First Utility was one of the first energy suppliers to deliver dual-fuel smart meter solutions to consumers. Here, CIO Bill Wilkins discusses how digital products can benefit energy consumers by saving an average of 5-6% per customer - and why that is good for First Utility.
Four of the seven board members at First Utility are from an IT background. CIO 100 Bill Wilkins says the company is currently rolling out smart meters to its UK customers. The CIO discusses how the digital product can benefit customers in understanding energy consumption, and how this helps First Utility.
Smart Meters – Changing energy consumption
The Smart Meter initiative will be part of a UK Government programme and will be overseen by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The UK government plans to see the project rolled out to all UK customers and small businesses by 2020. The smart meter system will see First Utility customers save on average 5-6% energy, per customer, because of the tools provided that allow them to monitor in real time how much energy they are using.
Since Wilkins' appointment at First Utility the company has been reinvented, with a shift from a cost-based strategy to a digital customer convenience focus.
Wilkins says: "The primary goal is to drive the relationship between the company and consumers."
He says that it was "not a challenge" introducing smart meters tocorporates with a "tech-orientated board", because he believes the initiative will help "understand customers better".
The programme will segment First Utility customers, by measuring every action and purchase they make on the online platforms. The smart meter system will improve First Utility's knowledge when producing and purchasing energy, reducing its cost in the energy market, giving consumers a better price for their fuel.
First Utility's simple product structure will provide energy and enable customers to submit readings, SMS and video recordings all through their digital app.
Wilkins says "Customers can use what products are going to be more suitable for them."
Customers can also more accurately measure their own meters. Recently the energy company delivered the camera phone tool. This tool will work the app and will allow users to find the dials and read the meter.
The next 18 months will see First Utility's system gain ownership of up to 150,000 dual smart meters. The solution will be funded by SMS service and part of its revolving credit facility.
It is early days, but First Utility is the UK's largest independent energy supplier and the company is willing to work with customers and grow the video recordings tool. The tool already generates on average of 3,000 to 4,000 readings per week.
Challenging the traditional model
The independent energy supplier has more than 950,000 customers, and Wilkins believes that the smart meter programme can offer a broader service to those consumers.
Wilkins says the new technology will "accommodate traditional customers" who are not digitally literate.
He continues "It will give the chance for the customer to pick up the phone and speak to a team member." He asknowledges that the energy market has to accommodate "all customers profiles" with some of the products being updated "not being the norm" to all consumers.
He says the investment in the new service will benefit customers because accurate consumption measurement means not having to pay for overestimates on a service they have not used or won't use. And the new model should engage customers to stay on top of the energy market and their energy consumption, through a smarter digital service that encourages customers to read and understand their meters.