of time and money into energy transformation projects. Accomplishing these objectives requires collaboration with a multitude of customers, trade allies, distributors, and others. It also requires the ability to identify energy-saving opportunities, quickly process and fund incentives and rebates, track progress across multiple programs, justify expenditures, and demonstrate success to regulators.  

But many utilities continue to rely on cumbersome and highly manual processes and disparate systems that aren’t built to accommodate multiple program categories. In addition to requiring far more time and effort, these factors make it difficult to accurately track and measure progress and course-correct with agility and confidence.  

To increase program success and maximize resources, utilities must invest in comprehensive, intelligent solutions that deliver transparency, fuel productivity, and streamline collaboration and program management. Below, I’ll share how workflow automation solutions such as EVOLVE Impact Flow can solve six key challenges that utilities face. 

1. Automate Manual Processes 

Many utilities are bogged down with highly repetitive, multi-step processes, impacting both quality and efficiency. While not every process can be automated, many can and should be. Workflow automation allows utilities to build standard processes to streamline activities, enhance program quality, and manage each step. Workflow automation saves time and frustration and frees up program managers to focus on identifying new opportunities and accelerating clean energy programs. It can also enable seamless access to data insights across the business. 

The use of an automated workflow solution can streamline project tracking, document management, payments, and more. Utilities can leverage automation to set reminders to ensure activities are completed on schedule and alerts to multiple stakeholders when project milestones are at risk—such as a project reservation that is about to expire. Quality checks also can be built into processes, minimizing errors—and the time and money spent correcting them.  

Utilities can leverage workflow automation to simplify and expedite project and rebate application processes by enabling customers and contractors to directly submit information from an online portal, kicking off an automated, multi-step approval workflow. Additionally, chatbots can be used to help customers find the answers they need online without human intervention.   

2. Streamline Project Tracking 

Tracking one project is easy. Tracking multiple projects across program categories such as renewables, storage, energy efficiency, and water in a comprehensive manner is difficult. Workflow automation can be used to streamline project tracking, from project initiation to project payment and closure. It can automatically capture project communications, related documentation, and payment processing, so that everything needed for a project is accessible in one convenient place.    

3. Increase Program Agility 

Having visibility into the full cross-program project pipeline is critical to monitoring progress and meeting regulatory commitments. Program managers must be able to quickly identify underperforming or overperforming segments and channels and take corrective actions.  

With automated project tracking, utilities can integrate existing systems and create custom analytics dashboards that provide actionable insights that add value for customers. Workflow automation gives utilities the ability to surface marketplace trends to inform program design and make adjustments as needed. It also enables utilities to identify the most cost-effective projects to maximize return on investment. 

4. Measure Program Success 

Demonstrating progress against regulatory targets and revenue goals is a must. But for many utilities, accessing real-time insights is often impeded by having multiple disconnected systems run by several implementers, different methodologies, and unreliable data.  

Workflow automation can help enable connected insights from multiple program categories. Workflow automation can also ensure standardized, real-time measurement methodologies across categories, enabling deep visibility into program success and confidence in the accuracy of reporting.  

5. Capture Opportunities 

Having a consistent way to measure programs is also important for capturing opportunities. Utilities must be able to quickly calculate energy impacts and the amount of funding needed to buy down a technology installation and demonstrate the return on investment. Consistent and accurate measurements enable utilities to tailor value propositions that directly support their customers’ goals—and demonstrate those results post-installation. 

6. Improve Payment Flexibility 

The ability to accelerate payments is critical to customer satisfaction. Workflow automation can give utilities greater flexibility in releasing more timely project payments. In addition, utilities can break large rebates into smaller incentives that are funded at the completion of designated milestones, rather than in one large payment at the end of a multi-year project. Workflow automation can also be used with  electronic funds transfers to expedite the issuance of approved payments.    

How Impact Flow Solves These Challenges 

To solve these and many other challenges common across utilities, DNV created the EVOLVE Digital Suite. This comprehensive solution was created specifically for utilities and is the only end-to-end solution of its kind available. It is designed to accelerate energy program success by streamlining program management and connecting utilities and their customers, trade allies, and distributors to the insights, resources, and incentives needed to drive impact.  

A key part of the suite is Impact Flow. This automated workflow and project tracking solution solves the six challenges I mention above. Impact Flow delivers full transparency into energy program status and enables utilities to measure and substantiate the impact of energy savings, demand reduction, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and water savings.   

Impact Flow automates and streamlines project tracking, document management, and rebate payment approvals. Backed by decades of DNV engineering expertise, the impact technology and measure library provides thousands of calculations to help utilities analyze energy and water consumption and recommend further energy efficiency investments and projects. 

To maximize the impact of clean energy programs and contend with increasingly stringent regulations, utilities must streamline their practices through intelligent, connected solutions and workflow automation. I encourage you to explore workflow automation and other intelligent solutions. For additional insights into how EVOLVE Digital Suite has helped other utilities, be sure to read how EVOLVE helped NV Energy streamline energy program management, how EVOLVE Intelligence is helping Consumers Energy accelerate clean energy in Michigan, and how ComEd used EVOLVE to simplify their midstream program.

Contact us:

Judy McComb

Judy McComb

Consultant, Program Development and Implementation