Opportunities Growing For Forward-Looking Utilities

Utilities are able to improve digital customer engagement currently standing at 44%.
Published: Wed 24 Jun 2015

Engerati has consistently argued that utilities will have a key role in a transformed decentralized, prosumer-driven energy system and that the most successful will be those that are starting to transform themselves to this new system by offering new services. [See e.g. Engerati-Energy Industry In Crisis – Utilities Beware and for examples of companies that have started the transformation Three Innovative Companies Fight Back With New Ideas]

That the potential is there is supported by the findings of a new study from Accenture, based on its latest annual survey of energy consumers, which covered more than 11,000 energy consumers in 21 countries across all regions of the world.

Consumers becoming more energy savvy

Among the findings, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their energy consumption, with more than three-quarters of consumers having taken energy efficiency actions in the past year, including installing energy efficient light bulbs (52%), reducing appliance usage (34%), using appliances in non-peak times and lowering thermostat settings (both 28%).

Consumers are also becoming increasingly interested in products and services to help them save electricity, with two-thirds expressing such interest – up from 56% last year – while 69% would be interested in participating in an energy management programme to help them conserve energy. In addition, more than half (57%) said they would consider investing in solar panels and home battery storage to become power self-sufficient, with the majority of these also wanting to remain grid-connected for back-up power.

However, while consumers have a high degree of trust in utilities when it comes to securing and protecting their personal data and information about their energy usage (expressed by almost two-thirds), only 36% said that they trusted their energy provider to inform them about actions they can take to optimize their energy use.

Energy providers offer new products and services

Commenting on the findings, Tony Masella, global managing director of Accenture Energy Consumer Services, said: “As energy and everyday devices become increasingly connected, an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers’ habits and their households is becoming available. In addition to ensuring customers’ confidence in their data privacy, energy providers can use this information to develop more personalized products and services.

Given energy providers’ relationship with their customers, and that such products and services are no longer niche market opportunities, energy providers are well placed to provide them, either alone or in partnership with solution providers.

Says Masella: “In competitive markets, energy providers can create new revenue streams by offering digital solutions for home-related products and services, such as solar and other home energy generation platforms, energy efficiency tools, or even bundled home services. In a regulated marketplace, opportunities for energy providers include innovative partnerships or digital information services.”

Notably, the degree of trust on information on actions to optimize energy consumption was even lower, at 30% and lower, for online and home service providers and equipment manufacturers, which would include Google and Apple.

Digital consumers offer more value

The survey also revealed the interesting but not completely surprising fact that consumers who are “digitally engaged”, i.e. have interacted through digital channels over the past year, offer potentially significantly greater business value for energy providers. Not only are digitally engaged consumers more satisfied with and more likely to recommend their energy provider, they are also more likely to share their personal consumption information and to participate in home management programmes and services.

In the survey only 44% of the consumers are currently digitally engaged, indicating that the digital tipping point is yet to come.

Further reading

Accenture: The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World