September 25, 2015
Energy is needed everywhere: How can utilities successfully navigate the growing wave of connected devices?
By: Jean-Marc Ollagnier

We’ve entered a time when energy is needed everywhere—consumers today expect it.

The Internet of Things (IoT), fueled by the rapid expansion of digital technology, has created a virtual web of smart, wireless and inter-connected devices that are transforming the way we live and work. Additionally, consumers are increasingly interested in generating their own power through, for example, solar panels supported by home-battery storage.

As a result, the utilities industry has never before faced such significant and fast-moving changes to traditional business models.

The good news is that utilities are uniquely positioned to carve out a new identity and a successful business model if they move quickly.

Accenture’s recent survey The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World, showed that two-thirds of global energy consumers would be interested in products to help them save electricity—up from 56 percent last year, while as many as 69 percent said they would be interested in participating in an energy management program to help them conserve energy.

More than half also said they would be interested in becoming power self-sufficient, although this varies dramatically between countries, with a much stronger bias towards the economies with lower electrification rates like South Africa, Indonesia or Brazil.

According to this research, after specialist providers, utilities are consumers’ preferred choice for these types of products and services.

Importantly, utilities are generally also seen as trusted custodians of customers’ private data and information about their energy usage. 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 this digital trust.

Utilities need to take advantage of this before new competitors move in on them.

With President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the upcoming global climate change conference, COP21, to be held in Paris at the end of this year, clean energy and energy conservation is fast becoming a favorite topic of debate between politicians, business leaders, and the public.

I firmly believe that cleaner energy sources are only part of the larger answer. A much more important and effective solution is greater energy efficiency and utilities could play a critical role in educating, advising and creating new products and services to help monitor, manage and reduce energy consumption. Their customers are clearly interested.

For utilities, this shift will require strategic investments in digital technologies, collaboration with regulators, and cross-industry alliances and partnerships. Utilities have an opportunity to move quickly and lead the charge for industry change.

Jean-Marc Ollagnier is Group Chief Executive of Accenture’s Resources operating group and advisory board member of the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, as well as the co-chair for its energy efficiency committee.

Learn more by reading my article, The Big Opportunity: Electric Utilities Must Learn to Leverage The Internet of Things in Forbes magazine.

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