Comments Off on Powerley Awarded in 2020 Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow Connected Home Competition
The Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow (LHFT) competition awards nine connected home products and platforms that deliver a compelling value proposition to both consumers and utilities. To realize the CEE Integrated Home vision, Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow is designed to help drive the adoption of efficient, connected products that demonstrate interoperability, reliability, and simplicity. In 2020, the competition sought residential connected lighting, lighting controls, ceiling fans, connected plug load controls, connected heating and cooling (HVAC) and thermostats, connected windows and window attachments, and other connected home devices that successfully deliver a positive consumer experience, energy management, and grid benefit.
Of the 44 products entered, 31 were selected to be evaluated by a panel of expert judges including individuals with proficiency in usability, interoperability, the connected home, IDSM program administration, product installation, specific technology performance, sales, and design.
The 2020 judging panel met during the week of October 12 to participate in a live remote viewing of products installed at the UL facility in Allentown, PA. The judges considered details about product installation and carefully observed the entries’ operation and user interfaces. They were pleased to see a variety of high-quality residential products successfully incorporate connected functionality that enable comfort, convenience, and energy savings for consumers.
Of the connected lighting, controls, and ceiling fan products, the judges identified three winners; Acuity Brands Lighting Juno AI, C by GE Smart Switch Dimming + Motion Sensing, and Modern Forms for their Renegade and Tip-Top Smart Fans.
Hunter Douglas Duette Architella Calypso Honeycomb Shade was selected as the winner for window attachments.
For heating and cooling, the Judges awarded ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control as the overall thermostat winner, Sinopé Technologies Inc. smart thermostat as the winner for electric line voltage heating, and Flair Puck Pro as the winner for a mini split system.
The judges also designated Aquanta Smart Water Heater Controller as a winner and gave special recognition for utility offering for consumers to the Powerley Smart Home Energy Management.
Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow would also like to recognize five manufacturers that demonstrated promising features and thoughtful connected product design across several of the evaluation criteria and were subsequently selected as finalists: Renson Inc., American Lighting, Cordelia Lighting, Allied Air Enterprises, and Somfy Systems, Inc.
These products will be recognized at relevant industry events including the AERC Virtual Fall Meeting on November 19, the HARDI Virtual Summit December 7-9, and Lightovation in January 2021. The award-winning products will also be showcased in a brochure and on the Lighting & Homes for Tomorrowwebsite in late December, as well as promoted by some CEE member energy efficiency program administrators in local offerings. To access complete details on the competition, please visit the website at www.lightingfortomorrow.com.
It is a common story, a new technology segment with real potential hits the market but fails to develop a clear enough value proposition to push adoption forward. Much of the smart home technology out there today is still focused on primarily exciting the early adopter. There is an overwhelming number of complex DIY rules engines and tons of smart devices that litter the market with capabilities most don’t even know what to do with. But the majority of smart home sales are driven by individuals trying to solve a specific problem or fulfill a single desire.
The products that are focused at early adopters served their purpose in inspiring the imagination of the market. Yet there is a common gap between these early adopters or one-time niche buyer, and the majority adopters. There is an absence of practical technology that leaves the majority adopters struggling to find value. But now, utilities are helping to bridge this chasm. A personalized coaching engine known as the Smart Action Use Case Engine is being adopted by utilities like DTE Energy, AEP Ohio and BC Hydro – bringing mass-market adopters smart home products that will drive practical application and value.
Giving the Smart Home a Purpose
Wouldn’t it be nice if the lights turned off when no one was in the room? Wouldn’t it be even better if the market understood how to fulfill this desire? That person could order a smart switch and sensor and then creates a rule where if the lights are on and no movement is detected for 15 minutes the lights turn off automatically. But the reality is, the majority of the market wouldn’t know or understand that. Instead, that idea would live and die as just an idea, never resulting in any action.
Yet there are many adopters already using smart home energy management and monitoring platforms, provided to them by their utility, to save money on their energy bill. While most still aren’t utilizing all the vast capabilities of the smart home side of this technology, there is an opportunity to bring new ideas and use cases front and center, helping to educate individuals on the budding potential of the smart home.
The Powerley platform is unlocking the door to a simple, easy to understand smart home through the utilities. By intelligently suggesting automation and smart devices that can help save on energy and increase convenience, individuals are delivered specific ways they can use smart devices and rules to achieve different goals. For instance, a smart thermostat could be suggested with an automation schedule that would reduce their HVAC costs. Or, for those who get home late, they might find it helpful to get a suggestion to put a smart bulb in their front porch light and automate it to turn on at sunset.
