Consumers Rate Energy Providers Higher on Data Security Than on Energy-Consumption Advice

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The FINANCIAL — In today’s digital world of connected devices, energy consumers are nearly twice as likely to trust their energy providers to safeguard their personal data than to advise them on energy consumption, according to new research by Accenture.

Accenture’s sixth annual survey this year included more than 11,000 energy consumers in 21 countries. The report, The New Energy Consumer: Unleashing Business Value in a Digital World, found that 65 percent of consumers showed confidence in their energy provider to secure and protect their personal data and information about their energy usage. This rose to 76 percent among regular users of digital channels. In contrast, only 36 percent said that they trust their energy provider to inform them about actions they can take to optimize their energy use.
“As energy and everyday devices become increasingly connected, an unprecedented amount of personal information about consumers’ habits and their households is becoming available, magnifying the importance of digital trust,” said Tony Masella, global managing director of Accenture Energy Consumer Services.
Highlighting this level of digital trust among energy consumers, almost two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents said they would be comfortable with their energy provider sharing their data with third parties, although in most cases only with prior permission. In addition, about the same number (62 percent) said they would allow their energy provider’s mobile application to access their location information, regardless of whether to provide outage information or to inform them about promotions.
“In addition to ensuring customers’ confidence in their data privacy, energy providers can use this information to develop more personalized products and services,” Mr. Masella said. “In fact, they must do this to remain competitive, given that barriers to entry are coming down and utilities must now compete with start-up digital retailers and new entrants from other industries, which are offering new and bundled solutions and services.”
With the proliferation of new energy-generating technologies, from distributed generation to wireless charging furniture, Accenture’s research also found that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of their energy consumption. Two-thirds (66 percent) would be interested in products and services to help them save electricity – up from 56 percent last year – while 69 percent said that they would be interested in participating in an energy-management program to help them conserve energy.
More than three-quarters of consumers have taken energy-efficiency actions in the past year, including installing energy-efficient light bulbs (52 percent), reducing appliance usage (34 percent), using appliances in non-peak times (28 percent), and lowering thermostat settings (28 percent). However, nearly four in 10 consumers (38 percent) said they believe that their energy provider is not effective in helping them manage their energy consumption.

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In addition to conserving energy, consumers are increasingly interested in generating and storing their own electricity, such as by installing solar panels and home-battery storage. More than half (57 percent) said they would consider investing to become power self-sufficient. While this varies dramatically between countries, with a much stronger bias towards the economies with lower electrification rates like South Africa, Indonesia or Brazil, most (89 percent) of those willing to invest would still want to be connected to the grid for back-up power.

“Energy providers can offer new value propositions to their customers, as these products and services are no longer niche market opportunities,” Mr. Masella said.  “In competitive markets, energy providers can create new revenue streams by offering digital solutions for home-related products and services, such as solar and other home-energy generation platforms, energy-efficiency tools, or even bundled home services. In a regulated marketplace, opportunities for energy providers include innovative partnerships or digital information services. While interest in new products and services is high and increasing among all energy consumers, our research shows that consumers who use digital channels to interact with their energy provider may represent even greater value.”

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