Around the world, ordinary people are taking charge of their energy future. In New York—home of inSided’s US headquarters—apartment dwellers are trading clean-energy credits with each other. In China in 2013, citizens successfully protested the construction of a uranium-processing plant. And in the Netherlands, utility Eneco is leveraging the social web to engage its customers in a novel way.
What’s driving Eneco’s approach is the recognition that the next 100 years of energy will look very different from the last 100. Energy is not only becoming cleaner, but more distributed: In California, for example, a new rooftop solar array is switched on every seven minutes.
With that distribution of energy generation come new opportunities for people to own their relationship to energy. In other words, individuals can now both produce and consume energy in ways that work for them.
Recognizing this seismic shift, Eneco activated a community to better engage its customers. It’s about changing the perception of a utility from a commodity seller to a service provider, Eneco CFO Guido Dubbeld told us.
“We strongly believe that service is our future,” he says. “Services and commodities are totally different things. This change requires new skills of our people and an open culture where all units are in contact with each other and the customer.”
Eneco doesn’t use its community for service requests: Rather, it encourages conversation between its customers on topics as varied as thermostat settings and billing queries. Eneco moderators step in to address questions that customers can’t answer for each other.
Some of the most popular areas of the community are Service Questions, Finance, and General Questions About Toon (Eneco’s smart thermostat). Each of these subsections has hundreds of individual topics and thousands of comments, demonstrating how engaged Eneco’s customers are when they have an opportunity to interact with each other and with Eneco moderators.
Traditionally, utilities operated at a remove from their customers; their role was simply to produce and distribute energy. Now, with energy decisions in the hands of ordinary citizens, utilities are increasingly seeking to collaborate with their customers, rather than simply sell electricity to them.
By helping consumers use power more efficiently, Eneco and other forward-thinking utility companies are improving NPS, lowering costs, and conserving resources—a triple-bottom-line win that illustrates the power of community.