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SMART METERS

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THE EMERGING BATTLE FOR THE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP By Kristian Handberg, Principal Consultant, Percepscion

As change gathers pace in the Australian electricity market, the entry of new players from telecommunications, entertainment and other service industries appears increasingly likely. According to utilities and home service providers at the recent Smart Energy Summit in Austin, Texas the key battleground will be for control of the customer relationship.

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n its fifth outing, Smart Energy Summit: Engaging the Consumer, organised by Parks Associates, examined the expanding market for energy solutions and home controls, along with their impact on utilities, service providers, retailers, manufacturers, and consumers. Around 250 industry representatives gathered in the booming Texan capital to evaluate new partnerships, strategies for consumer engagement, and deployment plans for energy and management solutions in the ‘Connected Home’. Indicative of the increasing importance of the topic, the event was around one third bigger than previous years. The breakdown of attendees highlighted the emerging competition from outside the sector, with an

equal share of vendors, home service providers and utilities/energy providers. My company Percepscion, a Melbourne-based home energy technology start-up, was invited to talk about our 2012 electric vehicle charging demand management project, delivered with United Energy.

UTILITY CHALLENGE FROM CUSTOMER CONVERGENCE Presentations and discussions throughout the event highlighted the convergence of energy and home service provider customer relationships. Utilities, striving to adapt to more customer-centric business models, face a growing challenge from battle-hardened home service providers, who can leverage a broader and potentially more

compelling product portfolio beyond merely energy. Utility heavyweights such as Duke Energy, Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Austin Energy, Reliant/NRG and TXU described their efforts to engage customers, who for the most part were described as apathetic. Dennis Garman, Duke’s Head of Energy Management and Information, outlined the company’s forthright efforts to engage customers through regular home energy reports. In contrast, Scott Burns, Reliant’s Director of Innovation, described their more passive approach of providing online tools for consumers who seek them out. From the home services side, providers such as Lowe’s, Comcast and

Utility May 2014 digital edition  

Utility magazine covers water, sewer, gas, electricity and communications/the NBN. This issue looks at energy networks and demand management...

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