If they already have a smart bulb in their porch light, then it is as simple as enabling the smart action by tapping the button on their card. If they are in need of any device to complete the card, the Order a device button will appear on the card which connects them to their utility’s smart device marketplace to purchase it.
And as the Smart Action Use Case Engine continues to expand, the future of it and the smart home will lie in the platforms intelligent learning capabilities. Thousands if not millions of use cases exist in the smart home – anything that combines data with automation can turn into value for a user. Soon, this use case engine will use intelligent learning capabilities to personalize each use case to the individual. If a customer has a low budget set on their smart home energy management platform but is having an unusually high amount of energy being used by their HVAC for their home size, a smart thermostat and specific automation schedule will be suggested to reduce HVAC energy usage. If an electric vehicle is charging when energy rates are higher, the engine will suggest an automation schedule for when rates signal they are at their lowest. And as each individual continues to build their smart home, the engine will suggest missing devices that they can buy from their utility’s marketplace.
When working with a BYOD smart home that has an overwhelming number of possibilities, utilities can direct their customers on solving their specific challenges. By having a smart home answering a specific need, it is no longer just a luxury – it has a dedicated purpose. Closing the loop between idea, understand and action, the Smart Action Use Case Engine has the potential to overcome the gap between smart home early adopter and majority adopter by simplifying how individuals understand functionality – creating a smarter, more personalized home.
Comments Off on Utilities hold the key to unlocking the real value of the smart home
As the smart home market heats up, digitalization, changing customer demand, and innovation in-home energy management technology has opened the door for electric utilities to get in on the game. While tech companies’ access to the home remains siloed to the device level, utilities have the power in the home — literally.
Utilities own the missing piece of the smart home puzzle — real-time, whole-home energy data. This, along with the trust of their customers, a connection to every home, and their large capital resources, gives utilities everything they need to make a winning play in the smart home.
So, what is keeping the majority of utilities from making their move? Misperceptions. Dissenters say that the smart home is a losing market for utilities. They tell utilities to take a back seat and just provide subsidies and incentives. This approach, while easier to implement, leaves the utility with no long-term connection to the customer and essentially abdicates the relationship once the rebate is paid. But there is another option. Now, utilities can leverage this data and keep the customer’s attention, while creating an energy-driven smart home.
The smart home market — a lost cause for utilities or a hidden treasure?
One of the great innovations in the 20th century, almost everything we do today is powered by electrification, which was brought to us by electric utilities. However, once electricity made its way into every nook and cranny of our lives, utilities moved from a driver of innovation to a provider of a basic necessity that needed to be maintained. Because of their shift from innovation driver to basic service providers, many may be under the mistaken belief that utilities don’t have the market or brand power that a technology company has — framing utilities as the “luddite” industry.
What’s worse, some utilities are effectively capitulating to this belief, opening themselves for deep disintermediation from their residential customers. For example, some utilities provide rich rebates for smart thermostats, capturing energy and demand savings required by law and regulation and maybe receiving a small bump in customer satisfaction in return. But in this scenario and others like it, it is tech companies that create those smart thermostats, not utilities, that are forming enhanced customer relationships and capturing the related customer data of these devices.
To further complicate matters, utilities are fragmented with about 3,100 electric and 1,500 gas utilities spread across the country, and each on its own may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of competing for a true seat at the smart home table. They may feel powerless or inadequate to properly frame and solve the problem of how they should help residential customers easily optimize their energy use for their own benefit — balancing cost, comfort, security, as well as utility desired grid management?
The only way to really help residential customers is for the utility to get behind the meter. What is behind the meter that is so interesting? Data. Data upon data in the home that has enormous value to service providers by adding necessary intelligence to their operation and giving customers needed insight into their home and energy.
“The data holds great power; it can be used to manage energy demand by incentivizing consumers to use less electricity during peak hours,” says Bradley Olson in his Wall Street Journal article, Google, Amazon Seek Foothold in Electricity as Home Automation Grows. And with all that ‘great power’ waiting to be harnessed, the question becomes, who will be in the home gathering that data to provide the services customers want when they decide to spend their discretionary dollar? This is the skirmish that is taking place in this space today. Or as Bradley Olson says in the Wall Street Journal, “Home energy management is a battleground in competition between Google and Amazon…”
And now… the utilities are joining that battle.
