Smart energy starts hitting closer to home

by Boston newsdesk. Published Mon 23 Jun 2014 16:50, Last updated: 2014-06-24
Products like the Honeywell Lyric will change the relationship between energy firms and consumers

Mike Ballard, Senior Director of Utilities Strategy, Oracle EMEA, discusses how emerging smart energy technology will transform the relationship between the utility companies and consumers.

The launch of Honeywell’s Lyric “smart” thermostats in the UK is the latest indication that people are getting more proactive about managing their energy use. What’s particularly interesting about the rise of consumer-focused devices like this one is that the public is embracing them of its own accord, with no involvement from regulatory bodies or energy retailers.

With utility companies now looking to get closer to consumers and take a more collaborative approach to managing the country’s energy , the release of in-home technologies like the Lyric – and Google’s Nest launched earlier this year – is encouraging, and points to a growing trend in people finding their own ways to curb their consumption and lower their energy costs.

As more in-home energy management devices enter the mainstream, customers will rely on their energy providers to help them make the most of these technologies. Intelligent thermostats will allow people to automate their heating and cooling systems, appliances, lighting, and so on, and will likely help them consume less power as a result. But, these can become much more powerful energy and cost-saving tools for users once they have a complete view of how they consume energy in their homes.

The search for a more sustainable and affordable approach to managing energy will only attract more followers. As the energy gatekeepers for the general public, energy utilities will play a key role in keeping this positive momentum going.

Because of this, in part, the relationship between energy retailers and users is about to evolve. The public will increasingly turn to utilities for expertise and support as they learn about managing their energy, while utilities will make their operations more transparent to the people they serve.

Energy retailers will be expected to provide customers with more granular information on their consumption habits so they can see where they may be wasting energy – and therefore money – and minimise their losses. As they get closer to a user base that is more cost-conscious and ecologically aware than ever, helping people consume more efficiently will go a long way in helping utilities build strong customer relationships.

These partnerships won’t just benefit consumers. With a more engaged customer base utilities also stand to lower their own operating costs.

Consider peak days, when extremely cold or hot temperatures have traditionally prompted excessively high usage and forced energy utilities to buy excess capacity to make sure they can satisfy demand. Companies that have educated consumers on how small changes in behaviour – replacing water boilers, lowering thermostats by one degree in the winter, insulating walls – can help them consume significantly less can help drive down demand on peak days and keep their own up-front costs to a minimum.

Of course, drastic change won’t just occur overnight, but the buzz around “smart” in-home devices points to a big first step in the right direction.

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