Lightning Lab Electric used the finale of the programme as the starting point for larger, industry-wide, conversations… an opportunity to connect and spark the great collective mind of the electricity industry so that, in future, it can host even more collaborative and innovative solutions.
In the run-up to the LLE Demo Day, our guests submitted their thoughts around the biggest challenges currently facing the electricity industry. After collating all of the responses, four topics emerged.
These themes were the following:
- Regulatory Environment
- Innovation Mindset
- Consumer Behaviour
- And Environmental Priority
We had twelve teams working on these and we’ve highlighted one team from each category for a brief summary of the day’s discussions below.
How might we better align the regulatory environment with innovation to improve the industry and people’s lives?
Senior Innovation Consultant, James Fuller: Our table discussed the impact that government regulations have on the ability of people in lower-income groups to take advantage of new technology and innovation, in particular, the adoption of renewable energy sources is lower within this decile, partly due to the cost of equipment. Our idea was that government could lease personal electricity generation equipment to people in those groups, and allow them to sell back any excess power they generate to the highest bidder – effectively creating a free market where individuals generate electricity and then determine the price at which to offer that to the wider market – disintermediating incumbent retailers.
This market would not be limited to NZ and would extend across country boundaries, essentially turning electricity into its own form of currency. Transfer of ‘electricity’ between people in countries and territories would be facilitated by using blockchain technology, which would provide a global decentralised ledger of all electricity generated and ‘sold’ on the market. Those purchasing electricity from these ‘generators’ could choose from a broad portfolio of sources, knowing that paying for electricity from a small producer/generator in an emerging economy would help support that local ecosystem.
How might we foster a collective mindset that supports innovation for a more flexible and resilient industry?
Innovation Consultant, Jonnie Haddon: We had a very interesting group who identified that energy providers all have access to rich data from smart meters and this could be a powerful tool to drive innovation in the sector if it was available to a wider audience. After exploring a variety of ways which could be used to make consumer data freely available, including for potential future technologies, the group concluded that the data belongs to the consumer and should be a consumer decision to make that data available.
The solution was to introduce a data permission layer between the consumer and the retailer. The consumer could then easily provide others access to their data. Doing so would open them up to potential incentives (such as payments or rewards) from the market wanting to use their data, as well as being on the forefront for future innovations.
How might we better understand and adapt to changing consumer behaviour?
Innovation Consultant, Aaron Power: How might we better understand and engage with customer needs?
Our group focused on the sub-problem of – “How do we motivate customer feedback and engagement to inform decision-making and strategic planning?” Currently, people simply don’t care about how their power gets from A-B, they only care that the lights come on when they turn the switch. This lack of engagement hides true customer needs and desire which (in part) stagnates the industry’s growth and development. Following much debate and ideation, my group concluded that they would gamify the feedback loop between the power provider and customer through tracking and encouragement of good power usage habits and diminish the damaging ones through a play experience.
For example, if you reduce your power bill or switch to renewable sources, the customer’s in-game car would get upgraded and fuelled fit for racing in the digital world. The repercussions of a customer’ actions become far more relatable, tangible and clear.
How might we use our environmental goals to shape new innovations in the industry?
Head of Operations, Amelia Devine: Our group of industry experts came to the unanimous decision to focus on ‘what the NZ energy sector could do to solve Global Warming, for all humanity’. No small feat. After much deliberation and thought-provoking discussion, we came to the creative solution of looking at further progressing technology developments in the storage of energy. Making tech more efficient, cost-effective and motivating for consumers.
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