OVO’s ‘Future of Energy’ event at the Tate Modern on the South Bank in London was ostensibly about celebrating the company’s 10 year anniversary – in which the company, founded by CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick, has grown to around 1.5 million.
With the announced acquisition of the SSE retail customer base of 3.5 million pending – subject to regulatory approval as Fitzpatrick was at pains to point out – OVO will become the second largest energy supplier in the UK with circa 5 million customers - quite a journey and something to be celebrated for sure. The company has relentlessly focused on customer service and experience, and its success in doing so shines through in its customer growth and the numerous customer service or industry awards it was won over the years.
That’s all very well, but the event was really about the future – the launch of Plan Zero. Doing more of the same is not enough for OVO. Plan Zero is their response to the climate crisis, aiming to transform the energy system and enable 100% renewable and decentralised power, and to enable people to lead more sustainable lives. Quite simply the plan has two pillars: Power and People with objectives by 2030.
- Achieve zero carbon operations
- Optimise 5 million homes with flexible and low carbon technologies
- Advocate for greater action to address the climate emergency
- Be the best company to work for in the UK
- Be the most trusted company for customers in the UK
- Help OVO customer halve their carbon footprint
You can download the Plan Zero document here.
The vision and ambition are awesome, and it’s fantastic to see one of the leading players in the UK market (which has been so price focused for so long) willing to take the lead. Yes, there are many challenges to achieving the ambition and many questions to be answered, but as the old expression goes: if you aim for the sky, you might still hit the top of the mountain. Can Travis (a real customer used last night to illustrate OVO’s new Carbon Tracker approach) afford to install all the low carbon technologies, replace a boiler with a heat pump, install solar PV and get an EV?
Can OVO develop the propositions and solutions that enable Travis, and all their other customers, to achieve this decarbonisation of their homes? They certainly won’t be able to do it alone – our mission at Delta-EE is to help our clients find answers to these questions and we very much hope to play our part - and it will require many stakeholders including manufacturers, regulators, policymakers, service providers and finance companies to collaborate and co-operate to find the solutions for Travis and all the other customers.
Many of the ideas in Plan Zero are not new; they have been tried before but failed to sufficiently engage customers. What’s different this time? Aside from the ongoing reduction in technology costs and increasing digitalisation of all our lives which are key enablers, I think it’s the ambition and the vision of OVO at a time when the climate crisis has come into the mainstream. Customers will know what OVO stands for and will be able to buy into it. And now that OVO is one of the big players in the UK, it may change the industry dynamic. After all, can other leading retailers sit idly by, and allow OVO to dominate this vision? Or do they have to respond? I think it’s likely they will have to respond, and then the whole industry starts speaking with ambitious messages to customers – taking us past a tipping point that makes decarbonisation of homes an expectation, not an ambition.
And for those readers outside the UK, this is not just a UK story. OVO has already established supply businesses outside the UK and no doubt has strong ambitions for international expansion. Congratulations to OVO for its 10 year anniversary, and I very much hope in 10 years’ time we can look back and say not only OVO but many other energy service providers have been able to create ‘the Future of Energy’.