Australian Telco Seizes Opportunities in the Energy Market

Telcos are competing for a space in an energy market which is increasingly calling for innovation and change.
Published: Wed 24 Feb 2016

More than ever, telcos are in a good position to capture a fair portion of the energy market, especially when it comes to the residential sector. [Telecoms’ Smart Home Race]. This is mostly because telecoms have an established customer base and already lay claim to very strategic assets.   

Consumers are already turning to their telephone service providers when it comes to buying smart home systems which enable them to remotely manage their household appliances, lights, heating and other devices. This is according to a recent survey, carried out by IMS Research. The survey analyzed the attitudes and expectations of 2,500 respondents, with 500 each from the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany and China. The majority made this choice based on familiarity.

Telcos recognise energy market opportunities

Australian telecom, Telstra, has now recognised the opportunities in this market and is making plans to enter the solar and battery storage technologies space as well as the home energy services market.

To kickstart its entry into the smart energy market, the telecommunications company is reported to have established a dedicated project team led by Ben Burge CEO of Powershop and Meridian Energy Australia.

According to Telstra’s head of new business, Cynthia Whelan, the company views energy as relevant to their Connected Home strategy. She says that Telstra is looking at opportunities to help customers monitor and manage “the many different aspects of the home, including energy.”

And there are many opportunities especially since technology continues to transform our daily lives. New developments in solar energy and storage, software and the connected home are certainly opening up ways to make energy consumption more dynamic, efficient, and ultimately more cost effective.

Telstra already an investor in clean energy

Recognising that it is a big energy consumer, Telstra already invests heavily in solar and battery storage technology, and is using the technology for its remote telecommunications network.

Two years ago, the company installed a 12kW system at its Greensborough and Oakleigh exchanges in Melbourne, and last month installed 30kW systems at its Deer Park and Lyndhurst exchange buildings in Victoria. The solar systems have helped these buildings to reduce energy consumption by 10%.

Telstra Property executive director John Romano said that this was the first time that they have used solar power systems at such a large scale in a metropolitan area and that this could change the way they power their network in the future.

Market disruption creating opportunities and innovation

Engerati has written a number of articles over the years about how the traditional utility business model would have to change in order for it to not only survive but prosper in the future.

Increasingly, the traditional energy industry has been facing fierce competition from new (and completely unexpected) players including telecommunications companies and IT corporations, such as Google.

PwC head of utilities, Mark Coughlin has pointed out that telcos are often better at customer services than energy utilities and he sums this up by saying that the traditional utility model “where the company controls the ‘electrons’ and the consumer has little choice” will have to change if utilities are wanting to compete in an energy sector which is becoming increasingly complex.

This is an opportunity for utilities to get to know their competitors and even learn from them.  Experiences from telecoms that are applicable for utilities include the methodology of the approach to the customer to understand their needs and develop a solution to meet their needs, and migration from legacy to new systems. Also, historically, ICT has not been a major concern of utilities but today it is becoming ever more important. While the communication network has been the traditional “weak point” for utilities, this is now shifting to exploiting all the data that is being collected. [Bringing Best Practices From Telecoms To Utilities.].

There’s no doubt that there is great potential to be found in building synergies between utilities and telecoms and this creates a number of opportunities for both utilities and telcos in the energy system of the future which craves innovation and a change in business models. [Building Synergies Between Utilities and Telecoms.]

Further reading                                      

Arthur D Little-Catching the Smart Home Opportunity [pdf]

BTR-Telcos Lead in Smart Home Mind Share

European Utility Week-Interview with Yves Caseau, Executive Vice President at Bouygues Telecom, France

Green Peak-Cable & Service Providers Fifth Play The New Smart Home is the Really Smart Home [pdf]

IHS Electronics and Media-Consumers Gravitate Toward Telephone Companies for Connected Smart Home Services

RCR Wireless-Reality Check: Telecom operators should capitalize on expected smart home growth