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Auto-switching: will energy customers relinquish control?

Auto-switching* is more than a concept – it’s emerging from Austria to America, Great Britain to Germany.  From Look After My Bills’ appearance on the UK’s Dragons’ Den, to articles a-plenty appearing across the news, it’s slowly but surely entering the mind of the public. But while energy consumers are gradually becoming more aware of auto-switching, although by concept rather than name, it’s still being met with suspicion by some. How can customers be assured they will, in fact, be given the best deal? Is it really as easy as it sounds? Where’s the catch?

In the first episode of Talking New Energy, the new podcast from Delta-ee, we discussed the important issues driving auto-switching forward, and the roadblocks standing in its way. Find out more headlines below.

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Will Energy-as-a-Service kill the kilowatt-hour?

Last Thursday I attended the UK’s 2018 Heat and Decentralised Energy Conference. There were several exciting sessions on policy, technology, infrastructure and customers – reflecting a market that is starting to see a lot of change and disruption. Tim Rotheray, Director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, gave what I thought was an especially interesting talk on why he believes the time for Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) has finally come.

Whether Energy-as-a-Service will lead to the death of the kilowatt-hour, as Tim suggested, has been a topic of debate within Delta-ee. We agree that customer culture is certainly changing. The trend from product and commodity towards services and outcomes is emerging across multiple industries. Customers will pay for services’ outcomes (such as comfort or mobility) rather than products and commodities (such as fuel). Just look at car leasing, music streaming and even clothing rental.

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Auto-switchers - more than a passing fad?

It’s already been 18 months since we wrote about the emergence of what we believed could be an important new trend: the growth of auto-switching services. Since then, we have watched as a series of new players has begun playing this new game. Customers continue to sign up – perhaps as many as 200,000 across Europe – and we’ve spotted no fewer than twenty auto-switchers across the world, several of whom are increasingly well funded. We have revisited this intriguing trend in some recent research, increasingly convinced that incumbents need to start taking the threat seriously.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, auto-switchers are next-generation price comparison sites, reimagining the one-off, manual tariff switching services that companies like GoCompare, Moneysupermarket and Selectra offer residential energy users. Typically, you register your home and criteria online and the auto-switcher will run an algorithm, or even use AI, to find the best deal on the market to suit your preferences (price savings, service, green) then switch you whenever it flags up that savings can be had. Timings & authorisation vary, but the idea is that you only ever personally need to take action once at the start (unless to update preferences) then forever live in complete security that the hassle of switching is removed from your To Do list forever. Some services operate membership fees (Flipper) and others rely on commission (comparison sites, Labrador) or optional hardware (June), but all share the goal of permanently soothing the perennial consumer headache that is finding the best supplier.

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Demand Side Response Aggregators – The Race to Profitability

Demand Side Response (DSR) markets are at varying stages of development across Europe. Typically, market access and value streams are characterised by uncertainties inherent to policies and market volatility. The aggregation business has been around for more than 10 years, and everybody has asked the same question: Are aggregators profitable businesses today? Aggregators will definitely be needed at scale – but can they survive financially until it happens?

Profitability

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Is investment an indicator of future success?

The German football team is out of the World Cup. Was it what you expected? Unlikely. Had you predicted this would happen based on the players selected, Joachim Löw’s ability to coach, or the huge investments made to secure a top-tier national squad? Probably not.

As we published the ‘New Energy’ Business Model Service’s latest report, this got me thinking about who is investing in what within ‘New Energy’ and if how much you invest in something is really an indication of future success?

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Are the most exciting new energy business model trends too good to be true?

Some of the novel ‘New Energy’ customer propositions we are seeing coming to market feel more like the stuff of sci-fi – better suited to futuristic superhero films than your energy bill:

  • Fancy algorithms automatically working out what energy tariff I should be on and doing the grunt work of switching for me
  • My heating always delivering precisely 21oC of comfort without me having to touch the controls or equipment (I actually have mine set to 16oC! Am I warm-blooded or just thrifty?)
  • Trading the energy generated on my solar PV roof with a neighbour – in other words, becoming an energy supplier myself!
  • Electric cars making money as they supply the national grid, and we can sit back and watch TV/read a book
  • My energy supplier notifying me of inefficient, energy intensive appliances and recommending suggested steps to take to cut my bills… surely the opposite of what they’d really like to be doing??

Those of you following our ‘New Energy’ research work will be familiar with these business models, and a multitude more, and how fast they are becoming reality – it is only a matter of time before many transition from early adopter to mass market. See our recent whitepaper.

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