Innovation

Emerging Technologies
for the Grid of the Future

In addition to ensuring reliability for our customers, our Distribution Grid of the Future program is also designed to prepare our electric system for our customers’ future needs. From electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to smart city capabilities, we want to enable our customers’ evolving preferences and provide the infrastructure, tools and support they need to reach their sustainability goals and thrive in a carbon-neutral future.

Our vision for the grid of the future is an enhanced distribution platform that delivers customer value through a stronger, more empowering energy experience. The following Emerging Technology (EmT) programs help us research and plan investments in key technology areas to bring our vision for the distribution grid to life.

EmT Program

Customer Impact/Benefits Progress

Grid Modernization

As our customers and industry shift toward a more sustainable energy future, we need an increasingly smart, resilient and flexible distribution system that can reliably handle increased, intermittent renewable generation sources, as well as widespread electrification of transportation and commercial and industrial processes.

Through Distribution Grid of the Future programs in each of the states we serve, we are implementing advanced distribution management systems, distribution automation, volt/var optimization and other smart technologies that support service reliability and enable the technologically advanced grid of the future. Visit the Energy Reliability page for additional information on our distribution grid modernization efforts and other reliability investments.

Smart Meters

Our customers want more control over the choices that affect their energy use and electricity bill. Smart meters provide customers with information they need to manage their usage and reach their efficiency and sustainability goals. They can also offer our utilities improved visibility into the health of the energy grid, helping us to serve customers more efficiently.

FirstEnergy is in the process of installing smart meters in three states within our service territory, with a goal to complete installation for two-thirds of our 6 million customers by 2025.

Electrification

Customers want options that help them improve the energy sustainability of their homes or businesses. Electric utility support for electric vehicle adoption, charging infrastructure and the efficient use of electricity in buildings and various energy-intensive industry processes can yield benefits for customers and the environment, including progress in achieving sustainability targets, significant emissions reductions and improved air quality. Visit the Sustainable Energy Future page for more information on our vision for economywide electrification across our service area.

FirstEnergy joined the Electric Highway Coalition, a group of electric companies committed to enabling long-distance electric vehicle (EV) travel through a network of EV fast-charging stations connecting major highway systems.

Through Potomac Edison’s EV Driven program, we’re installing 59 EV charging stations, including 20 fast chargers in Maryland.

And, our JCP&L utility filed a petition with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities seeking approval for its own proposed EV Driven program, which would support the development of EV charging infrastructure to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

Smart Cities

Our widespread utility infrastructure and energy expertise positions us well to enable our customers’ increased adoption of sustainable smart city initiatives, which help municipalities operate more efficiently, reduce their carbon footprint, enhance community safety and improve their citizens’ quality of life.

We are committed to converting 100% of the streetlights owned by our operating companies to smart LEDs by 2030. We’re also installing middle-mile broadband fiber in West Virginia to ensure our customers have access to the internet and help advance the state’s economic development goals.

Alternative Generation

Our customers are increasingly interested in sustainable electricity generation, which is beneficial for the environment and central to a clean energy future. Visit our Sustainable Energy Future page for additional information on our efforts to support customers’ preferences for renewable energy and DERs.

We continue to connect customers’ DERs to our grid, and we’ve committed to owning at least 50 MW of solar generation in West Virginia by 2025.

Energy Management

As the energy industry continues to evolve, FirstEnergy is well-positioned to help customers understand and take advantage of the ever-increasing number of energy-related options available to them. Our vision is to become our customers’ expert advisor, ally and single point of contact for personalized energy management services.

We have implemented initial smart speaker functionality that enables a customer to access their current and past bill amounts. We also plan to enable bill payment, outage information, energy savings information and safety tips.

 

Technology Research and Development

The transition to a sustainable energy future is rapidly evolving and we stay abreast of new developments through a variety of initiatives.

