Putting Power into the Hands of Energy Consumers
Energy providers are going to have to pay more attention to tech-savvy consumers if they don’t want to fall behind rivals in the coming years.
A new report from the US-based Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) highlights how environmentally-aware and technologically literate Millennials want to take greater control of the whole energy chain from generation through supply to consumption.
The report, titled ‘2018 State of the Consumer’, examined the perceptions, attitudes and needs of energy consumers with an aim to formulating solid action for utilities to take in order to serve their customers better.
One of the major results of the survey was that younger consumers – now becoming the biggest sector of the market – are far more interested in renewables and energy efficiency. Crucially, many of them recognise the use of wireless technology, smart meters and apps can give them far greater control than has ever been available before – with wide implications for energy providers.
“The energy sector is undergoing widespread change with far-reaching implications for providers and consumers alike,” said Patty Durand, President & CEO, SECC. “Long considered a commodity-based business, utilities are now being called on to build and nurture relationships with their customers. Strategies for effective consumer engagement are increasingly viewed as a cornerstone for utilities and other energy service providers.”
The ‘2018 State of the Consumer’ report emphasises that utilities need to treat the relationship with each customer as “a journey that first starts with the basics and evolves over time as the customer’s energy-related understanding and needs change.”
Another theme in the report is that programs emphasising shifts in energy usage, such as peaktime rebates or peak-shifting programs, are appropriate for and appeal to a wide range of consumers. In fact, about 60% of consumers are either “probably” or “definitely interested” in participating in one.
In order to optimise such systems, the potential of Blockchain is being explored to enable P2P transactions between suppliers and consumers. Some of the biggest power providers in the world are signing up to innovative projects such as those run by Energy Web Foundation (EWF), which is seeking to create a Blockchain-based framework called Tobalaba.
So far EWF has raised US$17 million from a total of 37 affiliates, expanding the initial circle of ten founding affiliates formed by Centrica, Elia, Engie, Sempra Energy, Shell, SP Group, Statoil, STEDIN, TEPCO and TWL.
The recent addition of AGL, Duke Energy, Eandis, Exelon, Eneco, E. ON, Innogy, PG&E, PTT, SB Energy Corp, Swisspower and Wipro to EWF’s ranks reinforces the industry’s support for the development of the first open, permissioned Blockchain operating in the energy sector.
While this technology is not specifically aimed at allowing consumers to take more control, it will provide the capacity for app writers to develop the required technology. The big names mentioned above would be wise to find ways to listen to and empower their customers, according to the SECC report.