Is diversification the future of the utilities industry?

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Perhaps it’s to do with the time of year but my thoughts have recently turned to change. To better habits and losing weight, to being more patient and disciplined. Yes, I think it’s to do with the time of year.

Personal change isn’t the only thing that might be brought about by the renouvellement of the calendar. Many a business change has no doubt been planned in boardrooms throughout the country but to what end? Happier customers? Higher profits? Or perhaps a completely new piece of the market.

In a recent conversation with John Hutchins of EDF’s innovative Blue Lab, he told me about their new project involving smart home monitoring platform Howz and went into detail about how it is already giving hundreds of families greater peace of mind when it comes to their loved ones and the support that they can gain while continuing to live independently.

I’m sure everyone reading this will be able to relate to how strong the urge for independence can be in our parents and grandparents. Too often you hear of a trip or fall after the fact with the insistence that they don’t want to be a burden offering no consolation whatsoever. There was always a balance to be struck between giving someone the adequate level of care yet maintaining a polite level of distance so as not to become too involved in their life.

It stands to reason that someone such as John with his focus on the Smart Home would play an instrumental role in bringing this project to life. It’s clever for two reasons. Firstly, EDF are already present in so many homes across Europe, it would be no burden at all for their customers to further ingratiate them into their homes should they deem this new product to be of value.

The second reason I think this is a shrewd move is because it allows EDF to diversify their product offering and open up a previously untapped piece of the market. It’s taking the very emotive subject of people’s loved ones and in offering peace of mind and comfort, they are also ingraining themselves more deeply into people’s lives. Why wouldn’t it be EDF energy that powers the EDF sensors in your loved one’s home?

Another example of this diversification comes in the form of their low-carbon vehicle partnership with Nissan. By leveraging the existing relationship of energy supplier and customer, EDF have been able to strike a deal that will see the two companies explore the potential that recycled EV batteries will have when it comes to demand side management.

By converting the batteries to commercial storage use, the partners will be able store electricity in the batteries and then release back into the grid at times of high demand. This will open up new realms of possibility when it comes to onsite generation, flexibility of use and creating new revenue streams.

Going one-step further it also has the potential to get so many more people throughout the UK and Europe engaged with their energy consumption habits. As the push for EVs continues, a better way to interest people in these vehicles is to show them not only the potential benefits they have for the environment but also for their wallets. Giving people the opportunity to store their own energy and sell it back in, or trade it between houses in a decentralised environment has me very excited for a greener future.

I’ve chosen EDF as the examples for this article because they offer one good example of diversification in both software and hardware. There are of course many more examples that spring to mind, some have already been adopted such as Northumbrian Water Group’s development of an Alexa Skill. Others are no-doubt being discussed but haven’t yet surfaced. For example, I see huge potential for a partnership between an energy supplier, battery manufacturer and housing developer to build a relationship on the creation of virtual power-plants.

What I love about diversification is the opportunity go beyond your perceived potential. By incorporating the skills of others into your standard offering you’re able to address challenges that would previously have been insurmountable. This will no doubt benefit you as a business but, as we’ve seen from the examples listed above, there are more beneficiaries than that.

Whether you care most about money, dream of a sustainable future or just want to know that your loved ones are safe at home. An innovative use of diversification makes all of these dreams a reality.

17 Dec