New ORNL technology to help KUB customers understand their bill

New ORNL technology to help KUB customers understand their bill

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By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - If you think there's a problem with your utility charges or how your meter's being read, all you may be able to do is call your utility company. However, a program by Oak Ridge National Laboratory aims to change that.

ORNL is working on a program called "CoNNECT," which stands for "Citizen Engagement for Energy Efficient Communities."

The technology will help Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) customers, and ultimately utility customers' nationwide break down and compare their energy usage to others in their zip code, county and subdivision.

On an average day, staff at the KUB call center take about 2,500 phone calls. If it's a brutal winter, they say the call volume doubles.

"Sometimes it's very difficult to convince a customer that you know their bill is correct. They don't understand. It's a mild day on the day they call, but was very cold at the time their meter was read," explained customer service supervisor Dale Grubbs.

The statistics on CoNNECT can be broken down into specifics. For example, they can show you how much water you use compared to everyone else in your neighborhood.

There are other neat additions, like a map that will show you if your home is conducive to tapping into solar energy.

"Knoxville will be one of the leading communities in the nation with this capability," said Dr. Budhendra "Budhu" Bhaduri, one of the scientists overseeing the project.

Since ORNL is next door, Knoxville will be one of the first cities to get the program.

One of the goals of "CoNNECT" is to help consumers become a little more energy efficient. "The customers would come to the KUB website and be able to log in and access their data and use the tool," said Keri Brill, environmental analyst for KUB.

Your individual data would still remain private, according to scientists.

At the KUB call center, the staff hopes this will translate into fewer confused customers. "A high bill call can be one of the longest calls we have," Grubbs said.

Since CoNNECT is still a research project, there's no exact timeline on when the technology will be released. But ORNL hopes to launch it in the near future.

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