State after state is deregulating electricity, forcing cooperatives to offer lower prices to be competitive with retail providers. Homes boasting more energy efficiency and a growing interest in green technology flattens load growth, and many energy co-ops have sought new revenue through value-added services.
Cooperatives that are recognizable, trusted brands with broad consumer relationships are in a unique position to offer services that will improve member satisfaction and retention. Studies show homeowners want choice, so offering services members can choose to participate in increases their satisfaction, and J.D. Power has found increased member satisfaction means improved ROE.
Innovative Energy Sources
The proliferation of electric-hungry devices and smart home technology has increased demand for energy, but emerging technologies make it easier and cheaper than ever for homeowners to incorporate green energy. Solar panel prices have dropped more than 70 percent since 2009, and saw an increase in global implementation by 50 percent in 2016.
Device-addicted Millennials, who spend 90 hours a month using smartphone apps – also have the greatest interest in smart homes. Eighty-six percent are willing to pay up to 20 percent more in mortgage or rental payments for smart home technology, such as smart thermostats, according to a Wakefield Research study. Millennials have also passed Baby Boomers as the largest component of the U.S. workforce, and are interested in green energy. Fifty-six percent indicated a desire to incorporate solar panels, according to an Accenture consumer survey.
The stage has been set for partnerships between co-ops and affinity partners in offering new services to consumers, between technological advances and grid modernization. Value-added services can fall under three main categories: energy services, home services and information services. Energy services can include items as simple as surge protection, lighting, weatherproofing or as complex as energy storage and electric vehicle charging.
Energy services goes hand-in-hand with information services, such as home energy management systems, energy reports and real-time usage information through analysis of smart meter data. Consumers can manage consumption and costs through real-time data. Fifty percent of Millennials will pay more for real-time information and 61 percent want an app that remotely monitors their energy usage and controls home elements.
Home services is a developing market that includes home inspection, landscaping, emergency home repair plans and bundled services, such as home security systems. Cooperatives can use collected data to anticipate member needs and move into that space before startups.
Home Repair Plans Popular Value-Added Services
Consumers who received an emergency home repair plan through their cooperatives rated their provider higher than those who didn’t have policies. This was an increase of 40 percent for gas providers and 36 percent for electric providers, according to a HomeServe USA survey. In addition, 59 percent of those who don’t currently have policies would have an improved opinion of their energy provider if they did offer a repair plan, while more than half said it would be appropriate for their co-op to offer one. More than 80 percent said a co-op should inform consumers what repairs won’t be covered by the co-op.
Cooperatives have a leg up on services in all of these areas through their connections to consumers’ homes and the huge amount of data collected regularly. Investing in value-added services can increase operating margins and reduce attrition.
HomeServe USA partners with energy providers to offer home warranties, complementing other energy services offerings and providing reliable and convenient repair services for home electric, gas, water and sewer lines. To find out how HomeServe can expand your home services offerings, contact us.