Utilities will have the chance to take the energy data that only they have access to and unlock invaluable insights, connecting every part of the smart home. While this could be just another player added to Olson’s ‘battleground,’ utilities have a remarkable chance at using this energy data to unify a market that has previously been fragmented in each of their individual territories. So how do they get in a strong position to do this? Understand their strengths and use it to their advantage.
The missing piece of the smart home — energy data
Utilities can pave the way to innovate new energy management solutions. Are we talking about grassroots R&D to develop new tech and new experiences? Probably not. The degree of fragmentation of the industry minimizes the development intensity. Just ask any technology vendor about its experience and joys of “pilotitus” the industry has. Every utility wants to test a tech on its own, develop its own perspective on value-added benefits, and then run its own 3rd party measurement and verification.
So, what do utilities have in their favor to fight the problem of fragmentation? Five strengths give them an advantage over the tech giants.
1. Financial Power: Market cap of the utility industry is significantly higher than technology companies. Some C-level executives at utilities lament over the financial power the tech sector wields, and even a few have stated that the market capitalization of Google exceeds all utilities combined. Time to give that a fact check. Upon looking into that declaration, recent statistics emphasize the falseness of this statement.
Utilities have a market of 329 million people or about 121 million homes. Tech firms have the entire world as a market, amounting to around 7 billion people. Even if you limit their target market to the 2.5 billion smartphone users, the fragmentation tech companies have given the complexity of international markets, language barriers and local regulation expose the difficulties they must manage. Furthermore, if revenue is compared to active customers or users and total addressable market (TAM), utility revenue power on a “per user” basis towers over technology companies.
Because tech companies must spread their revenue over a much larger customer base, the revenue intensity per “user” in the utility industry far exceeds those in the tech world. And given that utilities virtually serve the entire U.S. population and define a fully saturated market, tech players have a long way to go to take an equivalent share of the U.S. consumer wallet. Only Amazon has a revenue number that compares to utilities, and this is driven primarily by its retail model in which a large percentage of revenue is passed through from products sold. Thus, if the share of wallet is a measure for consideration, utilities have an enormous lead and thus could have a massive influence on the outcome of the smart home. The question is, will this lead erode if utilities don’t defend their consumer relationships?
2. Focus & Knowledge: Utilities generally have a relatively narrow focus on energy, energy management, and effective grid operation. On the contrary, technology firms have a wide array of focus, solving many problems and moving fast to outpace competitors. Most utilities have developed strong energy efficiency groups that hold the keys to true customer relationships when it comes to energy management (2017 spending $8B). They have studied the customer for years, understand how customers respond to offers, and this is why the tech companies have realized that a key channel is through energy efficiency. They rely on utility marketing to get access to this highly valuable channel, and in fact, are being paid through the rebate process at the same time. It’s a genius move… for the tech companies, that is!
But what if a utility didn’t bow to the technology companies when it comes to sharing the value of these transactions? What if instead, they demanded certain data privileges and data security for the customers they are promoting these technologies to? Well then, they would finally be taking control of these technology relationships, truly owning the most valuable point of the relationship — energy data.
3. Data: One of the great strengths of distributed utilities is that they are the only ones who have the ability to unlock whole-home data — unfettered access to real-time energy. Maybe even without realizing it, utilities have positioned themselves as the best ones to manage this data for customers. The data guards on the utility industry are unmatched in today’s data mining world.
Utilities can play a natural role of “energy data protector” and set the standards of energy data use, holding 3rd parties accountable and responsible for creating outstanding, yet privacy safe experiences and services. But their advantage goes beyond data privacy. As states have tried to foster the growth of the smart home through a “build it and the market will develop” concept, we have seen it fall short time and time again. From this, we’ve learned the importance of the channel these technologies proliferate from.
Opening up the market to all the tech players who aspire to know the customer through energy usage has created micro fragmentation in the local market, diluting messages to customers and increasing confusion in an already confusing market. Stakeholders misinterpreted the results from those efforts as a lack of customer value proposition. This view is misguided because it was the market constructs that failed from the beginning.
A market will only ignite when the cost of a customer entering is low from a dollar and effort point of view. Right now, smart home technology isn’t set up to hit either of those points — but the utility channel is. Utilities are already in almost every home. They have ways to decrease the price and they have an established channel to demystify the technology. And even better, they already have access to the whole home data, not just a piece of the pie. No one benefits by using fragments of the data — not the customer or the provider. Utilities have the chance to capture and grow the data as a whole, something no other smart home provider can say.
