Who am I? I was born somewhere between the early 1980s and mid 2000s. According to research, I’m well educated, highly tech-savvy, skeptical by nature and street smart; well informed, value-driven and well paid – but also motivated by more than just the hip pocket.
Yes, I’m a Millennial. And as part of Australia’s second-largest cohort (20.5 per cent of the total population) after Generation X, I’m the next great engine of the consumer economy. So what do I want from my energy company?
That is the question a recent Accenture survey has sought to address, and the findings are a clarion call to those utilities and retailers who still believe business-as-usual will do.
Globally, what the survey found was a generation of energy users who are not only digital natives, but children of the “sharing economy”, who expect to be able to invest in and benefit from solar power generation, even if they don’t have a rooftop to install it on; who are actively interested in trading on the energy marketplace; and who absolutely expect to be able to monitor and control their energy profiles – like their social media profiles – via their mobile phone.
And for those new energy market players and disruptors, the survey results offer confirmation that there is a huge group of consumers with zero loyalty to the incumbents, and no particular preference for who provides them with their solar and storage/remote energy management software/peer-to-peer trading platform, just so long as they can get it, asap.
Getting down to the detail, the results show that 76 per cent of the Gen Y people surveyed were interested in a “connected” home energy service, while 60 per cent were likely to sign up for an app that remotely monitored and controlled their home energy use. Another 67 per cent said they were interested in an in-home system that automatically limited their electricity usage during peak periods, in return for bill credits.
More than half of those surveyed, 56 per cent, said they were likely to invest in solar panels – one way or another – within the next five years. Among this group, 73 per cent expected to be able to sell the excess power their PV system produced, while 77 per cent said they would use battery storage to hold it, for self-consumption.
Interestingly, however, the survey also found that a massive 67 per cent of respondents had not received information from their energy provider on distributed energy resources like solar and storage, or on products and services like automated energy control or in-home EV charging points. Another 22 per cent did not remember if they had received this information.
In short, says Accenture, “the time of energy as a commodity is over. It is now about engaging the whole consumer. Consumers expect providers to care for their individual values and needs.”
So what will be the major Millennial-driven energy trends in Australia?
According Accenture Asia Pacific, with home ownership in Australia poised to tip to less than 50 per cent in 2017, “collective consumption” will be a trend worth watching.
It notes that the products and services Millennials want, like solar and home energy management, are traditionally geared towards home owners. But given Millennials either don’t want to own their own home, or can’t afford to, utilities will need to adjust in order to meet these needs, he says.
Already, more than two-thirds, or 69 per cent of those surveyed said they were interested in peer-to-peer energy trading – a service that maximises the money made from distributed energy generation by automatically deciding when to buy energy from third party providers, as well as other consumers and/or when to sell energy to third party. Of this group, 47 per cent were interested in the technology, but not willing to pay for it, while 16 per cent were interested and willing to pay for the service.
This will be music to the ears of Perth start-up Power Ledger which, as we reported last week, is set to launch the first trial of its blockchain-based software program that allows distributed energy producers and consumers to trade the energy directly, saving money and hassle while maximising and democratising rooftop solar generation.
“Effectively, we’re cutting out the middle-man to save consumers, and to maximise returns for producers,” Power Ledger chair and co-founder Jemma Green told One Step last week.
“It’s a win for the people who have been able to afford to invest in roof-top solar, but also a win for customers who haven’t: they will be able to access clean, renewable energy at effectively a ‘wholesale’ rate. Everyone wins.”
The news is also good for companies like Reposit Power and WattWatchers, the latter whose behind-the-meter energy auditor service has earned it a place on the list of semi-finalists in this year’s Australian Technologies Competition.
“I strongly believe that if we give consumers access to real time data they will reduce their energy consumption significantly – either to be green or to save money,” Wattwatchers’ new managing director Gavin Dietz told RenewEconomy in an interview last month.
He could be onto something…