June 17, 2015 - In today’s digital world of connected devices, energy consumers are nearly twice as likely to trust their energy providers to safeguard their personal data than to advise them on energy consumption, according to new research by Accenture.
By Anthony Capkun
“As energy and everyday devices become increasingly connected, an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers’ habits and their households is becoming available, magnifying the importance of digital trust,” said Tony Masella, global managing director of Accenture Energy Consumer Services.
Accenture’s sixth annual survey this year included more than 11,000 energy consumers in 21 countries (including 584 in Canada). The resulting report, “The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World”, finds 65% of consumers show confidence in their energy provider to secure and protect their personal data and information about their energy usage. This rose to 76% among regular users of digital channels. In contrast, only 36% say they trust their energy provider to inform them about actions they can take to optimize their energy use.
Highlighting this level of digital trust among energy consumers, almost 2/3 (61%) of respondents say they would be comfortable with their energy provider sharing their data with third parties although, in most cases, only with prior permission. In addition, 62% say they would allow their energy provider’s mobile application to access their location information, regardless of whether it is to provide outage information or to inform them about promotions.
“In addition to ensuring customers’ confidence in their data privacy, energy providers can use this information to develop more personalized products and services,” said Masella. “In fact, they must do this to remain competitive, given that barriers to entry are coming down and utilities must now compete with start-up digital retailers and new entrants from other industries, which are offering new and bundled solutions and services.”
With the proliferation of new energy-generating technologies, from distributed generation to wireless charging furniture, Accenture’s research also finds consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their energy consumption. Two-thirds (66%) are interested in products and services that help them save electricity (up from 56% last year) while 69% say they would be interested in participating in an energy management program to help them conserve energy.
More than 3/4 of consumers have taken energy efficiency actions in the past year, including installing energy-efficient light bulbs (52%), reducing appliance usage (34%), using appliances in non-peak times (28%), and lowering thermostat settings (28%). However, nearly 4 in 10 consumers (38%) say they believe their energy provider is not effective in helping them manage their energy consumption.
In addition to conserving energy, consumers are increasingly interested in generating and storing their own electricity, such as by installing solar panels and home battery storage. More than half (57%) say they would consider investing to become power self-sufficient. While this varies dramatically between countries, with a much stronger bias towards the economies with lower electrification rates like South Africa, Indonesia or Brazil, most (89%) of those willing to invest would still want to be connected to the grid for back-up power.
“Energy providers can offer new value propositions to their customers, as these products and services are no longer niche market opportunities,” Masella added. “In competitive markets, energy providers can create new revenue streams by offering digital solutions for home-related products and services, such as solar and other home energy generation platforms, energy efficiency tools, or even bundled home services. In a regulated marketplace, opportunities for energy providers include innovative partnerships or digital information services. While interest in new products and services is high and increasing among all energy consumers, our research shows that consumers who use digital channels to interact with their energy provider may represent even greater value.”