“You’re not going to be selling energy in the future, you’ll be selling life!” stated Manon Janssen Chair of Topsector Energie and CEO, Ecorys in the opening Keynote address at European Utility Week 2017 in Amsterdam. No pressure there then!
Chris Wall, ex Head of metering for npower, joined Eliq as an advisor in September 2017; explaining his rationale for accepting the role as follows, “The company’s aims of reducing energy waste by helping households understand their consumption and assisting energy suppliers engage with their customers via real-time information & personalised communications, is a clear win-win for all parties both areas that I am passionate about.”
Chris attended European Utility Week 2017 with Eliq and gives us his views on the forum.
I last attended the EUW in Amsterdam in 2014 and returned this year in an advisory role with Eliq. The most striking change I noticed is how the industry has moved from discussing looming technological change and innovation, to dealing with the consequences of the emerging challenges these changes bring to the market. It proved an intense and engaging three days.
My take-aways from EUW were that there are a lot of great new ideas, propositions and initiatives, but essentially, it came down to three clear messages: technology, customers and the need for partnerships.
Technological advances in the utilities sector were broadly evident, not just as concepts but as demonstrable, available offerings. My conversations with suppliers, industry colleagues and visitors to the Eliq stand indicated that technological innovation has registered across the sector, but the rate of change is difficult for many to keep up with.
Generally, the sector is perceived slow to embrace digitisation (and/or digitalisation for that matter!), but this appears to be changing. Larger energy companies are setting up open innovation hubs as a separate entity, with their own KPIs aimed to continuously develop and prototype new customer solutions.
The disruptive convergence of solar, energy storage and EVs, is key in the reshaping of the utilities market. Whilst the full shift from consumer to prosumer may not have occurred yet, the consumer is demanding more from utilities.
Utilities should value their customers not in terms of kWhs but in Euros; or in other words, I would translate this as customer loyalty. Artificial Intelligence is upon us: AI will dramatically shift the way utility consumers buy, sell & interact. Customer communications must be improved and cost to serve decreased.
A European Commission’s initiative, BRIDGE, presented its four Working Groups, one dedicated to customer engagement. Personalisation is becoming prevalent in all industries and utilities cannot escape it. Energy monitoring tools are a gateway to transparency, used by allowing end-users to manage their energy consumption.
Understanding of customers is key and companies with no prior energy serving background are entering the market using this as a key differentiator.
“Don’t close the doors of your company to third party companies; you are killing yourself”, Enel’s Head of Innovation and Sustainability Ernesto Ciorra told the EUW Summit delegates.
Technology is revolutionising the energy sector and collaboration is required to successfully adopt this. For example, the rapid development of the Active Home (devices interacting with each other, often with varied, potentially myriad, platforms), is likely to confuse & alienate consumers. There is an identifiable need for collaboration to establish simple and minimal user interfaces for complex business systems, which will also benefit data aggregation needs.
The UK’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, is a perfect example to enable energy system transition and empowers consumers to both use effectively and ultimately be more in control of their energy to achieve lower bills.
Businesses need to play to their strengths; partnering and collaboration provide the means to stay focussed whilst ensuring broader market/customer relevance.
In summary, if utilities heed these three key messages then the sector is in a great position to win customer trust and loyalty.
Eliq is a Swedish tech company specialising in the analysis and visualisation of energy data. We work with innovative utilities such as Greenyellow and Gudbrandsdal Energi in providing experiences that build connections and make a difference in customer loyalty.