Sustainable Cities & Next Generation Utilities: The Future of Energy

Branding the Future of Energy – Next generation utilities and Sustainable Cities

 

‘Prosumer’, ‘smart grid’ and ‘IoT’ are some of the first terms that come to mind when considering the sweeping changes that have challenged utilities to make the investments that will affect their future sustainability and ultimately, their survival.

The liberalisation of energy markets in most parts of the world has also forced established power companies to put aside their egos and take their competition seriously. Before, consumers had little to no choice as to where their power came from and how and when they paid for it. Today, customers are in a better position to make demands and select a service provider that will best meet their wants and needs today, tomorrow and in the future.

“Today, customers are in a better position to make demands and select a service provider that will best meet its wants and needs today, tomorrow and in the future”

According to Sarah Keegan, head of Brand at OVO Energy in the UK, “Energy companies have historically experienced little competition, such as the ‘Big Six’ who dominated 98% of the UK market. Today, new technology is breaking down barriers to entry in every part of the energy economy and only those who are efficient, innovative and focused on the customer will survive. But that is just the start.

“In an era of increasing choice and convenience, customers increasingly choose to do business with companies and brands whose values they share. The brands that really succeed will those that can build loyalty with their customers. Impersonal, complicated services will be pushed aside by emerging competitors that strive to make energy effortless. The brands that do good will thrive, especially those who deliver on customers’ expectations to be environmentally and socially responsible. Offering an experience that is built on trust and respect will increasingly be the foundation of long-lasting loyalty between energy companies and customers they serve.”

Keegan noted that technology is fundamental to the company’s growth and innovation, which enables the team at OVO Energy to implement small improvements across every element of the customer experience. The energy provider believes in giving customers complete control over their gas and electricity. The OVO app and OVO Live products digitise everyday energy usage, making it relevant and personal for families within their home.

This modern, personalised approach is advocated by Martin Stadler, director of Brand Consulting at EdenSpiekermann, who firmly believes that branding is about having relevance in people’s daily lives.

“It is as important for energy brands just as any other sector,” says Stadler.

Keegan added: “For our team combining technology, innovation and creativity enables the simplest solutions to be designed from the biggest ideas. OVO was the first company to launch Smart PAYG+, an app that empowered prepayment customers to top up their energy from their home, which resulted in over 100,000 new customers joining us in the first year of launch.”

 

A brand is a company’s promise

 

In an article authored by Stadler, he explains that a brand is not defined by a sentence on a piece of paper, but by what reaches people’s hearts and minds via experience.

He says: “Don’t worry too much about having the right tool. Think about what role your brand can play in the lives of the people you address. If you are not relevant to their lives, why should they care about you?

“Think about the impact your brand can have. Then formulate a concise and relevant (from the user’s perspective) promise. This will be the guiding light and foundation of anything you build – be it communication, product features, brand design or anything else. You must live up to that promise to create a compelling user experience. If you succeed in doing this, people will like you and talk about you – and you’ll reap the rewards.”

 

 

Creating a sustainable brand for the future

 

Providing a relevant, timely and reliable service requires that a company’s inherent values and pillars upon which it has built its brand, is evident in all of its activities, adopted and practised by its employees and that it core infrastructure enables it to deliver on its brand promise.

“To ascertain a sustainable brand for the future, countries, cities and utilities have to first ensure their overall practices are truly sustainable; brands cannot be built on fake identities,” says Ayoola Brimmo of the Nordic Innovation Hub – Abu Dhabi.

“Resource assessment is the most effective step in ensuring true sustainability. Upon quantifying resources and their depletion rates, unsustainable practices can be identified and new strategies can be drawn to navigate such practices towards sustainable ventures.”

“The green-energy brand is energy is not a new concept for cities and countries, especially in regions that reliant on tourism”

Commenting on energy branding and its practice outside of developed energy markets, Brimmo, added: “[Energy branding] is a relatively new term in markets outside Europe. I would say, although it has been implicitly applied, the term generally has no concrete meaning in these markets.

“On the end-user level in developing energy markets, like Africa for instance, no consideration is given to energy branding as there is barely enough in those regions – scarcity ensures energy generated would always have buyers even in the absence of marketing. However, at the governmental level, the green-energy brand is energy is not a new concept for cities and countries, especially in regions that reliant on tourism.”

 

Reykjavik – the ‘Green City’

 

Iceland is one example where green energy is important to Iceland’s brand as a whole. Dagur B. Eggertsson, the Mayor of Reykjavik, stated that Iceland’s climate is innate to the county’s image.

“It goes with the name,” said Eggertsson.  “Our renewable energy generation is perfectly in line with that image of cleanliness and plays an important role in our appeal to investors wanting to utilise clean energy sources. In the case of data-farms, the cold air also reduces the need for cooling and thus helps us even further.”

The city of Reykjavik is being modelled as a ‘Green City’, where virtually all electricity is generated from renewable sources namely, hydro and geothermal. The next step in its strategy towards sustainability and carbon neutrality in the year 2040 is a high quality electric public transportation system and electric vehicles.

What Iceland has managed to do is focus and draw attention to the strengths of its brand – a concept called ‘Ingredient Branding’ – the ability to highlight a component of a system that is widely accepted to be superior.

This concept is currently demonstrated by oil companies highlighting the additives they add to gasoline to increase vehicle performance. In the energy sector too, utility companies are very focused on the portion of their energy portfolio which is generated by renewable sources. This type of branding is a way for energy companies, who effectively deliver the same core product, to differentiate themselves from one another. W

 

Pic: Elliðaárdalur Park in Reykjavik, Iceland

 

Notes:

  1. Written for Engerati.com

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