4. Customer Journey: Utilities can develop powerful services in and around energy if they so choose. There are natural extensions of energy data that can help keep customers engaged and seeing the utilities positive value proposition. Beyond billing, outage, and energy efficiency rebates, utilities can develop services based on their unique customer perspective that no other industry can easily replicate.
Can they do this alone? With the industry fragmentation, probably not. What they can do is find technology partners that are willing to look at and support contiguous and consistent customer experiences across an energy education and services journey. These partners will truly want to strengthen utilities’ relationship with customers rather than echo the tech companies desire to disintermediate the utility from their customer.
5. Local Brand: Everyone knows their utility, as it serves all customers, all segments. Looking at those local utility customers in terms of the technology, nearly every household either selects Android or iOS operating systems for their smartphones. They choose Amazon or Google for voice activation in their homes. But the local utility is in EVERY home, not just some homes.
Utilities could make a power play — but will they?
A hundred years ago, electric power generation and distribution resided exclusively with the utilities. But in today’s world of distributed generation, business models are becoming more distributed as well, as utilities see the need to make their way into new frontiers. If one looks at just this financial data, it is undeniable that utilities have the market power and the financial power to compete. The real question at hand is will they? How can they defend their revenue advantage?
The monopoly franchise for the distribution companies will prevail through time given the indispensable product utilities bring to the US economy. However, to say that utilities cannot compete is a bit of a misnomer. The truth is utilities can compete without even developing sophisticated new products or marketing capabilities. Strategically, there are really two options:
Rapid industry consolidation to capture future revenue in spaces that technology will take us (difficult due to the current federal and state regulatory complex).
Leverage existing pro-utility technology platforms in the market today that are helping utilities develop marketplaces, storefronts, new services, and especially smart home energy management products.
At some point, the utility industry will begin to separate. On one side will be those who capitulate and let the other players fully take the space. Those that fixate on past practices and the safety net of traditional return on asset models, achieving short term goals, will eventually find that the old model has expired. This will leave them exposed to eventual acquisition as the market for new energy-related products and services bring new life into the industry.
But on the other side will be those utilities that learn how to leverage technology and claim behind-the-meter services. It will be this utility that I will be betting on. It will take this issue head-on and truly fight for relevancy with its end-customer. It will ignite its customers’ imaginations, build new, profitable business models through the proliferation of smart technology and unite the smart home through new energy services driven by whole-home data. This is the utility of the future. And it is all starting now.
What once was isolated to episodes of the Jetsons is now becoming a sudden reality. The smart home has started to take over America in the past few years, with nearly 29M households having at least one smart device as of 2017 according to McKinsey. With intelligent voice assistants giving our home a literal voice, and smart thermostats increasing our comfort and convenience, it is easy to see why many are investing in making their homes smarter. There are many use cases for the smart home which are driving consumers to purchase these devices, the most popular of which are safety/security, wellness monitoring, smart appliances, smart entertainment, and energy management, according to McKinsey.
Specifically, devices that lend themselves to energy management either as a primary or secondary function are becoming a focus for consumers as a way of mitigating the high cost of smart devices. But despite the number of new devices on the market aiming to fulfill this energy management use case, it doesn’t mean all of them will actually save energy, or the ability to automate the home will lower energy bills. This begs the question – if the ROI is not net positive, what is the point of energy management devices? Consequentially, this results in slow adoption of energy management technology within the utility sector as its total potential is not yet fully understood.
To help bring clarity to this issue and understand how to build a true energy saving smart home, we reviewed the research around this subject.
Smart Home Research
Evaluating the energy efficiency potential of a smart home has been a fairly complicated task for researchers out there. One must first ask – what is a smart home? Are there a certain number of devices, mix of devices, or intelligence level of devices required to meet this definition? On top of these variable deployments, other factors need to be taken into account, such as the occupant’s behavior, the weather, and condition of appliances in the home. Three studies, in particular, have done due diligence on this subject.
1. ACEEE Asserts Managing Multiple Devices Key to Energy Savings
According to ACEEE’s, Energy Impacts of Smart Home Technologies report, various devices have individual energy savings potentials (e.g. Smart ceiling fans can save 4-11% on cooling, smart lights can save 7-27%, and smart thermostats can save between 6-10% on heating/cooling), but the best way to realize the energy efficiency potential of the smart home is through whole home management of multiple devices. “The true potential for energy savings in the smart home lies in reducing energy consumption through better management. And better management lies in optimizing our home’s energy-consuming systems. We can align their operation to our preferences and reduce unnecessary energy use. Smart technologies can yield higher overall efficiency through better controls, communication, and response.” Not only that, but ACEE goes onto say, “Whether or not the grid is calling for demand reductions, we can take advantage of an energy pricing structure (i.e., time-of-use rates) and control our smart systems around peak demand periods.” By using real-time energy data, wireless communication, and intelligence, devices gain the ability to make a measured energy impact and prove savings.
