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Here at Delta-EE, we have been talking about auto-switching as an important, emerging trend for a very long time. As long ago as May 2017, my colleague Jenny Carson posed the question, “Is the energy industry underestimating its potential to mix things up?”, noting in passing the added appeal of completely free variants of the concept, based on Delta-EE’s own customer research.
The lingering doubt, as with any innovation, was whether it would all just prove to be a passing fad. By the time we revisited the topic in late 2018, we had, however, identified no fewer than 20 auto-switchers across the globe, which suggested, if nothing else, that a lot of entrepreneurs thought it was just as promising an idea as we did. But the uncertainty remained, with few of the major price comparison sites climbing on board, and some of the first auto-switch companies, such as Voltz (UK) and Wechselfuchs (DE), disappearing almost as quickly as they had first appeared.
One of the foremost challenges for energy suppliers over the next five years is how to meet the changing needs and expectations of their customers. In the broadest sense, these customers can be seen to sit on a continuum, ranging from disengaged with energy and climate change, to highly engaged (see diagram).
For the disengaged customers on the left of the continuum, energy supply is little more than a form of taxation that they would rather not have to think about. Conversely, with the highly engaged customers on the right, you find early adopters and innovators keen to participate in the energy transition and prepared to spend significant amounts of money, without necessarily expecting much of a return on investment.
With the continuing reduction of subsidies for new renewable generation across Europe, new business models for prosumers are paramount if we are to maintain the levels of growth we have seen so far.
I recently attended a virtual workshop on redesigning the future of prosumer business models. As part of the workshop there was a discussion around our local energy system vision for 2050: in an ideal world what would local, decentralised energy look like in 2050? This prompted a range of ideas to be discussed ranging from technology advancement to new regulations incentivising decentralised energy. This conversation has allowed me to reflect on a few key aspects that I believe will lead to successful local energy systems by 2050.
The hype surrounding blockchain in energy has undoubtedly dropped off since 2017, as the realities of moving towards commercialisation has proved far harder than many expected back then.
Most of blockchain’s potential applications to new energy, like virtual community energy trading, EV charging roaming and green energy verification, remain as small pilot projects. Whilst it does still generate interest when brought up at energy industry and tech conferences, those working with blockchain day-to-day are trying to shift the conversation away from the underlying technology and towards the solutions it provides. However, the current reality is that it is ‘permissioned’ blockchains that make most sense for energy applications, and there are two key challenges that we think may hold it back.
We often get asked questions like “Do you think Amazon will acquire an energy supplier?”, “What will BMW’s EV charging strategy be?” and “Are the oil majors really interested in new energy? and we have a lot to say about each of them. However, given the pace at which the energy transition is happening – with opportunistic acquisitions, product launches and partnerships springing up in places that would have seemed unthinkable a year or two ago - probably the only answer we can give to these questions with absolute certainty right now is to “expect the unexpected”. We certainly try to.
Having said that, Europe’s oil majors would currently appear to be best placed in the battle to capture the new energy customer. Given that we recently conducted a comprehensive review of the activities of new market entrants in this space – we can say that with confidence. The oil majors have a combination of strategic need and financial strength which is unmatched at this moment in time. As such, we have little doubt that the likes of Shell and Total will continue to be highly active as the new energy market develops, and we fully expect some of their rivals (BP, Eni, etc.) to increase their activity too.
Platforms are one of the hot topics in the new energy sector. There are platforms which connect buyers and sellers such as for installing heating appliances or auto-switching, which interrupts the traditional energy retail-customer relationship. And there are those which connect, link and even manage large numbers of energy assets together such as hot water tanks, electric vehicles and batteries.
But why are platforms such a hot topic today?
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