Appliance Energy Efficiency Platform To Boost Customer Engagement

Appliance energy performance data forms the basis for a utility marketplace.
Published: Fri 14 Aug 2015

If co-founders Matthias Kurwig and Don Epperson of the innovative Silicon Valley startup Enervee achieve their vision, the appliance marketplace starting to roll out to utilities is set to be the next consumer engagement platform.

If like them when searching for energy efficient appliances for new homes back in 2010, you have been similarly frustrated in finding information on appliance energy consumption and a comparison with other models, you might well agree.

“We wanted to go beyond the standard government labelling, and to understand the energy costs over the product lifetime,” CEO Kurwig told Engerati in an exclusive interview.

The concept is both compelling and timely. While energy efficiency has been on the agenda for decades, it has gained impetus in the last few years, alongside the energy management opportunities made possible with the widespread deployment of smart meters, in the drive for more sustainable use of energy. With targets to be met, utilities are increasingly needing to focus their attention on energy efficiency and savings, not only in the structure of buildings but also at the appliance level.

Energy marketplaces live

Energy marketplaces, branded for the respective companies, are currently live for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in California and for the major utilities jointly in Connecticut, and others are in the pipeline.

Their basis is a database covering the spectrum of electronic devices and electric appliances, combining product specifications and energy data among others and matching it with commercial information from online retailers such as Amazon as well as major high street retailers such as Home Depot.

“We spent the first three years building a sophisticated data processing platform,” explains Kurwig. ”We have about 130,000 energy product profiles and typically process around 700,000 product offers daily.”

The outcome of this is a set of constantly updating data normalized by product type that enables consumers to compare the costs of purchasing and running any particular device or appliance and to find out what if any rebates are applicable and where they may buy the item. In conjunction with researchers at the Berkeley Lab, an ‘Enervee score’ has also been developed, which provides a single numeric rating from 0 to 100 of the products for easy comparison. Likewise this is constantly updated as new products come on the market, moving down the scores of the older products.

“The advantage of our data is that it is right up to date whereas government data such as Energy Star is typically updated only on multi-year cycles. New technology products score above 50 and over 75 they are very good and over 90 in the top percentile they are ideal from an energy use perspective.”

Utility customer engagement

The marketplace business model is essentially threefold and comprises a fixed cost per household and service charges for rebating if handled and a comprehensive marketing strategy to bring people to the site.

“The marketplace provides a new place for utilities to engage with consumers, as research has shown that over 80% research an intended purchase online beforehand, regardless of where it is ultimately purchased,” says Kurwig. “With more disaggregation of smart meter data on household consumption information, and knowing someone is in the market for an appliance, also the more that recommendations can be personalized, based on product costs and energy performance.”

All of this then feeds into the utility’s energy efficiency achievements, which in the US at least are generally regulated.

New products and markets

As devices and appliances vary across markets, the data processing needs to be set up for each market, with the US market the most complete so far. Data feeds also are in place for products in Sweden, Australia and South Africa, as a result of government contracts for data on market activity and to support energy efficiency policy making.

A clear endorsement of the concept is a US$3.7 million receipt of venture funding from Obvious Ventures in May, with which Enervee plans to grow and expand the platform. “We envisage it growing beyond electricity to water and gas, and beyond appliances to for example vehicles or real estate – with the square footage of a house and the utility costs we could provide an energy score which could become part of a purchasing decision.”

This has been followed with an acquisition investment by E.ON, which is enabling Enervee to expand its activities to Europe. This will involve build out the data aggregation and adapting the platform for Europe, where, Kurwig notes, the business model is likely to be somewhat different from the US as there aren’t utility incentives for energy efficiency.

“Engagement is very local and regional but we feel that when we are ready to roll out in the market there’s going to be interest from utilities to trying it out,” Kurwig says - and a transformation from those early days of data compilation and wondering how that data could be utilized more broadly in a business context.