Future of energy

By Albert Brantley | 11 March 2016

The energy industry, like every industry, is facing an exciting, rapidly evolving environment across multiple fronts. Some changes we can see, others are not so clear, but all will put pressure on traditional energy sector thinking. With advances resulting in more options, more information and more meaningful services for energy consumers we believe the future is about enabling choice.

Many businesses are so focused on what is over the horizon, or on their own internal processes and systems, that they fail to lift their heads up and look around to what consumers are looking for in the here and now. It is not up to the energy sector to tell consumers what they should want, it's up to them to decide and those who don't deliver in the immediate future will easily miss the new entrant coming up behind them with a completely new and disruptive model. We at Genesis Energy are trying to get ahead of the curve, listening to what consumer want over the next few years, and disrupting ourselves to deliver the best options.

The future of energy is about options. The cool stuff like electric cars, solar generation and battery storage are easy to talk about, and will absolutely be part of that future, but more important is the ability to provide consumers energy options. The hard stuff is making it easy for consumers to use energy in ways that work in with how they live or run there businesses. It's about making sure that people have the options and tools they want now and into the future, delivered and integrated into ways that work for them.

The focus in the past was who could build the shiniest new power station, but now at Genesis Energy we spend a lot of time thinking about, and talking with, our customers. Asking the basics like how do customers want to engage with us, where and when, how they use energy, how they can practically save energy and what type of information do they want or need. What we do know is that time is precious and our challenge is to make engaging with us easy and valuable.

We see our role in the future as an enabler of smart, simple energy services. As an enabler, our aim is provide the services and information, create options, partner with other like-minded businesses and technology providers, deliver what our home and business customers want or need, and then get out of their way.

We are transitioning Genesis Energy from being a company that has one way of providing energy that all customers must take or leave, to one that responds to differing needs. For example, the way we sell natural gas is changing. Instead of using gas for a month and then worrying about the bill, we now offer the option of a range of fixed price packages that suit the varying lifestyle choices of our residential customers. It may sound obvious, and it is.

Technology is moving so quickly that home energy management systems that we and others trialled or introduced earlier this decade are already obsolete.

Genesis Energy Mobile App

With smart phones in every pocket everyone talks mobile apps, but they are only great if they are useful. Using data from a smart meter, the Genesis Energy app provides daily and monthly electricity usage, estimates a customer's monthly electricity bill based on the daily average usage, enables payment by credit card and even helps the customer to order LPG bottles in a matter of seconds.

Plenty of generating power

Our industry has reached a point where New Zealand is now over-supplied with electricity generation capacity, and we, and our competitors, while preparing future options are now closing down ageing and expensive generating units. For example, we are planning to close the last two coal/gas fired generators at Huntly by December 2018.

To best give our customers options our future investment will be in the digital platforms needed to support new services. It will be in understanding how to best design and build small scale distributed generation that suits both the New Zealand environment and how we as consumers use that energy. And it's about making sure we support whatever consumers want to plug in, whether that is a car or a toaster.

So what have we learnt from listening? We learnt that most customers are not interested in kilowatt hours or technical information about how hot water comes out the tap. We learnt that consumers want easy services, they asked us for certainty, for ways to control their energy costs, and information on how they can change what they do to. They asked for options delivered through practical tools that give them the choice and for us to partner with those that could help deliver more. It is a challenge for all of us to keep up with rapid change and delivery, being a facilitator not a handbrake has to be the key mantra.

We believe that it is important for us to not get too excited about some of the technology we see and try to push it onto customers. Our job is to listen and understand the benefits customers could be getting from international developments and, where possible, bring these developments to New Zealand.


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