Empowering competitive energy mobility

How electric transport & charging change energy retail forever

Post by Mark Coyle, Chief Strategy Officer @ mark.coyle@utiligroup.com


Energy Supply is about to go mobile…


For over one hundred years, the delivery of energy has been to fixed locations such as businesses and homes, prior to the emergence of electric vehicles and mobile charging. Our society is fast becoming connected digitally and on a path towards using sustainable electrified sources. Both our heating sources and transport are changing from a basis of burning fuels towards electricity as their power source. This creates new demands for electricity at home but also as we travel for work and leisure.  It is now common place to assume we can plug in our mobile devices wherever we go. Airports, trains, shopping centres and even buses increasingly provide free USB charging points for the convenience of their customers.  For now this is a novelty, soon constant charging will be the new normal.

We expect this energy charging to be free but as demands grow across millions of people, there is a material cost emerging to provide this charging.  Thinking further we do not only expect to charge our devices for free, we all believe it is perfectly okay to plug in and effectively steal a tiny bit of energy that still has to be paid for.  Individually this is a very small amount, not worth measuring but over time this will grow to become a more substantial area of cost for the person or organisation providing it.  We all know that there isn’t such a thing today as free energy, nobody expects free coffee at a shopping mall but we all think charging devices is.  We do not yet place a true value on this essential service.  As we decarbonise and connect society the cost of providing this ‘free’ energy will grow, with unmanaged usage at times of critical load that is not optimised.

If we are starting to use electricity wherever we go from our transport to its destination, the concept of an energy Supplier providing energy to a fixed location with a single meter needs to be reviewed.  Instead of electricity being provided to places it is in reality provided to people, who move and want to take this benefit with them.  Today we understand that this is the bill payer, the actual customer the energy Supplier recognises commercially, but even this concept becomes more fluid when we think of charging an electric-vehicles with multiple users.


Fixed location energy supply relationships will evolve as we move electricity in vehicles & use it wherever we are


It is now easy to anticipate the idea of a ‘mobile energy wallet’ or ‘mobile energy card’ whether physical, associated with a bank card or entirely online.   This mobile way of payment may then travel with the user, perhaps using the same account with their Supplier, or even supporting multiple Suppliers.  A user could have various pricing bands for place and time of use, offset by energy exported back from their optimised home. 

This concept of mobile electricity payment also enables payment for energy usage as we go, enabling a value to be put on it and an incentive to use energy sensibly.  Today our society focuses great attention on energy efficiency and conservation at home through government programmes, but ignores this totally for our shared convenience when out and about.

Ten years ago this sounded like science fiction, today companies are starting to build it.


Future energy provision & service relationships move with people to where they are


In our recent speech and post here we talked of ‘Competing beyond the Digital Divide’ and this concept of mobile electricity and how to pay for it is a stark illustration.  In the past our energy used to follow predicted total demand and build power stations to support it, but that is not possible today.  Now new renewable energy sources are built to replace those old power stations with considerations of financing, location and grid access. In future if we want abundant, affordable energy we need to optimise and incentivise its sensible use across our society, within but also beyond our homes and work.  We may take great care at home to ensure the energy Supplier we choose has green, renewable sources but few of us can really say we have worried about this on a train or at an airport.  Convenience wins every time, at least until there is true at that point enabled by making those charging points themselves online.  Then our use of energy, production, storage and movement of it can be integrated together.


Everybody charges devices everywhere – from free charging to mobile micropayment energy?


The new digital frontier of competitive energy is a profound step.  Everything is up for grabs, from energy accounts travelling across locations, accounts for multiple people in families or communities wherever they are through to virtual aggregations of similar customer technologies as a single entity. Thinking about how children live now is helpful.  My children are mobile through Uber using my account to pay as they go.  Maybe I could pay for their car charging through my energy account. My children cannot watch old black and white films; to them they are a relic of another age that they have no connection to.  Similarly, they cannot understand how society functioned before the internet.   Next the same will be true for the next generation of online mobility and electricity being available everywhere.  But this does not mean energy will be free wherever we use it, over time as demand grows through plugged in charging items, whether a car or a family of phones – there is a cost that someone will value.  Energy use will be multi-location, multi-device and aggregated across groups of users – families, work and communities. Welcome to a new ‘energy everywhere economy’.

