They know where you live, what kind of a house you have and when you come home. They know when you put your sauna on and whether your washing machine is as energy efficient as your neighbour’s. They know when you last vacuumed at home.
Who are they? Google? Apple? Amazon? Maybe be in future, but right now the company that has all this information is your good old energy provider.
Since the advent of energy deregulation and market-driven electricity pricing in their markets, utilities have been looking for ways to match consumption data with generation data. Unfortunately, traditional electricity meters are unable to provide information on when energy is consumed at each metered site, but like every other industry in the world, energy, too, has been slowly turning smart over the last few years.
Smart electricity meters provide utilities energy consumption data on their consumers by the hour, the minute or even by the second. They can use this very big data to understand their customers' behaviour and needs in a much more profound level than through a monthly energy consumption total. By identifying a customer´s individual energy consumption patterns, they can analyse equipment efficiencies and even predict breakdowns. When combined with other easily accessible data, such as weather, utilities are able to better sustain the whole electricity system, compel customers to better monitor their consumption and lower their electricity bills by allocating their consumption to hours when electricity is cheap.
Some utilities have taken it a step further by creating so-called virtual power plants and aggregating and balancing their customers´ power usage to support the grid. This benefits the whole community by offering e.g. lower electricity prices.
Your energy provider would then be more than just a boring necessity - it would be a guardian angel looking after you, your home and your community.
The goal for most utilities is to become full-service energy companies, but they aren't using all or even half of the potential of their data to succeed at it. Why?
One word: silos.
The majority of utilities don't have a comprehensive view of their customers. They have CRM data, billing data, customer service data and smart meter data, but these are ofthen in their own silos and not collected together to generate a big picture. They are like cooks without recipes. Having all the ingredients doesn't really help, if you don’t know how to combine them.
What's the recipe?
One immediate step utilities can take is tailor their offering based on customer behaviour identified in the data. To be truly relevant, utilities need to reach beyond energy data and find the right network of partnerships to provide a “one-stop-shop” for customers seeking peace of mind. Imagine if in one click you could see your next electricity bill as well as how much you could save by switching to more efficient home appliances and order them directly.
Making different data bases to talk to each other isn’t that hard. Convincing customers to let another system keep tabs on what they're doing is a much more challenging task for utilities.
To gain the trust and build the right kind of relationship, utilities need to start experimenting and generating ideas together with customers. This is the best way to find the real problems worth solving and create valuable data-driven services.
Successful experimentation should guide the strategic direction of the company.