May 20, 2020

The rise of the online energy marketplace

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Today’s savvy homeowners are increasingly using networked thermostats, app-controlled lighting, and energy-efficient appliances to manage creature comforts and electricity bills. The smart home revolution goes into overdrive when residents buy an electric car—adding a large device-on-wheels to a household load.


Buyers traditionally purchase those smart home tools from a random assortment through a supplier or a website and click-and-mortar stores. But the true power of home energy technology is unleashed when devices are transformed from one-off purchases to an entire program with participation from the utility. That’s when connected energy devices in the home become truly smart.


Utilities (and community choice aggregators) have a vested interest in making sure that residents get cutting-edge, energy resources providing sufficient energy efficiency at the best prices—and buyers are seamlessly enrolled for discounts, special electric rates, and grid services. That explains why utility-managed web stores, also known as a utility online energy marketplace, are popping up all over the country with increasing customer engagement.


These e-commerce sites, still a relatively new phenomenon, already provide equipped access to more than 60 million utility customers, according to GTM research. And Guidehouse Insights reports that they will generate $118.2 million in sales in 2020, growing to $468 million by 2029. Yet, these figures represent only a fraction of the benefit to residents and their energy provider. With the electric-car revolution in progress, the EV charging station is becoming the flagship product of the utility online energy marketplace.


A big, new, flexible load

There are two things to keep in mind about EVs plugging into home power and electricity. First, it’s usually drawing between about six and 10 kilowatts. Tesla cars, by far the most popular, pull as much as 11.5 kW. That’s a lot of juice. Second and perhaps more important is that an EV is commonly parked from the late afternoon when the owner comes home until commute time the next day. However, an electric vehicle only needs a few hours to charge. So there’s a lot of flexibility for when the electric car is pulling power.


A connected JuiceBox smart EV charger can communicate with a utility, automatically shifting the car’s charging time to when the consumer can save money with lower rates—and when the utility can supply clean energy with the least impact on grid resources via JuiceNet Green.


As with “learning” thermostats, or lights that turn-off when nobody is in the room, smart energy management of an EV is not about selling more or less energy. What matters for consumers and utilities alike is to use energy resources wisely.


For utilities, that means spreading the infrastructure investments needed to generate, transmit, and distribute power over more kilowatt-hours. Every new EV will naturally add a demand response, but shifting charging events to the most advantageous time of day is the game-changer for the grid.


Grid infrastructure costs needed to support EVs might go up, but getting electric-car owners using smart chargers means marketplace revenue can climb even higher and faster. Meanwhile, a lower cost per kilowatt-hour makes EV drivers happy.


First things first: to create a seamless, organic way for EV owners to buy and register those smart chargers into a utility program. That’s where utility-owned online energy marketplaces come into play.


Paving the way for utility customer engagement

The grid-enhancing potential for EVs is not possible unless a lot of dots get connected. You need to incentivize the purchase of energy devices with discounts and special rates to make it a no-brainer for consumers. Programs that offer free chargers get the most traction. After the transaction happens, the device needs to be properly installed and connected to the web, with the consumer clearly understanding the benefits.


A utility that can connect those dots is transformed from a seller of generic electrons to a guide and partner in the new era of smart homes and electric vehicles.


There’s a ton of interest in these technologies, but consumers can struggle to know what to buy and what to do next. What might appear to be a utility’s web store for thermostats and home EV chargers becomes an information resource—and a gateway to demand response and load management programs.


JuiceBox Marketplace

At Enel X Way, we have sold over 80,000 Wi-Fi-enabled smart charging stations worldwide, and provided all the tools needed by an energy provider to sell EV chargers in an energy marketplace. But our expertise is latching that e-commerce experience to the use of flagship smart home charger, the JuiceBox.


EV drivers want to quickly get past the hassle of buying and installing an EV charger, and hit the road. An effective utility online energy marketplace allows customers to buy the charger in the online store, exercise an instant rebate and enroll in a utility smart charging program, whether it’s an EV Time-of-Use program or charging behavior load profile study. At best, it’s a friction-less process with just a few clicks to engage the customer.


Enel X Way is marketplace agnostic, and we partner with several platform providers, in addition to offering our tailored JuiceBox Marketplace, for dedicated smart charging programs.


Measuring Utility Marketplace success

Sonoma Clean Power’s marketplace has been running for four years, and has deployed over 3,500 JuiceNet-enabled EV smart chargers. What makes this smart charging program a success is the high levels of customer engagement, with an 85% opt-in rate for energy services.


Another recent example is the Smart Charge Hawaii Marketplace, which offered JuiceBox smart chargers with an instant rebate, bundling online ordering with the smart charge program enrollment terms and conditions. A successful experience with the first purchase in an online energy marketplace makes it easier to re-engage those energy-savvy customers for more of the same.

Interested in learning how Enel X Way is supporting utilities design and implement smart charging programs?

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