2. McKinsey Asserts Bringing in Energy Data Key to Energy Savings
In the report, Sizing the Potential of Behavioral Energy Efficiency Initiatives in the US Residential Market, McKinsey & Company found that smart home technology innovation that specifically enabled behavioral energy change would help to increase energy efficiency. For that to happen, a smart device at a minimum would need to be able to show its historical energy usage. However, this would still not have a large impact since it would miss the connection of how it relates to the whole home. In order for smart home technology to affect the kind of behavioral energy change, McKinsey & Company argues, it would need to be connected to the whole home’s energy consumption with real-time energy information available. Real-time energy consumption alone has been proven to have an 8-9% energy savings. Adding a smart thermostat bumps that up to 10%. Going beyond the thermostat, to the water heater, lights, computer, cable box, washing machine and more will only continue to increase energy efficiency within the smart home, as long as the devices clearly tie back to energy consumption and whole home consumption. Now let’s take this a step further. To increase the impact of smart devices on energy consumption, McKinsey & Company suggests having utilities take the energy information they collect from individuals to provide tailored energy-saving advice.
3. University of Michigan Asserts Behavioral Engagement Key to Energy Savings
In the analysis, How Does Eco-Coaching Help to Save Energy? Assessing a Recommendation System for Energy-Efficient Thermostat Scheduling, the researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia assert that automation of devices is not enough to realize the energy efficiency potential of the smart home, but that a change in user behavior is required as a primary layer. By providing the user with coaching on how to save energy, the results of the study “indicated that eco-coaching saved 4.7% more energy than manual programming and 12.4% more energy than automation”. According to the researchers, the primary causes behind this were “1) made it easier for users to implement an effective thermostat schedule, 2) supported user agency in negotiating trade-offs between energy savings and comfort, 3) facilitated learning different scheduling strategies, and 4) challenged users’ beliefs about how well they were doing.” These researchers concluded that the four causes “were successful in getting users to employ and experiment with more efficient setback strategies.”
Conclusion: Energy Savings is Possible if . . .
So the answer . . . smart homes have the potential to not only make our lives easier but also our energy more efficient, so long as the system ensures the following
Utilize the whole home’s potential, not just 1-2 devices
Bring in energy data, both at the appliance and whole home levels
Get the user to engage and take a direct role in their energy savings
Comments Off on Tapping into the Demand Response Potential of the Smart Home
Demand response (DR) is on an exciting new journey. While advancements in batteries have reduced costs of electric vehicles which have driven up demand, advancements in the smart home are opening a whole new world for DR beyond HVAC. Right now consumers are investing in the smart home including smart lights, switches, plugs, EV chargers and more. Customers, enticed by the smart home’s many benefits, presents an amazing opportunity for energy providers to tap into this organically-created network to expand grid assets for demand management.
AEP Ohio is one of Powerley’s forward-looking partners that sees the immense potential of DR beyond the thermostat, getting behind the meter and developing a path to manage demand across all of a home’s connected devices.
The Self-Sustaining Path of DR
Customer engagement, increased energy efficiency, peak demand reduction – the smart home is driving an array of benefits for utilities and customers. Standing at the frontlines of this innovation, is AEP Ohio’s IT’S YOUR POWER program, in partnership with Powerley. Together, we developed and delivered IT’S YOUR POWER – a full Home Energy Management system that connects the smart grid to the smart home. Finally, it is possible for consumers in and around the Columbus area to monitor and manage their home energy consumption and smart home in a single app, while getting more insight into the usage of individual appliances in the home.
Yet, the opportunity from a Home Energy Management platform doesn’t stop there.
Like usual, the high summer temperatures drove up air conditioner usage all over the state of Ohio this past summer. But with IT’S YOUR POWER, AEP Ohio was able to implement a customer-friendly Demand Response experience – pushing forward to create a self-sustaining path that expands the potential for DR.
