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Are Utilities set to go down the same path as hotel chains and taxi companies?

In my previous post, I asked whether we should look to enable marketplaces, which bring together consumers and third-party providers of energy services.  I proposed anyone - government, utility or private enterprise - be allowed to create such marketplaces.

In this earlier post, I first introduced the idea that utilities should lead the charge in creating such a marketplace as they already had systems and processes in place to source, transport, and store the data.  In fact, this is already happening with the likes of PG&E, London Hydro, SDG&E, and others.  I realise for many utility executives this concept appears counter-intuitive.  Why should a utility open access to its data and invite organisations to introduce services that may eat away at its revenue?

For Utilities who are struggling with the question “why should we do this”, I wonder if there would be value in them talking to executives of taxi companies and hotel chains disrupted by Uber and Airbnb? I can imagine the concepts behind Uber and Airbnb were known to executives in their respective industries for years before the disruption occurred by which time it was too late to try and influence the outcome.  Given a second chance, do you think they may have made different decisions?

I believe consumer approved third-party access to energy data will happen.  The timing of when it will happen will differ around the world.  The change will come via mandates from regulators, pressure from consumers, or advances in technologies that bypass the need to rely on the utility to access this sort of data. But, it will happen.

If funding is the obstacle, a utility has several options to consider.  You could invest outside of your rate base, looking to generate future revenue by taking a 'clip' off each transaction, or some other charging mechanism.  You could include it in your rate base and not charge anything for the service, demonstrating it is improving customer experience, reducing your cost to serve, etc.  Or, you could do a mixture of the two.  Or include it in your rate base and generate revenue from it, but use that revenue to help reduce the rates passed onto your consumers.

There seems little point a utility debating, should we or should we not enter this space.  There is a finite amount of time a utility has to see this as the opportunity it is and act on it.  What's stopping your utility from creating a marketplace that enables approved third-party access to energy data?



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