Opower, a global leader in cloud-based software for the utility industry, has taken a giant step into Asia as it partners with Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), Japan’s largest utility and one of the world’s largest utilities.
Since announcing their partnership in October 2013 and signing the deal at the beginning of this year, Opower and TEPCO teams have been working closely to quickly integrate, implement, and test new enhancements to Denki Kakeibo.
Opower will be rolling out its analytics platform to Tepco’s customers. Tepco customers will be able to access personalized energy usage insights, energy savings recommendations, and next-generation energy data visualization tools via TEPCO’s free customer web portal Denki Kakeibo. Customers can also draw comparisons with their neighbours’ energy consumption.
Tailor-making a solution for Japan
Opower spent two months surveying Tepco customers to customize the look and feel of the platform. Since a large part of Opower’s product depends on understanding consumer behaviour, Opower has to tailor its platform for each market. For Japanese consumers, Opower found that they are interested in slogans for saving energy, so Opower communicates with fewer words and more icons and logos.
While much of Opower’s US growth originates from a federal and state level push for reducing energy demand, foreign utilities are also being pushed in various ways to reduce energy consumption.
Japan, for instance, has an energy shortage due to the closure of its nuclear power facilities. This obviously has major implications for a country which doesn’t have much in the way of domestic natural resources which can be used for energy. [Engerati-Japan’s Energy Gridlock.]
Tepco aims to use the energy data to rebuild trust with its customers since the utility’s reputation is in disrepair. [Engerati-Utilities: View Your Customer as a Valuable Asset]. According to Opower cofounder and president Alex Laskey, the partnership with Opower will help the utility deal with some of the public backlash it has incurred in the past few years following the 2011 meltdown of its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, “This is a major step by them to rebuild trust and faith by giving its customers better information,” explains Laskey.
Dan Yates, Opower’s Founder and CEO, says, “We want to help utilities become trusted energy advisors for their customers by empowering them with better tools and information.”
Tepco also faces the terrifying prospect of a liberalized energy market in Japan. In 2016, Japanese consumers will be able to choose the utility provider of their choice, ranging from industry giants like Tepco to many of the upstarts that will likely pop up. This partnership is geared towards making Tepco more competitive with Japanese consumers.
Expanding globally is vital for Opower at this stage since the company is still not profitable and is pouring as much resources as it can into expanding these new utility partnerships worldwide. “Part of the reason we went public this spring was to raise funds necessary to invest strongly in what we believe is a global opportunity,” said Laskey.