OPINION: energy industry must prepare for customer power and technology shocks

Domestic and business customers, are about to become much more important drivers of change in the energy market, and in a decade they could be far more influential than utilities or central government. When they take up new technologies the industry is forced to respond.

That was the conclusion of members of New Power’s Expert Panel, polled in association with market research company Accent.

In ten years time the shift was decisive: most thought customers would have more influence than utilities, regulators or government (give us your opinion here).

Which customers lead?

Both domestic and business customers have been more active in the broad energy market in recent years, and decisions taken by both groups have forced the industry to respond.

Among domestic customers there has been a ‘boom’ in rooftop PV and now 850,000 households have it installed.

In the business sector, companies have installed onsite generation, or used existing backup or other onsite power facilities, to shift from peak times and enter the demand side response market.

In both cases, policymakers and industry have struggled to act as fast as customers.

Which customer groups – domestic or business – will be the most active and powerful in the futue industry? The Expert Group thought that businesses would have most market power now, but in a decade – perhaps with the tools provided alongside smart meters – domestic customers would be the most active. “Technology will enable consumers to take far greater control,” one respondent said.

Best guesses on a technology boom

Our experts thought technology would excite customers much more than switching among energy retailers.

New Power set out a variety of new technologies or those with consumer buzz and asked our experts which they thought could ‘boom’ among customers. Among the options on the edge of taking off, respondents most often named electric vehicles, along with storage.

Who wins?

Crucially, the experts New Power polled thought that new entrants to the power market would benefit from consumer power and new technologies. Existing companies, ”react too slowly due to inertia. They don’t have the competencies to tailor services to different types of consumer,” one said.

If that is true, where will new industry entrants come from? New Power’s experts  thought there were a wide range of sectors that could add energy services to their portfolios. They included:

  • Data driven organisations with a customer centric focus.
  • Lifestyle brand owners.
  • ICT and telecoms companies.
  • Residential service and insurance providers.
  • Large dedicated online retailers, such as Amazon.
  • Municipalities.
  • Car manufacturers.
  • Cyber security specialists.

What’s your view? Take our short (anonymous) survey here and give us your thoughts on the possible future of the industry.

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