How can you use innovation in order to change the energy market to the customer’s benefit? That was the starting-point for the ‘June’ solution. That app ensures that energy-users always have the best price at their disposal and even takes their preferences into consideration. The developers, Vincent, Jannes and Georges, explain how their customer orientation leads to innovation.
A money-saving innovation for the customer is music to the ears of many. How exactly did you hit upon the idea behind ‘June’?
Georges: “Well, Jannes and I are always trying to rejuvenate sectors by applying the right technologies. We want to be a catalyst for the necessary changes. The energy market is in sore need of such a catalyst.”
Vincent: “I used to work for an energy provider, but I felt that the energy market ought to be more customer friendly. That seemed to be more sustainable to me, and fairer. It was then that I bumped into Jannes and Georges, who were doing the rounds with their innovation on smart meter readers. It has since led to a successful cooperation.”
Is the current energy market not customer friendly, then? Everyone can choose their own supplier, can’t they?
Vincent: “You can indeed – as a customer – compare prices and choose the energy provider yourself. But, unfortunately, suppliers often lure customers in with low prices only to raise them gradually later on. When it comes to the crunch, their profit is key at the end of the year, not the customer. So – as a customer – you must always be on your guard and change provider in good time.”
How can technology improve that situation?
Jannes: “We wanted to let customers switch automatically to the cheapest rate, as people don’t always have the time or the inclination to compare prices. So we developed an algorithm that constantly compares prices and that arranges a transfer, whenever you can make a significant saving.”
Georges: “In order to get that algorithm up and running, we needed data from customers about their energy consumption. The problem is that the distribution system operators (DSOs) only read the meters once a year. They do little with the potential of your meters. Which is why we have developed smart meter readers that plot detailed consumption patterns for the customer.”
Are those meters difficult to install?
Georges: “Not at all. We always strive to make everything very user-friendly. These are simple devices that can be easily installed by the customer himself. And, once connected, it all works by itself.”
Jannes: “In addition, we have created an app, so that the customer, himself, can track his energy consumption and the savings he’s making. No longer does he need to enter his meter readings into the energy provider’s tool in order to get an overview. The app also allows him to indicate his preference for ‘green’ energy or for certain energy providers.”
Vincent: “June’s computations proceed from what the customer is looking for. It’s simple, transparent and customer-centric. For example, we also use clear and comprehensible diagrams about energy consumption instead of the conventional summary on your energy invoice.”
Are today’s energy providers and their account statements not transparent, then?
Vincent: “Energy providers are legally required to put a great deal of information on their year-end account statements. That should increase transparency but, in reality, many consumers can no longer see the wood for the trees. We wanted to process the data intelligently and give customers a crystal-clear overview.
We are also very transparent about our ‘guarantee of savings’. Before every changeover, we show the customer how much money he will save. In that way the payback effect of their subscription becomes clear. If that isn’t the case for some reason, then we’ll even refund the difference between the subscription and the lower-than-expected savings.”
Georges: “Currently, the providers cannot offer more transparency because the DSO isn’t using smart meters. We want to promote the use of smart meters from the bottom up, by showing customers how much they can profit by them.”
Do smart meters have other advantages?
Jannes: “The insight into energy consumption patterns can, indeed, be used in different ways. In the long term we could, for instance, organize group purchases of energy for specific profiles. A single person, you see, has a completely different consumption profile than a family. Traditional group purchases don’t take that into account.
Even the energy providers benefit from smart meters. Procurement-at-source becomes more energy-efficient. We hope, of course, that that will also lead to lower prices for the customer. They will also be able to respond more fluidly to peaks in demand for energy.”
Georges: “Ideally, the smart meter readers will, in time, be supplemented by a meter for the energy that you, yourself, produce. That would give local and renewable energy an enormous boost. That kind of innovation is something that the energy market could certainly use right now.”
Why do you want to promote renewable energy?
Georges: “Our aim – with ‘June’ – is to promote the changeover to a sustainable energy market. Everyone knows that fossil fuels are no longer acceptable, but the changes are slow in coming.”
Vincent: “The top-down approach in which Government imposes all kinds of standards, clearly isn’t working. It doesn’t go fast enough. We believe that a focus on the customer does work. If (s)he can see the advantage of the changes, then we’ll soon be on our way. That’s why we’re also firm believers in a peer-to-peer market, in which everyone can be an energy provider. You see, ‘June’ is just the beginning!”
We look forward to what the future holds. In that future the ball is now clearly in the consumer’s court.