A version of this blog post originally appeared in POWERGRID International magazine. To read the longer article, click here.
Consumers’ expectations for their electricity providers have evolved swiftly in recent years, driven by their daily interactions with tech companies like Apple, Netflix and Lyft, and the increasingly digital business models of other organizations, including banks and telecom companies. This is particularly true for millennials, who are now the largest generation in the U.S.
At the same time, within the energy industry, investments in grid modernization are creating new areas of opportunity for digital and/or data-driven products and services. In fact, according to the EIA, half of U.S. electricity customers had smart meters at the end of 2016 – a two-fold increase from 2010.
For the most part, electricity providers have not missed the importance of these developments. In recent years, we’ve seen advancements in website functionality, app development and a host of new products and rate plans that take advantage of new technologies.
Given these changes in the energy ecosystem, it’s important that the consumer’s voice is not lost in this sea of opportunity. What exactly do consumers want in next-gen digital offerings from their electricity providers? Would they utilize a one-stop platform to manage their energy usage? And if so, what capabilities would be most helpful in meeting their evolving needs and wants?
To provide insight into this, the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) undertook extensive research aimed at getting to the heart of consumers’ needs and wants in the new digital world. Published in January, the “Consumer Platform of the Future” report is an investigation into what the utility industry could look like in the next five years for both consumers and utilities themselves.
The research began with interviews with 16 industry executives to develop a list of functions that a consumer-facing, digital “Platform of the Future” might offer and to define information objectives. We then held four focus groups with consumers to edit the definitions of concepts that could be included and determine how best to describe the options to consumers. Finally, these inputs were used to develop a quantitative survey of 1,292 consumers drawn from a nationally representative online panel.