Utility Week

Utility Week 3rd March 2017

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28 | 3rd - 9Th March 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Customers Quarterly domestic iNstallatioN activity for larGe eNerGy suppliers Market view M ost homes in the UK continue to rely on gas and electricity meters that use dated technology designed dec- ades ago. Energy suppliers bill most custom- ers on estimated reads and still rely heavily on customer reads, causing delays preparing bills and even increasing the number of calls from customers because bills are difficult to understand. To counter this, the European Union asked all member governments to consider smart meters as they upgrade their energy supplies and services. This would give consumers more control over energy use, help them understand their bills and even control costs. By the end of 2020, about 53 million smart meters will be fitted in more than 30 mil- lion premises (households and businesses) across Wales, Scotland and England. This integration of smart meter technolo- gies, interconnected devices and big data into all UK homes is an exciting prospect. Not only will it help energy companies get closer to their customers than ever before, but it will ultimately transform them from energy providers into energy consultants. Smart meters will help ensure: l there will be no more estimated readings; l quality of supply will be improved because smart meters will report back any electricity issues such as low voltages; l moving home will be an effortless experi- ence for customers; and l new capabilities such as remote electric- ity management, better tariffs and con- sumption analysis will be enabled. Journey to a smart meter future There's still a long way to go until the 2020 vision, but more than 5 million meters are already installed. In order to meet the vision, 100,000 new smart meters will now have to be installed every week. To ensure effective customer engagement throughout the process, a comprehensive communication plan must be put in place, outlining the focus on connecting with cus- tomers at various phases of the rollout. This will help ease any concerns that customers may have about the new technology as well as detailing essential information about the schedule, status updates and an overview of all the potential benefits. Early communication also gives suppliers an opportunity to build a closer relationship with customers before the rollout, by appeal- ing to different customer profiles when it comes to energy consumption. Smart meters, aer all, excite customers for a host of dif- ferent reasons, be it potential cost savings, increased comfort at home or the positive impact they may have on the environment. Understanding and embracing these dif- ferent motivations is key and it in turn pre- sents an opportunity for utility providers to build stronger, more meaningful relation- ships with customers. The value of big data One potential barrier to be overcome before the smart meter vision can become a reality is the increase in data that energy companies are about to experience. Energy companies are investing heavily in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and meter data management (MDM) so- ware. This would enable them meaning- fully to analyse data and provide strategic insights into all levels of business energy use. Insights – when turned into improve- ments – will drive closer and more meaning- ful relationships with customers. But although many utilities are beginning to recognise the need for meter data analyt- ics, they're oen too bogged down with mas- sive amounts of data and aging billing or legacy systems to even know where to begin. It is important, at this stage, to stress that the energy sector is no newcomer when it comes to technological innovation. Con- nected Home, the internet of things offshoot of British Gas, for example, has been experi- menting with in-home technologies for some time now in the pursuit of creating a truly 'smart' home. The company even has an in- house definition for this smart home: "One that knows when you're home, when you're out and adjusts the environment accordingly. Think of it as your smart butler, picking up infomation from a number of sources." A truly connected home may be some time off, but the smart meter rollout is a big step in that direction. New smart technolo- gies, interconnected devices and intelligent in-home platforms are helping to rewrite the rules to success in this sector, by helping to create deeper and more meaningful insights into customer behaviour than ever before. This is not a story about technological inno- vation, but about the customer being placed firmly back at the top of the priority list. Exactly where they belong. Sulakshana Patankar, business unit leader, utilities, WNS Redefine your relationships Smart meters won't just help energy companies bill their customers more efficiently, they will redefine utilities' relationships with their customers, says Sulakshana Patankar. Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q3 Q4 2012 Source: BEIS 0 900 Number of meters installed ('000s) 2013 overall installations 2014 2015 2016 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 All smart meters Electricity smart meters Gas smart meters 4.04m 2.35m 1.69m

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