Towards a smart energy system: why people’s needs must be front and centre

By Mara Dec 08, 2021

Scientists and experts worldwide have agreed that reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is the planet’s best chance of tackling global warming before it is too late.

In the journey to radically reduce our emissions and reach these essential goals, smart home technology will play a pivotal role. In combination with time-of-use tariffs, smart home technologies can help households save on their energy bills by using energy when there’s less demand on the grid and alleviate its pressure. That’s why they are a crucial part of most government’s strategies to ensure our future electricity supply is clean, affordable and secure.

However, getting homes ready for net zero will require consumers to understand the value of smart home technologies and make changes to how they use energy in their homes. Smart energy products and services are already on the market, but they are not yet mainstream, and not everyone sees their potential and feels confident about them.

Smart home technology: a survey by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux

The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux recently ran a survey to find out what people currently understand about smart energy products and services and the barriers to engaging with them.

The survey’s results showed that people’s confidence in smart home technology is not at the highest level, as for most categories, only around half of the people felt confident they understood these services. For instance, only under a third (29%) of respondents said they would likely use time-of-use tariffs linked to smart appliances. In the 18-24 age group, this rises to 49%, but in the 65+ age group, this falls to 16%, showing how older people might feel less confident in these new smart technologies.

Why are time-of-use tariffs essential for the energy system of the future?

The mass uptake of smart home technology together with time-of-use tariffs can play a big role in reducing demand, and therefore lessening the pressure on UK energy infrastructure.

A time-of-use tariff is an electricity tariff where energy suppliers offer different prices at different times of the day. The price differences correspond to changes in demand for electricity, referred to as peak or off-peak periods. Time-of-use tariffs can be static, with set peak and off-peak slots each day, or dynamic, with prices varying up to every half-hour based on the wholesale pricing.

Time-of-use tariffs have been introduced to take pressure from the grid by using energy at off-peak times, offering a number of benefits for both the electricity system as a whole and individuals: energy companies offer lower prices at off-peak times so they can better manage demand and make a clean energy grid easier and cheaper to manage; while end customers are incentivised to shift electricity usage outside of peak times to save on their energy bills.

The Citizens Advice’s survey also suggests consumers often find offers from companies selling smart home technology difficult to understand. 11% of respondents claimed that when asked to sign up for energy products and services, their biggest barrier was not knowing whether these offers were right for them or finding them unclear.

Knowledge is key

Customer engagement is vital to achieving a mass-market adoption of smart home technologies. Smart energy companies need to empower their customers with knowledge and insights, helping them fully understand their products and their potential value and benefits for the energy system as a whole.

That’s why at Moixa, we are keen on bringing customers along on the green journey with us. We want to offer them specific insights on the energy industry – for example by writing about the importance of flexibility services to support the UK grid – and effectively communicate the features of their optimised batteries, such as the benefits of all year optimisation with Moixa’s GridShare software in combination with time-of-use tariffs.

Another important aspect companies should consider is offering quality customer support to build trust and lead customers to a deeper understanding of their products. Moixa’s internal survey showed that 63% of the respondents (among our 4.8kWh & Moixa optimised battery systems customers) listed customer support as the part of the service that stood out for them. We have a direct customer support line, as well as a helpful Help Centre section where customers can find all information about our product range and can troubleshoot independently if they wish to do so.

People’s needs must be front and centre in the energy transformation. Encouraging active consumer participation is vital to unlocking the value of distributed energy systems, and being able to support consumers in the green journey will prove essential in the decarbonisation challenge.