Connect to something bigger
Article

Connect to something bigger

Smart meters enable people to monitor their energy usage and control their budget at any time. A successful large-scale rollout, like in the U.K., requires services to get as many people on board as possible, and help customers make sense of a large amount of data that smart meters offer. While this initiative presents a great opportunity for the energy industry, established players must be innovative and customer-focused, in order to compete with a growing number of new entrants.

Over the coming years, more residential and commercial buildings will be installed with smart energy meters. Smart meters allow remote reading of energy usage and other functions. In order to have a smooth rollout, the future experience of customers must be designed to ensure long-term value.

The plan in the U.K. is to install smart meters in every home and business by 2020 – that will be 53 million meters! It is a substantial business opportunity for the energy industry. With smart meters, the government hopes to help customers monitor their energy usage and control the budget themselves, and get rid of bills based on estimated usage.

Smart metering aims to get rid of the current customer frustrations around complex and inaccurate bills but new solutions are not guaranteed to be better unless they are designed from the customers' perspective

More data could be more confusing

Smart metering fundamentally changes the relationship between customers and energy suppliers. Smart meters read the meters constantly, as opposed to every few months as meters are doing now. Constant metering provides much more information about energy consumption and enables customers to view their consumption as often as they want. However, more data may create more confusion for customers.

The rollout challenge

Just like any service rollout, it is difficult to engage with customers. Energy companies can learn from other sectors, such as cable TV, and see how they approach and convince customers to accept the new meters.

Since gas and electricity use is hard to quantify, smart meters aim at changing this by making energy usage more visible and easier to be monitored. However, our work with smart metering pilots revealed that customers do not want to watch a meter constantly. They only want to be in control of their energy usage and to be able to manage their budget.

Opportunities for new players

Technological changes always bring in new and innovative players and shake up the industry. Remember the introduction of the Internet? Smart metering is like the Internet finally coming to the energy sector. Therefore, established energy providers have to be innovative too, in order to stay relevant to their customers.

The idea of mandatory installation was counter-productive either leading to resistance, or to a lack of engagement as it made the consumer a passive partner in the programme.

Ipsos Mori, Attitudes to smart meters, DECC

Take account of customers’ personal drivers

To customers, smart meters are part of something bigger. A smart meter is about reducing energy costs, getting more control and information of energy use, and feeling better about saving energy and contributing to the environment. These personal drivers, in combination with data from smart meters, can influence people’s behaviour.