Like many other DR programs, the IT’S YOUR POWER app notifies customers of an upcoming DR event, giving them a choice to participate each time. This allows them to only participate in events that will have little to no disruption on their routine and be aware when the event is happening. To make it even more worthwhile for a customer to participate, AEP Ohio incentivizes customers with a $20 reward that goes toward the IT’S YOUR POWER Shop Smart Devices store to spend on a smart device of their choosing after completing at least 10 DR events.
This is not only beneficial for the consumer, but also for AEP Ohio. Tapping into customers’ inherent motivation to expand their smart home, Powerley and AEP Ohio are increasing grid assets for DR through this incentive program. It is a self-sustaining circle where customers are incentivized to participate in more DR events, get rewarded, and then buy more smart devices (like plugs, lights, load controllers and more). With this, consumers further build up their smart home through a utility-provided offering and simultaneously are adding devices that expand their DR potential.
“Through our work with Powerley, we have this immense opportunity to partner with our customers and help them build a smarter home that reduces energy use during peak times,” said Dave Tabata, Consumer Programs, Marketing, & Customer Experience Manager at AEP Ohio. “And by doing this, not only do we create this one-of-a-kind, self-sustaining path to DR that continues to grow, but a self-sustaining path to customer engagement that excites them.”
The Future of DR is in the Whole Home
In 2019, the IT’S YOUR POWER app will expand beyond thermostats to offer demand response on all connected devices that are controlling electric vehicles, pool pumps, and other large-consuming electric appliances in the house. In addition to opting into the event, the user can choose specific appliances they want to include or exclude in the event, further empowering customer choice and make them a part of AEP Ohio’s peak demand reduction efforts.
Updates on the current status of a DR event will keep consumers feeling informed and in control.
Overall, the expansive network of smart devices that customers are creating is building an infrastructure for incredible demand response opportunities for utilities all over the country and even the world. To truly tap into that potential, utilities can create programs that support customers’ excitement over their burgeoning smart home and put them on a track to keep growing it while reducing kW during peak demand.
Comments Off on The Energy-Driven Smart Home is Here
Today, a disconnect exists. Traditional energy efficiency solutions remain detached from home automation. Likewise, our smart homes are void of energy management. This gap continues to hinder adoption as siloed solutions deliver a partial experience. By combining energy with automation, we can engage customers in a new relationship with energy while unlocking future growth opportunities for electric companies.
Other channels are vying for the home energy management space. They see the value in energy usage data and the potential to capture the attention of energy customers. Rather than yield these opportunities to tech companies, the energy industry needs its own solution—turning energy management into the key differentiator in the connected home. While the current relationship stops at the meter, it’s not a big jump to consider electric companies going further.
DTE Energy was one of the first to push past the meter. In 2013, DTE Energy tapped technology experts to create a connection to the meter, fueling a new customer experience with the DTE Insight app. The results to date have been impactful—tallying 400,000 downloads and more than 15 million sessions. Through Insight, DTE Energy successfully engaged customers in a real-time energy experience—delivering average household energy savings of 8–9 percent.
DTE Insight provided the proof that customers wanted to engage with energy and take action. Other electric companies took notice of Insight’s success, seeing an opportunity to apply the solution across the industry. Given this potential, DTE Energy launched Powerley in 2015.
As a joint venture between a major electric company and an established tech company, Powerley delivered the secret sauce—a closed-loop solution connecting energy with home automation. Now, working with 13 other electric companies, Powerley continues to proliferate the energy-driven smart home.
Today, DTE Energy and Powerley are taking energy management to the next level—tapping the home to deliver deeper intelligence. Users now have access to their own personal energy coach, DTE Advisor, a step on the path to fully autonomous home efficiency. With the latest release of Insight, DTE Energy also is piloting home energy management, offering new smart home service subscriptions and marketplaces.
As customers customize their homes with more smart devices, electric companies can extend the smart grid further into the smart home.
“Together with Powerley, we have proven the potential that lies behind the meter,” said Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer of DTE Energy. “We have turned energy into an experience while creating a platform to fuel DTE Energy’s growth.”
Prologue: A Transactional Relationship with Energy
In the last two years, energy management has taken a giant evolutionary leap. In the past, our engagement with energy usage followed a monthly cadence, leaving us with little opportunity to take action. Like looking in a rear-view mirror, our printed utility bill showed how much energy the entire home consumed in aggregate, but only for the month prior. Occasionally, this included some generalized energy efficiency tips and basic community comparisons. If the consumer decided to act upon the data provided, the impact was difficult to discern due to all of the factors affecting energy use between bills.
