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Exploring the Electric Company's Role in Developing Smart Communities

Increasingly, electric companies are coordinating with a broad range of community stakeholders to use data and technology to help drive efficiencies, improve sustainability, spur economic development, and enhance the quality of life for their customers and communities.

While each community may have different reasons for wanting to be smart, all smart communities share common attributes—and they all are powered by smart connections and by smarter energy infrastructure.

Recently, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) conducted a workshop with electric company leaders to explore how electric companies can more effectively advance their initiatives with communities beyond pilot projects. Based on discussions with workshop attendees, it is clear that electric companies vary greatly in where they are on their smart community journeys.

While many companies are already working closely with their communities to pilot initial projects, there is not yet a comprehensive framework that will enable early work to be captured, connected, and scaled.

Attendees recognized that there are barriers to overcome for pilots to be adopted at the scale required to drive substantial value for electric companies and their communities and customers.

The recommended highlights to promote community-aligned, cross-jurisdictional, and equitable economic development were:

  1. Electric companies are invested in the long-term well-being of their communities as anchor institutions with substantial physical infrastructure, local workforces, and stakeholder relationships.

  2. Electric companies are well-positioned to be responsible stewards of cross-jurisdictional community initiatives. Electric companies have a long history of coordinating regionally to maximize returns from infrastructure investment, ensure proper interoperability, avoid redundancy of investments (in this case, physical and digital infrastructure), and extend services to include rural areas.

  3. Electric company community management incentives are aligned with community priorities to promote growth, competition, privacy, security, and equity - while accepting longer timelines for investment returns.


As smart community initiatives are pursued, electric companies and their employees will face an ongoing tension between day-to-day execution and innovation that must be managed proactively.

Attendees recognized that an initiative such as envisioning and delivering smart community services fundamentally differs from the current day-to-day demands.

The sustained progress required to capture the potential transformational value of smart community initiatives requires treating innovation management as a core organizational capability.

To realize the transformational value promised by smart communities, electric companies must continue collaborating with stakeholders to co-create new and innovative business models to deliver smart community initiatives at scale.

This path forward creates an exciting opportunity for electric companies and communities to drive efficiencies, improve sustainability, spur economic development, and enhance the quality of life for customers and communities.

Click below to view the workshop summary and learn more about this important work.


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