Utilities worldwide are reimagining the way they do business. With energy demand leveling off in many parts of the globe and new technologies giving consumers more control over their energy use, utilities are increasingly focused on offering new, empowering energy experiences to their customers — from online tools to energy storage. Opower's founders Dan Yates and Alex Laskey spoke about the big trends in energy this week at the Fortune Brainstorm E and The Economist / Minds + Machines events. In case you missed the talks, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for key takeaways.
Fortune's event focused on the emerging market for new energy products and services. "Technology, big data, sensors, massive processing power, and mobile apps will help make tomorrow’s homes be more energy efficient," Fortune writes. "The businesses that control these smart products will be able to tap into a tremendous amount of data — presenting a huge, new marketing opportunity." These were a few key notes from the panel:
- Nick Akins, the Chairman, President, and CEO of American Electric Power, kicked things off. "I think you're seeing utilities start to reach out, and vice-versa, to have these kinds of partnerships [with technology companies]. We're moving from generation, transmission, distribution to infrastructure development and the customer experience. We've got to be in a position with the best technologies out there to be able to deploy on our systems... There's all kinds of partnerships that are occurring to make sure we focus in a proper fashion on the customer.
- Dan Yates, Opower's CEO, spoke to the powerful impact that utilities can make using software. "We drove 8 terawatt-hours of energy savings as of this year. We’re saving more than twice as much energy as the single largest residential solar company generates.”
- Dan added that “when you work with utilities, they’ve got the scale, they’ve got the customers. If we can help them innovate, that’s a great combination."
- That speaks to Opower's roots and our vision for the future. "We’ve made our business not focusing on sexiness, but what’s going to make the most impact. We chose to work with utilities because we knew [they would] have the most impact."
Alex Laskey, on digital disruption
General Electric and The Economist hosted a series of panels that covered similar ground. A few notes from the floor:
- Alex Laskey, Opower's President, spoke about the rising expectations consumers have of their utilities. Companies like Uber and Amazon have permanently raised the bar on what distinguishes great service. Now utilities are working hard to elevate the digital experiences they offer their customers — especially as distributed energy resources and smart home technology become more affordable.
- That makes good business sense, because digitally engaged customers are more valuable customers. Utilities that can move homes and businesses to online self-service will reap the rewards — from higher satisfaction and loyalty, to lower service costs, to new revenue streams.
- Alex summed it up nicely: "The greatest asset utilities have? Their customers."