In our always-on, always-connected world, consumers expect real-time experiences where they can access information from anywhere. Rear-facing, month-old views of energy use are not enough to meet the needs of today’s consumer and not enough to truly change behavior. They want to be empowered to engage and control their energy, resulting in a new relationship with their energy provider. Through these relationships, utilities can engage customers further – providing a pathway where they can not only access real-time information, but also act in real-time. And, through these actions, utilities can drive more efficiency and reshape the customer relationship while reinventing the utility business model via new connected home solutions.
This is a turning point for utilities. Down one path, utilities can stay the course, maintaining a traditional trajectory that leaves the customer largely disengaged without the ability to act. Alternatively, utilities can choose to transform energy into an experience that empowers customers and paves the path to broader smart home adoption benefitting all parties.
One utility chose the former, moving from historical energy views to real-time, behavior-based energy management, and then on to predictive smart-home energy management. Their evolution is an example of what is happening across our industry in response to converging market trends, showing that the question is not if utilities will change, but when.
Chapter One: A Move Towards Real-Time Energy Management
Based in Detroit, DTE Energy is no stranger to using innovation to engage its customers. DTE serves 2.2 million electric customers across southeastern Michigan and offer the most energy efficiency programs in the state. In 2014, the utility launched a new home energy management solution, DTE Insight app, to help customers manage their energy usage — in real-time. To enable this level of energy transparency, a device called the Energy Bridge wirelessly connects to the home’s smart meter. The connection pushes data to the app and allows customers to track energy use throughout their home every minute of the day. This allows customers to better understand where energy is being consumed, and take specific actions to manage it based on their specific needs. With customized coaching and tips, customers can increase their home’s energy efficiency by up to 10%. The program took off quickly due to this immediate benefit for customers and has been downloaded by 150,000 households to date.
Seeing an opportunity to leverage the platform for the benefit of other utilities, DTE launched Powerley to bring the technology to the market. Half utility and half tech startup, Powerley is now partnering with 13 utilities to launch the next generation of home energy management programs.
Chapter Two: Energy Management Integrates with the Smart Home
To date, energy management has been largely isolated. Conversely, smart home experiences today are void of energy management. As a result, both utilities and consumers have adopted a host of point solutions, each disconnected from each other and each with their own specific task. However, when energy management and home automation are joined, a “closed loop” is created – one in which the value is greater than the sum of the parts. Because consumers can immediately identify where they are wasting energy and interact with the devices and appliances that are wasting it.
Seeing an opportunity to bridge the gap between the smart home and the smart grid, Powerley has continued to evolve the original HEM platform –creating a unique solution that embeds energy management as part of a complete smart home experience. Together, DTE and Powerley are partnered to pilot this next generation of home energy management, where customers can not only view energy use in real-time, but they can also seamlessly control the smart devices, such as smart bulbs, switches, sensors, and thermostats, right in their homes.
The pilot has proven that the combination of home automation and energy management can drive customer engagement and behavior. Compared to the successful DTE Insight program, pilot users are 18 times more engaged, which underscores the currently unmet customer need for a deeper relationship with their energy use.
Epilogue: Utilities Becoming Smart Home Leaders
Consumers want their utility to provide much more than electricity. Studies show that 72% of consumers believe it’s important that their utility offers products and services that allow them to manage their energy, while 65% feel their utility should offer connected home solutions as well. Research has shown that consumers have a higher preference for their utility to offer smart home solutions than other providers – 1.5 times more than solutions offered from retailers, and double that of solutions offered by cable and communications companies.
Utilities can carve out a strong position in the smart home space – using energy as a key differentiator against telecom, cable, and tech competitors. Customers have opened the door for a deeper relationship with their energy provider, and utilities just need to take the first step in. When electric utilities seize the opportunity, they not only drive energy efficiency and existing customer engagement, but they also open new revenue opportunities in the smart home space.
While utilities such as DTE Energy have successfully deployed smart home energy management programs, many utilities have moved ahead with marketplaces, offering smart thermostats among other connected home products through e-commerce sites.
The future we only imagined a few years ago is already here. Energy management is now being embedded into our smart homes. And, our utility is the one making it possible.
Every year, projections for the smart home market grow, but less than 5 percent of customers in the United States and Europe currently are using home automation, monitoring, or home energy management solutions.1 Industry analysts and insiders are forecasting mass adoption within the next decade, with the value of the global connected home market reaching $200 billion to $350 billion by 2025.
