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Solving a problem with low technology

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Solving a problem with low technology

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I’m a technology geek who happily earns his living solving problems with the latest innovations. In that role, it gets really easy to think that the answer to the most complex problems is a complex solution. In reality, not all problems need the latest invention, the fastest widget or the brilliant app no one ever thought of before. Every now and then the answer is so simple that I’m given a dose of humility about my line of work.

Saving California

A decade and a half ago, as an Accenture manager, I spent the better part of two years working at Southern California Edison’s Rosemead headquarters. If you remember back, those were the times of brownouts, rolling blackouts and general havoc in America’s first deregulated power market. We were trying to solve an enormous problem of too much electricity demand, too little generation, and what made it much worse, skyrocketing prices. The Web was new and we struggled with how to push and pull information in real-time between consumers, utilities, in-state operations and out-of-state generators. We were on the bleeding edge of technology and we knew it…and my customer felt it with each invoice for our work.

Save Power Day

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 6.01.34 AMImagine my surprise last evening when I received an email from Southern California Edison announcing simply, “Tomorrow is a Save Power Day.”

Ready to start saving? Tomorrow, Monday 8/4/2014, is a Save Power Day, which means if you use less energy than you normally do between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., you can earn credits on your electricity bill – up to $100 a year.

For those who have little imagination, they even include a checklist of ways to reduce power:

  • Turn your thermostat up 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Don’t run the dryer
  • Turn off the TV (probably a good idea regardless…)
  • Unplug appliances and electronics
  • Close windows and doors while the A/C is on (do people really need to be told that one?)

SoCal Edison, in a brilliant move, figured out how to use a little marketing and an email to manage their need to reduce Southern California’s power usage on a hot Summer day. And they did it with an email that cost them very little to create and send.

Just an email

Oh, and that incentive, “…up to $100 a year,” very likely works out to much less than they would have spent deploying a complex solution. Even better, they have a flexible solution that can be fine tuned over time to find the right combination of incentive and frequency. Sometimes, just sometimes, the answer to a problem is old technology. SoCal Edison, in a brilliant move, figured out how to use a little marketing and an email to manage their need to reduce Southern California’s power usage on a hot Summer day. And they did it with an email that cost them very little to create and send.

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