Empowering consumers: the future of energy consumption
Camilla and David Forsberg, of smart energy tracking app Bright talk us through the future of energy and why being able to control your consumption from your phone will be key.
This blogpost is authored by a member of Montel's content marketing team.
You say you want a revolution
Europe is now 10, or maybe 20, depending on who you believe, years into its energy transition. The culture shift on the supply side has been impressive: in 2019 renewables accounted for nearly 20% of Europe’s consumption, compared to 9.6% in 2004.
Yet for the majority of end-users and consumers, even those with green energy deals, nothing has changed. Consumption patterns, designed around the 9 to 5 and the historic balance of work and family life, remain the same. It’s become a well-worn cliché heard across panels and forums in recent years: the demand side transition - the revolution led by engaged, informed and active consumers - is yet to arrive.
Bright wants to change all that, says Camilla Forsberg, David’s partner and the CCO of the company. “We want the customer to first understand, then control and steer their energy usage”. The company was initially founded in 2011 as Anova Energy; another energy provider seeking to offer green electricity at a fair price to consumers across Sweden.
In 2019, they changed tack, creating a new business out of their industry-leading app. It offers end consumers the ability to follow and modify their consumption through an easy-to-understand interface. They can track energy prices, examine their carbon footprint and even set their appliances to automatically respond to changes in the grid.
The future has to be more driven by the supply of renewable energy and not the other way round"
Bright wants to show consumers that “everyone can do something” says Camilla. While more and more households have technology, such as electric vehicle chargers and smart switches, that can be automated, the core of the app is the ability to monitor consumption, prices and CO2 levels in the network. “If you are not interested in smart steering, then you can of course change when you put on the dishwasher or the washing machine.”
Transparency, says David, “is one of the ground-stones of the platform”. Making end users aware of how they’re connected to the network, he adds, is a crucial first step towards getting them to begin to react to situations of peak demand or supply, or to actively use more green energy.
The benefits for suppliers should be obvious as well. “We try to avoid them [the energy companies] getting a lot of phonecalls,” says David. Clear, easily accessible information for customers can lead to cost savings for energy providers.
Breaking down the communication barriers between supplier and client is necessary to deal with the historic mistrust that many consumers have of energy companies, the Forsbergs say. This is why Bright offers forecasts to end-users. Driven by the company’s own state-of-the-art machine learning technology, they can show the customer their projected consumption, predicted monthly invoice and carbon footprint, at any time. It’s all designed to avoid any nasty surprises at the end of the month, says Camilla. “We want energy companies to have customers who are calm instead of panicking.”
We want energy companies to have customers who are calm instead of panicking."
A different kind of service provider
The focus that Bright has on the customers comes from their background: David first founded two broadband service providers, in Sweden and Spain, before making the jump to the energy market. Even as a supplier, they cultivated a customer-first perspective. “We want to be on the customer’s side because we’re energy customers ourselves,” Camilla explains.
And their experience as a supplier means they’re familiar with the challenges that energy companies face. All this means that they don’t see themselves as a typical ‘digital firm’, says David. Bright is “going to be a platform that keeps on evolving over time”, for both end consumers and suppliers.
Bright has already begun to include additional services to support the unique nature of Sweden’s energy providers, who often hold multiple municipal contracts, from district heating to waste collection. Bright now lets customers see their invoices for broadband and district heating, and can even remind them to put the bins out for collection.
The Future is Bright
Camilla speaks enthusiastically about the potential for new “gamification” inspired features- similar to the ‘compare with your neighbours’ available in the app today. They’re more interested in learning from health and exercise apps than existing energy suppliers' apps, she says, which have developed innovative ways to engage users.
In 2021, they want to take their product out to more suppliers across the Nordics, with an eye on Norway with its high penetration of electric vehicles. They are even looking further afield, to places like Germany, where the Energiewende has left energy companies facing similar problems to those in Sweden. “We think our platform can make a real impact”, Camilla adds, pointedly.