We participate in venture capital investments through Energy Impact Partners (EIP), a global investment group leading the transition to a sustainable energy future. These investments are focused on transforming the utility industry through the development of emerging industry solutions and close-to-market utility technologies. Our participation provides insight into future industry trends and opportunities, as well as exposure to innovative technologies that can benefit our customers, our company and the environment. For example, FirstEnergy participates in EIP’s Elevate Fund, which is focused on investing in companies founded or run by diverse talent that are driving innovation within EIP’s core mission of advancing the low-carbon economy, including through supply decarbonization, electrification, tech-enabled infrastructure, reliability and resilience, and intelligent demand.

We also stay informed of the latest energy research through active memberships in research institutes. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is among our most important partnerships. FirstEnergy participates in numerous EPRI research programs focusing on transmission, distribution, generation, the environment and sustainability. 

Additionally, we work with universities through consortiums and direct research projects. For example, we have partnered with Case Western Reserve University’s Great Lakes Energy Institute (GLEI) on multiple energy storage and grid integration projects. GLEI is focused on the transition to advanced, sustainable energy generation, storage, distribution and utilization through coordinated research, development and education.

Innovation Center

Our Innovation Center’s purpose is to find new solutions to core business challenges in a faster, less expensive and more scalable way—ultimately improving our service to customers, enhancing the employee experience and driving long-term growth for FirstEnergy.

By harnessing the best thinking from across our company and working collaboratively with business unit leadership, the Innovation Center uses analytics to identify data-driven business solutions, apply leading-edge process automation for efficiency and leverage user-centered technology. Whether it’s developing an app, mining data or automating a process that typically took employees several days to complete, the Innovation Center works through challenges and opportunities on a case-by-case basis, incorporating input from business units and subject matter experts to deliver streamlined solutions that benefit employees and customers.

To help embed the spirit of innovation in the fabric of our company’s culture, we deploy Innovation Ambassadors from across the company who are passionate about innovation. These individuals facilitate collaboration between the Innovation Center and our business units and help us apply more inventive ways of thinking in our operations.

Innovation Center in Action

In spring of 2021, the Innovation Center’s Automation team collaborated with our Customer Service team to create and deploy a Robotic Process Automation, or bot, to help us handle certain types of customer service web inquiries more effectively. The new bot quickly processes customer inquiries and frees up time for our customer service representatives, saving them a projected 2,800 hours annually—time which can be spent responding to more complex web requests. As of October 2021, the bot has successfully processed more than 20,000 customer inquiries since deployment.
 
Our Innovation Center goal is to deliver more bots and analytical models that deliver similar streamlined business solutions by year-end 2022.

Workplace of the Future

Living during the COVID-19 pandemic taught us many lessons about how we work and accelerated a change in our workplace paradigm. We laid the IT infrastructure needed to successfully transition 7,000 of our employees—or more than half our workforce—to work from home without interruptions to any business functions. And, we’ve learned that our employees can accomplish the same great results when working remotely.

As we look ahead, we’re re-evaluating what we thought we knew about how and where work gets done, and we’re re-imagining the future of work at FirstEnergy. For now, our goal is to create 100% remote capability, which will enable employees to securely access their work from anywhere on any device at any time.

Our goal is to create 100% remote capability for employees to access their work on any device at any time.

To achieve our goal, we’re taking the following steps:

We’re also developing a workplace of the future that provides flexibility and versatility for employees. Our efforts are guided by these principles:

Provide Choice to Support Task and Performance

Provide a variety of work settings, offering a balance between collaboration and individual work that enables employees to choose spaces based on their needs

Promote Employee Health and
Well-being

Support a healthy work environment through air filtration and sanitation, ergonomic solutions, and healthful food and beverage options

Elevate Technology and Connect Employees

Leverage the digital work environment to further support flexible work and align with our goal to be 100% remote capable

Make the Mission, Vision and Culture Tangible

Design office spaces that reflect and encourage FirstEnergy’s mission and core values

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