Are these projections overly optimistic considering current adoption rates? Do they assume we will overcome obstacles such as high costs, a market of disparate solutions from multiple suppliers, lack of a clear customer value proposition, and poor user experience?
According to Mark Lantrip, President and CEO of Southern Company Services, “We have yet to discover the iPhone for home energy management.” He is spot on. Smart home technology solutions exist. But, without an integrated ecosystem, a value proposition, and a ubiquitous channel to facilitate accessibility, adoption will fail to scale.
The market is fragmented. There are energy efficiency solutions that measure consumption (most without real-time insight) and home automation products that monitor and control capability. The two are not connected, and the value proposition for the customer has been sub-par.
Technology companies, seeing the potential to fill this gap, are developing offerings for the home energy management space. For example, smart thermostats are anchoring electric companies’ demand response programs and are attempting to provide additional revenue opportunities. Though some technology companies may tend to focus on isolated use cases that don’t connect to a broader value proposition, many are making progress, and electric companies have taken notice of the movement into this space.
The increasing number of solutions offered in the market is confusing the average customer about the full value proposition presented, resulting in low adoption rates and high product costs.
The smart home is facing a “chicken-and-egg” dilemma. Without a higher adoption rate, production costs remain high; without lower cost to customers, adoption stalls. With significant cost differences—for example, prices of leading smart bulbs, outlets, and thermostats are more than five times that of their “non-smart” counterparts—it’s no wonder adoption is in the doldrums.
While we’ve seen success with affluent, green, and tech-savvy customers, how do we move beyond these early adopters? Which of the dominant smart home channels—direct-to-consumer, electric company, cable, or telecom—is best positioned to establish a unifying ecosystem? One that can demystify the market, trim costs, and cut through the complexity to reach scale. The market needs a home ecosystem that bridges multiple devices across different categories throughout the home. Can electric companies be the bridge?
As disruptors outside the energy industry take aim at the opportunity ahead, they face a much steeper uphill battle. For starters, customers’ relationships with their electric companies are generally grounded in trust. Few others are trusted to enter customer homes and install equipment. While the ongoing relationship typically stops at the meter, it’s not a big jump for electric companies to move beyond the meter.
In fact, customers want their energy provider to add value beyond the meter. Studies show that 58 percent of customers would like their electric company to offer home energy management solutions, and 61 percent prefer that electric companies provide home monitoring and control solutions. This preference is 1.5 times greater than customers’ preference for retailers, and more than double that for cable and communications companies. Electric companies have created the largest, most reliable network in the world—the energy grid. The energy grid works so well that customers rarely even think about it. As a nation, we take the grid for granted, but, as energy professionals, we know the hard work that goes into delivering reliable energy.
THE MARKET IS “OURS TO LOSE”
A decade ago, adoption of wireless technology started slowly because users had to find and install their own devices. Cable companies became the catalyst for Wi-Fi adoption by seamlessly extending their services to include installation of cable modems. By leveraging their existing relationships with customers, cable companies created an entirely new revenue stream and simplified user adoption. The wireless market took off.
Similarly, home energy management, the central use case for the smart home market, is a natural extension of existing electric company services. When electric companies lead the charge, reduced energy bills and free supply or installation are very likely to positively influence adoption. This is pivotal because it could ramp up user adoption of broader smart home technology significantly. Yet, there remains an imbalance between the smart home’s value to the customer and its market potential. Considering the resistance to wider user adoption, electric companies are well-positioned to balance the scales in a way that has more appeal to customers.
When we balance the value ratio between electric companies and customers, the results are immediate and impactful. As a prime example, DTE Energy has tallied more than 200,000 downloads of its Insight app. Using a connection to the smart meter, DTE has successfully engaged customers in a new, real-time energy experience that has resulted in engagement of more than 110,000 unique visits weekly and average household energy savings of 7 to 10 percent. According to Steven Ambrose, CIO of DTE Energy, “We’ve translated technology into an experience that is driving excitement and efficiency for our customers and for DTE Energy.”
Electric companies have an important choice to make. They can stop service at the meter, or they can push forward to offer energy management, appliance control, and home automation solutions to enable customers to solve energy use problems and secure an avenue of future growth. While doing so, they can meet energy efficiency goals, optimize peak load utilization, better meet environmental mandates, improve their carbon footprint, and develop new revenue sources.
This is a pivotal point in energy industry history. Electric companies can be the victim of disruption or seize the opportunity to drive new levels of efficiency and growth. Their choice will determine the progress of the customer- focused energy industry.