Utilities embrace e-commerce in bid to boost efficiency

In an era of dramatic change, utilities across the U.S. are increasingly focused on engaging customers and finding new revenue as people demand more control over their electricity use.

One potentially valuable way of doing this is through e-commerce, or allowing customers to shop for energy products online — from light bulbs to thermostats to cashing in on energy efficiency rebates — directly through the utility.

Simple Energy, a small Colorado-based firm using software to “fundamentally change how energy … and people engage,” offers a variety of platforms for utilities to connect with ratepayers. Last year, it launched Marketplace, which aims to improve upon a staple of utility offerings: the efficiency rebate.

Utilities offer discounts on energy-saving products like LED lights or smart thermostats to encourage ratepayers to reduce energy use, which also helps utilities meet state-level efficiency targets. The challenge is that these discounts have traditionally been offered as post-purchase, mail-in rebates — a type of transaction that has not kept pace with today’s panache for online shopping.

Despite being offered what amounts to free money, consumers rarely take advantage of these kinds of rebates, studies show. Only 7 percent of consumers took advantage of an appliance rebate in the prior year, according to a 2014 study by Nielsen. Participation for other energy-efficient equipment was even lower, at 4 percent.

Read more (Midwest Energy News)