Vassilis Nikolopoulos, Entrepreneur | Researcher | Innovator | Advisor: Analytics to engage
I had the honor to give a talk, three days ago, at a very interesting event of the global NGO Ashoka, regarding the Energy Poverty problem.
Ashoka, in collaboration with the Schneider Electric Foundation, leads a Social Innovation program to tackle Energy Poverty. All infos can be found at http://tacklefuelpoverty.com/, where you can submit you idea or application/approach, to tackle this huge social problem.
My talk was about the use of modern digital technology, behavioral science, analytics and some smart financial engineering, in order to give some solutions. Of course, the role of utilities is huge, since they will transform themselves into service providers, so energy poverty will be their problem too; not only from the "lack-off-revenue" perspective but also from a CSR/Energy efficiency perspective.
Recent EU regulations already push utilities and energy suppliers to offer energy efficiency services to their end-users and help them cut down energy costs and C02 emissions. This is a directive (included in the Winter Package in 2016) so pretty soon will become National law for the EU countries.
Hence, utilities will have to offer smart services (technical, retrofits, ESCO, Financial engineering, funding, RES penetration, DERs, EVs, etc) in order to engage their end-users to save energy and meet the EU targets. On the other hand, utilities will start (already have...) loosing money and revenue from that, so new ways of revenue generation and data monetization is a MUST, for future utilities to survive.
Among all these, many people have a serious problem: NO access to cheap energy, NO access to electricity and even more people DO NOT have money to pay for that...
This is an exponential problem with many variables: Utilities have to offer CSR, have to take care of the environment, have to follow EU regulations, have to help society, have to help poor people to access energy (and yes we have to !!) but they also have to become a profitable business, to have a positive ROI and to survive...that is gents a very difficult optimization problem for the modern utility...especially when your business has many social extensions.
Are there solutions ? yes of course ! :
Digitization, Prosumer new business models, smart financial engineering, peer2peer models, social pressure in groups, analytics and data monetization, to put energy consumers in new mathematical business equations, to actually re-invent the energy business !
Recently, we launched a new additional service in our platform (DiG https://intelen.com/us/solutions/dig.html) and engagement mobile app, a peer2peer online rewarding process, where you earn money by guiding/inviting your friends to sing-in to your utility...this is a simple but huge service, since you solve utilities' primary problem: cheap (down to zero...) and affordable lead and customer generation with immediate RoI !...by using the Social Network effect, peer pressure theory, smart algos we run at the back and peer2peer financial engineering (still no blochchain though...it will come).
However this is the beginning for something much bigger: a live, personalized, peer2peer transactional financial service, where by some AI (smart agents doing automatic offers) and social behavioral science, you could offer services to poor people, you could set up smart financial engineering campaigns, sell your stored energy automatically, share your EV automatically and you could actually generate new revenue for your utility, by helping others. Who said FinTech is only for Banks?
This is not easy but this relies on people's social peer pressure and some good analytics and AI to get the optimal personalization.
Of course, some other big disruptions could become a reality: cheap distributed generation, micro-generation, energy harvesting, local cheap/almost free energy production and many other active measures to help poor people save energy and drop their energy consumption. Education and raise of awareness is the first step.
However, by harnessing people's collective intelligence and by offering some smart ways of financial engineering, under a peer2peer social approach, this could also give some great results.
We will have soon some initial actions in order to assess the results, that would be very interesting, so stay tuned!