I can’t honestly remember if this is our 9th or 10th annual Energy Pulse study. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it will be remembered (at least by me) as the study that marked the shift in the American residential energy landscape … the study that foreshadowed and foretold the huge changes to come as we enter the era of the Connected Home.
Here’s what I mean:
- Propensity to make energy-efficient improvements/buy energy-efficient products is down across the board.
- Satisfaction with utilities has gone down drastically over the last 18 months – from 43% less than satisfied in January 2013 to 55% less than satisfied today (the polling was done in August).
- Interest in purchasing energy (and energy management products and services) FROM A NON-UTILITY PROVIDER is extremely high.
This wouldn’t matter if it weren’t for what else is happening right now. The home energy management market is a $1.5 billion market today … and that number is expected to jump to $4 billion by 2017. Thus, every imaginable player from cable companies and telecommunications firms to Internet service providers and retailers are getting in the game. If you haven’t gotten a call from Comcast, Charter or ADT trying to sell you a smart thermostat and lighting controls, you will. And many of us will say yes.
For years, over half the population has been interested in such things, but it’s been too damn hard to actually engage (you had to find a product, find someone to install it, actually look at the data and then do something about your energy consumption). Now if a guy from Comcast will show up at my house and install all the equipment, if I can set said equipment with a few strokes of my smartphone and let it learn my behavior and optimize my home’s efficiency for me, awesome. And if that only costs a few bucks more a month than the exorbitant amount I’m already paying Comcast – and it comes on that one bill I’m already paying – that’s pretty easy to say yes to.
Meanwhile, how we all do business is changing. Smartphone penetration is expected to reach 75% by the end of this year, and we’re now using those smartphones a whopping 43 hours 31 minutes each month specifically to connect to content through an app or mobile web browser. In essence, we can control the universe from our phones … so it’s only natural that we’d be able to control our homes from our phones as well. Layer in the rapidly emerging “do it for me” market (apps and services that let you get anybody to basically do anything for you except brush your teeth … and I’m waiting on that one), and it’s easy to see how consumer expectations of utility companies will quickly be out of line with what utilities can actually provide.
Case in point: If an Outback Steakhouse app can now tell me the wait time at any Outback in America AND let me save a place in line, why in the world can’t my utility tell me when my power is going to come back on during an outage?
Many of the utilities we work with say things like, “We’re focused on getting the basics right,” and I’m here to tell you – and Energy Pulse is here to foreshadow – that the basics are changing every day. The baseline expectations we all have about how we should be able to manage the comfort of our homes and the energy we use to power them are going up every day. Lots of high-tech providers are already in this space working to make the Connected Home a reality. I predict in the next two years that two to three players will emerge as the winners, having consolidated entire systems for how we manage our homes easily from our smartphones, and a handful of national players will emerge that make upgrading the efficiency of our homes easy with no money down.
If you’re a manufacturer or service provider in the residential arena, the question for you is this: Will you figure out how to take advantage of all these shifts? If you’re a utility, the question is this: Will you still be relevant/able to hang on to your customers?