This is also a transition from energy Suppliers operating through contact centres during normal business hours towards automated, digital technology services that enable 24×7 ‘energy everywhere’ that is aggregated and optimised continually.  Mobile payments, mobile energy, mobile banking, mobile communications – they converge to become one and the same – to provide the vital digital lifeblood of our new society.  Customers may want to manage their entire energy on an app, possibly not even the app of the energy provider.  It’s a different world to compete in, yet the change we have already experienced in the last decade shows we can see it emerging today.  If we can charge our car at home on our Supplier energy account, we will soon demand a similar experience at the digital forecourt or work place for whoever is using the electric car – perhaps carrying the account with us.


We carry batteries to charge our phones – soon we will have a mobile bi-directional battery in our cars


Energy Suppliers or Retailers as they are known in many countries are now in a race to be the integrated technology service providers of tomorrow, they are either embarked upon it now or starting.  Those waiting are becoming culturally disadvantaged in how they can respond quickly and extensively enough.  The kinds of services described need integration, interoperability, data exchange standards and perhaps most importantly competitive agility to create the next market.

At Utiligroup we pivoted early to enable competitive innovators to unleash their creativity and go fast. We enable innovation to be delivered in today’s energy market through a lean, simple model.  Competitive energy leaders are already learning from customer insight to stay agile as expectations change.  By embracing digital energy today and mobile energy tomorrow, innovators are able to create the customer engagement model we all want. We are all starting to live mobile energy lives today, they are just fragmented and do not have a core service provider. Those that get it right, create a new basis of customer retention, engagement and empowerment. 


Tomorrow’s leading energy providers may be renewed existing companies, new entrants or even do not yet exist


Who will be the new providers?  An evolution of those today, those entering from electric car services, mobile payments, technology platforms, oil companies transformed?  Possibly all of those, some or none. We now know that technology renews who the leading players are in markets, with new winners and losers changing constantly.   Google, Amazon, Uber, Tesla, Facebook, Paypal, Instagram, Twitter all did not exist until recently nor did this new wave of tech-led digital energy companies. 

National Grid in UK has just said that the transmission network is ready for the mass switch over to electric vehicles from 2030, ten years ahead of the government target.  This will act as a strong stimulus for a basis shift towards full-scale adoption.  However today this is a race where those with customer relationships and those with technology are converging towards new service delivery models.  The implications for energy market (re)design and the role of the customer service providers is potentially profound.  New roles may be required such as a ‘regulated service provider’ who can optimise and manage energy without taking full responsibility for the retail Supply relationship.  Today though, building a customer relationship by providing smarter energy supply is a good starting point to create a basis for the new services.  How it plays out for autonomous vehicles that charge themselves in future is perhaps the subject of a future separate article.


Energy users will pick those mobile energy & wider services that make it easy at the best cost point


We all can now see a change to create a whole basis of energy supply that will truly start to fit the needs of this always-online century.  It will converge with transport and form a new adaptive digital infrastructure to underpin a fast changing society.  

Who will be the new competitive winners is unclear, but the opportunity is available to all.



Mark will be participating in the ESG Technology panel at DNV GL Energy Executive Forum, 15-18 May in Miami, USA.  More details at http://energyexecutiveforum.com/ .  We welcome customers and new competitive innovators meeting us there.

Mark engages extensively with competitive energy leaders globally to drive new insight and apply this to the platform enablement by Utiligroup and the wider ESG.



Mark’s energy market insight feed is at  http://www.twitter.com/markcoyleuk

Email today to explore next generation energy supply via mark.coyle@utiligroup.com


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