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Understanding the New Energy Consumer

Unlocking value in the evolving energy marketplace.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2011

will help in achieving desired adoption levels.

A strong commitment to innovation will be critical for any utility that decides to pursue opportunities in the evolving energy marketplace. To capture a share, utilities and energy providers will need to develop a sophisticated set of product, service, and pricing portfolio capabilities to address a range of consumer needs. They will need to be fast to market—but without sacrificing the tailored features that consumers value.

Redefining ‘Consumer’

Today, it’s relatively simple for a utility or energy provider to define a retail consumer as the bill payer attached to a fixed premise. But as electric vehicles, prepaid energy cards, solar panels, and other new technologies take hold, there will be nothing simple about defining energy consumers. Some of an energy provider’s consumers will be on the move, consuming energy services in various places and in varying quantities. Others might not be paying the bill but will still play a critical role in how energy services are selected and used.

Energy providers must begin to think of energy consumers as much more than the bill payers of today. Lifestyle implications and choices, family values and entertainment, convenience, simplicity, and technological innovations are areas in which different consumers see opportunities for new energy products and services.

Accenture’s findings illustrate the need for utilities and energy providers to prepare for new consumers and new service channels—and to build the capabilities necessary for differentiated products and services. In the latest survey, 60 percent of respondents indicated they would be interested in technology for completely automating the management of their electricity. More than one-third would like the ability to monitor and manage usage through personal electronics (36 percent) or to customize their online energy portal or in-home display (35 percent).

Additionally, consumers expect electricity consumption to be a family matter. Eighty-nine percent say it’s important or very important for energy management programs to be easy to use for the whole family (see Figure 5) . When asked what features they would seek, 20 percent said they would be interested in energy management programs that included family activities and games about electricity usage.

Interestingly, the research suggests that the complex nature of beyond-the-meter products and services might not be suited for traditional channels, such as the call center. When buying energy efficient products, 52 percent of survey respondents indicated that they would like to make purchases with a staff member in a store location. Only 29 percent would be happy purchasing online without interacting with staff. Similarly, when purchasing a convenience-oriented energy management program, 63 percent of consumers would want to buy from a staff member either in store or at home.

Remodeling the Business

Utilities and energy providers will need to re-examine—and, in all likelihood, redefine—their business models, operating models, and partner relationships to build the agility and flexibility required to address dynamic consumer needs and to strengthen existing and new consumer relationships. As utilities respond to the opportunities and challenges of the evolving energy marketplace, a number of dynamic business models (see Figure 6) are emerging around the globe: