As previewed a year ago, First Utility, which provides electricity and gas services to consumer and business customers, has now launched its my:energy programme, aimed at helping customers to be more energy efficient. The service is from US company Opower, which provides energy information software for the utility industry.
First Utility’s 100,000 customers have already started receiving information on how their usage compares to their neighbours, together with tips on how to reduce energy consumption. My:energy will also be available to view online. Further functionality will be added, including an alert to tell customers when their energy usage is higher than normal. In development are elements such as text message reminders to alert people to turn down their thermostats when warmer weather is coming.
There’s a lot of firsts here. First Utility is the only energy provider in the UK to rollout smart meters to all its customers and my:energy is also the first programme of its kind in the UK. First Utility is also Opower’s first international partner.
The benefit is that the more information people have about their energy usage the more likely it is that they will reduce it. But it’s not enough just to provide the figures – my:energy’s alerts and warnings, together with the ability to compare energy use with others, is an even better motivator. First Utility points to research that shows that energy consumption is reduced by around 5% after consumers receive information with their bills comparing their energy usage to their neighbours’. Consumption dropped still further when personalised advice is included in bills.
Opower says that its service has already created savings of $140m across 10 million households in the US. First Utility maintains that if all UK households were to adopt the technology, the potential savings are over £1.7bn and three million tonnes of carbon in just three years.
All good stuff, but consumer behaviour will not be changed significantly until we have smart grids with dynamic pricing, providing real and instant benefits from changing energy use.