Utilise puts the smart into smart metering to bring value to businesses
New electricity retailer Utilise is bringing the benefits of innovation in the electricity sector to small and medium-sized business customers.
FOR TOO LONG business customers have been forgotten in the electricity market, so says new retailer Utilise. In a nutshell, it set out to change this using smart technology to reduce energy costs for its business customers.
Utilise has been set up by business people for business people throughout New Zealand. However, one may ask why now?
Executive Director Simon Young says that in recent years he has seen some critical factors come together. The key changes in the electricity and technology landscape include a tradable wholesale market, cloud based computing, and the rollout of smart meters. Utilise capitalises on these factors to bring increased value to businesses.
Young brought on board investment and consultancy company Millennium Corporation, which has expertise in unlocking value and growing businesses, and together they set about defining the Utilise market, establishing the brand and systems, and providing support to the rollout.
From the outset Utilise has designed its services based on what businesses said they wanted from an electricity provider.
It sees its ‘edge’ as the combination of smart meter technology with proprietary pricing software and a lean business approach. This proprietary pricing technology provides customised pricing for businesses based on their own usage profile, enabling its customers to receive our best possible energy price.
The company’s leadership team is made up of industry experts and has translated the extensive research into what business customers said they want and need in a power company into the Utilise offering.
“Unsurprisingly, businesses, often reliant on the security of power, yet without the resource of big industry, want competitive prices, good service and transparency in a power company’s pricing,” says Marcus Kohn-Taylor, General Manager of Utilise.
Kohn-Taylor, who has experience in successfully establishing new entrant energy
retailers in Australia and New Zealand, says there is a large opportunity in the small and medium business market.
The Utilise system employs half-hourly smart meter readings to design a pricing structure that matches very closely the way businesses consume power. The web-based tool uses a customer’s usage profile, location and network costs, at their business premises or anywhere else.
“We deliver customised pricing to the business consumer, but not just that, we deliver good engagement and service that caters to individual business needs. We like to think we are a breath of fresh air,” says Kohn-Taylor.
Typically, wholesale power prices are lower during the weekend and night, and using the smart metering technology, Utilise is able to pass on this cost-saving pattern to customers.
Large energy retailers tend to charge a flatrate, 24/7, whether it is an off-peak or on-peak time, Kohn-Taylor says.
“Pricing used to be a specialised area. We have taken it out of the head office and put it on a tablet. Our sales staff can sit down with a customer and they can have full transparency of the costs, if they want it,” he says.
Starting a new electricity retailer isn’t an overnight business. Their team spent 18 months scoping, doing detailed designs and building systems with today’s solutions for tomorrow’s challenges.
Utilise’s research into understanding small businesses’ attitudes to power, their retailer, switching, and what their ideal utility provider looked like revealed that 80% of those organisations who switched retailers thought it was easy. Of those who hadn’t switched, two thirds said they didn’t because they thought it was a hassle, or they were too busy.
Over the last five years, the wholesale electricity hedge market has become more transparent and liquid, which means Utilise trades on a similar playing field to its larger competitors.
Even though the company researched the market before launch, it realises it can’t be wedded to assumptions it had about the market. “If you find that market feedback is saying something different, you’ve got to be agile and modify what you are doing accordingly,” says Kohn-Taylor, “something we are capable of doing at pace”.
The challenge the company has addressed is to be able to offer tailor-made solutions to customers, and then have the ability to scale it up.
Young and Kohn-Taylor are excited about the possibilities ahead, armed with research and market analysis, and a well- developed customer offer.
“You’ve got to earn trust, you can’t contract it.”
And that’s exactly what this company intends to do.
Pricing used to be a specialised area. We have taken it out of the head office and put it on a tablet. Our sales staff can sit down with a customer and they can have full transparency of the costs, if they want it.”
Marcus Kohn-Taylor, General Manager - Utilise.