The European Utility Industry Awards are hosted during European Utility Week, in the evening of the 15th November. The awards recognise and celebrate individuals and projects that have shown outstanding commitment and accomplishments towards a sustainable energy sector. If you have any questions about submissions or voting, please contact us.
Britsih Gas HomeEnergy FreeTime
FreeTime is a unique innovation, enabled by smart meters, offering customers free electricity from 9am – 5pm on Saturdays or Sundays. Launching in July 2016 this is Great Britain’s first smart metering proposition targeted at the mass-market and follows significant research and trials over the last three years. The launch of FreeTime received unprecedented media coverage; trending as the BBC’s ‘most read’ news article, receiving 184 pieces of broadsheet and press coverage articles and prompting significant social media interest in the first few days alone. This was followed by a multi media marketing campaign including TV, radio, press, online and direct marketing. Over the first three months over 150,000 customers account have signed up to FreeTime. The launch has driven a 28% increase in British Gas sales with FreeTime customers +14% more likely to advocate British Gas.
FreeTime has enabled differentiation for British Gas in a traditionally low-engagement and increasingly price-focused market. FreeTime was a top-performing proposition in research and trials; a performance that has continued since launch. Over 150,000 customer accounts signed up to FreeTime in the first three months. Traffic to the British Gas website has increased by 60% since our campaign began with overall energy sales increasing by 28%. NPS for FreeTime customers is 14% higher than non freeTime customers with a significant increase in key brand metrics recorded (including a +5% improvement in consideration). Overall brand sentiment for British Gas became positive for the first time in years.
The unprecedented media coverage of the FreeTime launch was overwhelming positive prompting significant social media discussion, trending on twitter and receiving 2.5k+ social media comments.
FreeTime also underpins our ability to meet the UK government mandate requiring energy suppliers to install smart meters to all UK homes by 2020. This translates in to c14m in home installations for British Gas customers. FreeTime provides a significant incentive for customers to have a smart meters installed. Our insight shows a doubling of customer take-up for smart meters when FreeTime is included (vs. core benefits of smart meters).
The customer experience design for FreeTime adopted a digital-first self-serve approach. New customer journeys built through ‘agile development’ enabled smart meter appointment booking online with FreeTime sign-ups. A new online account feature shows customers savings made on their free electricity days, and an estimate of future savings. Our digital-first approach is improving the proportion of customers transacting online, and reducing the reliance on call centres.
In the longer term, FreeTime will enable benefits to the UK’s electricity grid, by incentivising moving electricity usage from ‘peak periods’ (typically weekdays 4pm-8pm) to non-peak periods. Electricity costs are most expensive during peak periods, so British Gas can offer customers savings from shifting their electricity usage to non-peak periods. Analysis of electricity consumption has shown material changes in behaviour of FreeTime customers, both on peak days and during the FreeTime period. This type of proposition will play an increasingly important role in managing the UK grid, as seen in other markets (notably the USA), and support a lower carbon economy through reducing the need to build new power stations.
FreeTime is the UKs first smart metering proposition targeted at the mass-market. A small number of energy suppliers offer ‘time of use’ tariffs aimed at niche segments (e.g. Electric vehicle customers), but our research showed these received limited take-up and were complicated for customers to understand. FreeTime is a simple proposition with an easily understandable benefit, meaning customers can start to engage with the concept of their energy being priced differently at different times, enabling future smart meter innovations.
Market-experts welcomed the launch and commented on its uniqueness. Ann Robinson, from price comparison website uSwitch, said: “This is one of the first special tariffs and you can expect to see more." Other commentators, including Martin Lewis from MoneySavingExpert, welcomed the launch of this new "innovation by British Gas".
Customers have shown real engagement with FreeTime and realised significant savings. FreeTime gives customers a unique way to save money on their energy bills and gives them more control. Historically, customers looking to save money on energy bills can either switch tariff or reduce their energy usage. FreeTime provides a new way for customers to save - simply using electricity during the free period rather than the non-free period. 86% of customers reported that they changed their electricity usage with FreeTime, saving £60 on average and 13% saving over £100 in customer trials. This change in behaviour has also translated into a different customer relationship with energy, with 64% of customers feeling “more aware” of energy usage.
Smart meters that enable this innovation, also provide significant additional benefits to our customers. These include showing customers how much energy they are using in pounds and pence, an end to estimated bills, no longer needing to submit meter reads because they send us the readings automatically. Plus in our recent sample of customers with smart meters, they have reduced their consumption around 3% on average across dual fuel (£30pa). This is in addition to the savings customers make from their FreeTime tariff. Customers are also provided with a smart energy monitor in the home and access to our interactive online tool ‘my energy’ that helps customers better understand their household energy use and savings made on FreeTime. To date, we have installed over 2.7 million smart meters in homes across Great Britain.