Nowadays, the evolution of digital technologies is connected to the quick adoption by customers. In the future, this trend accelerates the efforts by the company in design a more intuitive use of technologies for the users, despite the growing complexity (Accenture, 2017). This phenomena, above all the positive implications, simplifies the utility industry itself, making it easier to track energy consumption, both for the industry and for the customers (PWC, 2017). In marketing terms, utility is a “low involvement” product (PWC, 2014).
The utility industry presents itself as too complex, leading the consumer to a lack of attention to energy tariffs. As well the energy consumers have high switching costs due to lack of information and re discouraged to switch (He and Reiner, 2015)Information leads to a higher price sensitivity as well as attracting major attention to the services alternatives. Therefore, with the increasing power prices, customers are pushed to look for a solution to generate their own energy through solar panels and other intermittent renewable generators, or switch to more energy efficient equipment (Nieponice, 2017).The price sensitivity is further impacting the business customers, which are increasing their awareness in managing their energy use patterns. The shift toward renewable energy as a primary source of energy and the use of more efficient usage tracking systems, bring the business customers two competitive advantages: lower energy costs, and sustainable advantage. This implies the possibility of showing one’s own interest and contribution towards sustainability issues (Willard, 2012). To support this point we can include an example such as Google, which is in the last stages of satisfying their energy needs by using renewable resources. Other well-known companies which have announced energy efficiency target for 2020 are: P, they aim to power their plants with 100% renewable energy; Walmart will reduce energy needed to build by 20% from 2010 level; McDonald’s aims to increase energy efficiency by 20% in its franchised restaurants.
(PWC, 2017).Additionally, to increased price sensitivity, the sum of technology innovation and socioeconomic drivers are radically changing the customers needs, and the consequential adaptation of the industry, which is transforming into a digital enterprise (Gartner, 2017).We derive from our research that exists a multitude of value drivers with regard of the future of utility industry. To ease the literature comparison we provide a follow-up logic order of the emerging trends in two key blocks:Emerging driving technologiesNew business models focus on customer centricityEmerging driving technologiesAccording to Gartner (2017) the principal emerging technologies for the utility industry are:Blockchain, which enables Sharing Energy EconomyDER (Distributed Energy Resources), which dictate new network managementDigital business, which is accelerating industry transformationData analytics Blockchain wants to be the technology enabler of “energy revolution in which both utilities and consumers will produce and sell electricity” (Basden et Cottrell, 2017, p.2). Such technology would disrupt the logic of the grid by providing a system where the energy consumer can take advantage of the decentralized energy system that would deliver efficient, reliable renewable energy. Application of Peer-to-peer energy trading are already a reality in Brooklyn, N.Y, where neighbors sell solar energy via blockchain technology and in Germany, where the power company Innogy is actually testing blockchain technology in order to authenticate and manage the billing process for autonomous electric-vehicle charging stations.
As we derive from the previous argued literature (Basden et Cottrell, 2017) and as shown by the example of the banking industry (cryptocurrencies), the application of blockchain is a typical Schumpeter “creative destruction”. The aim of blockchain to decentralize the distribution, results in giving to the users more autonomy and power. As we derive from Basden et Cottrell (2017), the application of blockchain to the utility industry increases the peer-to-peer systems and bring more flexibility to the grid.The application of the Blockchain would provide large efficiency benefits for the stakeholders involved in the generation, transmission and distribution, but has to deal with this complex network. Startups, innovator, manufacturer, non traditional entrants and Venture capitalists that are investing in the utility sectors, are disrupting the market by bringing driven technology. Utilities have the responsibility to ensure a safe and reliable network managing the DER (Distributed Energy Resources) integration while at the same time, keep pace with the new technology trends without compromising tariff for all customer on the grid (Nieponice 2017). Keeping pace with technology trends means from the point of view of the utilities, modernize and update the grid. This means investing significantly to embrace new technologies: advanced inverters, grid management and dispatch tools.
Grid level energy storage equipment. The new embracements are dictated by the increasing customer expectations towards the energy suppliers company (Nieponice, 2017), as we will further describe.According to Sioshansi (2017), customers in the future will be able to access to price-attractive DERs to manage their own energy grid at home or to run their business: batteries, fuel cells, smart load controls and smart charging electric vehicles (Tesla Wall Connector is already a brilliant fully working example).
Thus DERs compete to improve the efficiency of the energy services. The literature provides two complementary emerging services that may come up from the actual energy grid:The grid allows to the DER owners to sell their overcapacity, making the DERs more economical;The grid allows to the customer to switch effortless to the cheapest available power, by purchasing electricity from nearby DER systems and exporting them through the local distribution grid The power grid gets smarter and gets more controllable by the users, thanks to new technology advancements, such as the number and quality of sensors. IoT devices (internet of things), have consolidated the leader position opening a new market segment in the last years, affecting the grid system and making it more digital and distributed. So, according to Wood & Emphill (2016), together with the internet of things, the digitalization of the grid will make it more interconnected and manageable. Pacific Gas and Electric calls this phenomena “The grid of things”.
The way to enable connection within different devices that we are possessing at home and at the office, generates a huge flow of information that is used to measure the energy usage patterns of the energy consumers (PWC 2014). Iot devices which such home assistants, light sensors and smart thermostats generate a huge flow of data. This is used for different reasons that are at the advantage of the consumers and of the company provider. The customer is aware of the easiness of tracking consumptions thanks to data analytics (PWC 2017) , and benefits additional service from companies which reduce his energy usage, help him to diagnose problems quicker, increase his participation by sending personalized messages and enabling demand response programs.(CLEAResult 2017). In general this increase the individualized customer services offered by the providers, through the constant control and monitor of data, and consequent analysis which optimize the grid use fitting the customer’s needs.(Wood, Emphill, 2016)New Business Model focus on Customer CentricityThe increased efficiency needs of the consumer and the emerging disruptive technologies technologies, push the companies to change their business model. The new approach is customer-centric, in order to meet the increasing expectations of the energy consumers.
The interests of the stakeholder around the industry will be prioritize following the order of customer, utilities, policy makers, third party competitive providers. (CLEAResult 2017). So according to Gustavo Nieponice (2017) the customer centric approach is the leading business model for the evolution of the utility industry. The change shifts treating power as a commodity to have a differentiated service centered on the need of the customer. A study conducted by PWC (2014) analyzes value drivers in the future of utility market recognizing how in the future customers will want to manage their energy more effectively than today. As well the riding importance of the customer centricity around the utility industry wll transform the business and operating models of the companies from “energy provider” to “energy enabler”. As discussed before, IoT will enrich the grid as part of DERs.
another advantage of the companies provider. A study conducted by PWC in 2017, called “Flipping the switch”, introduces the concept of “”retalization””. This basically consists in “” the development of more direct consumer-to-utility relationships, along the lines of consumer banking or online shopping” (pwc 2017). With the increasing number of new technologies which are gonna take part in the power grid, retalization will allow to offer services like: energy-efficiency audits, home management solutions, mobile payment. Furthermore, a research conducted by the energy consulting service CLEAResult (2017), argues the importance of providing further services then just supply energy. From the perspective of the utility industries, providing additional services such as free energy audits, incurs in smarter customer decisions.
Overall this increases the benefit of the industry. Moreover, beginning an “energy solution advisor”, creates loyalty and increase the engagement between energy consumer and utility firms. It is important to implement communication programs. In this way utilities will transform passive consumer into active participant in the business operation. Integrating the place to the market of those new technologies through the retalization process, will favor the consumer: battery storage, microgrids, analytical software etc. The utility industry, as already shown, have to decentralized their cost management and basic service, toward providing alternative generation sources, energy storage, equipment replacement, sensor-based energy monitoring. The transformation that affects power and utility landscape implies new business models that grow organically with new market based technology (pwc 2017).