Research request: Pure Planet of the future - feedback on products and services over next decades


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Hi everyone

I’m really keen to get some feedback from you about how we, Pure Planet, might evolve over the next few decades.

A ‘few decades’ is quite a long time and as there’s so much that could happen which we don’t yet know, but we've got some ideas, of course!

This is to help me with a research project. I’m nearing the end of a two-year Masters degree at the University of Bath and my final assignment is about the sort of business we might become in a net zero future where we’ve all got air source heat pumps, EVs, smart meters, PV rooftop panels, access to geothermal energy, and so on.

As this is a pretty big area (which covers all sorts of questions about legislation, regulation, distribution) I’m mainly focusing on retail. Especially in regards to  the relationship we have with Members, and the sort of products and services Pure Planet may offer.

I’m also interested in participation and equality, with regard to fuel poverty. And, I’m interested in community (of course!).

You may remember that we are the first UK energy company to subscribe to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals - and that No7 states: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy”

If we imagine that by, say, 2035, Pure Planet is a leader in renewable energy products, helping our Members access and generate renewable energy, powered by tech and smart homes, what follows is a series of possible steps to get there.

The feedback I’d love to get from you is which ones do you support the most? Which of the following do you value?

Feel free to post your thoughts in the replies, or by direct message if you prefer. There’s no right or wrong answer here, by the way. So, no poll this time!

Short term - now and into  the next year or two

Continue to offer renewable energy at affordable prices, continue to encourage Members to engage with their energy usage through the Community and through useful account information such as detailed energy usage, celebrate CO2 reduction, and continue to work with Members on testing new services.

Test the ease of installing and using rooftop PV panels and battery storage. 

Grow EV services to include different types of tariffs, leasing, home charger installation services.

Assist vulnerable Members through effective administration of schemes such as the Warm Home Discount. Improve web support for those on Priority Services Register. Expand partnerships with charities, such as debt charity Stepchange. Create a social tariff.

 

Medium term - by 2030

Offer various ‘tiers’ of rooftop PV, battery, heat pump and EV combinations, depending on Members’ home set up and needs. 

Explore financing options for hardware so it is affordable to Members, and scalable. 

Partner with hardware installers.

Offer a leasing model of PVs/battery so Pure Planet retains ownership and in return for powering homes can sell unused energy back to the grid

Vulnerable Members are, if in receipt of benefits, to join a social tariff with cheaper rates.

Create an opportunity for more well-off members to donate - no more than a few pence per month - into our social tariff fund. 

Pure Planet to facilitate more Government-backed grants, along the same lines as WHD, to encourage adoption of EVs, .

 

Long term - by 2035 and into 2040s

Via a community of homes with PVs, EVs and storage, Pure Planet will facilitate and serve a Membership of ‘prosumers’ - renewable energy flows both ways (and peer to peer between Members).

Services would include - for a monthly fee - all energy needs provided, via our leasing of hardware and/or local hubs (geothermal, solar) where rooftop PVs are not applicable.

Energy storage will enable us to reduce demand at peak times, thereby lowering overall costs and help to socialise the accessibility of renewable energy for all. 

By now via smart tech and peer-to-peer trading, our social tariff scheme also enables Members to share energy with others. 

Thanks for making it this far and taking the time to read! Please do send me any feedback you have in the replies below (or via a DM if you prefer). :relaxed:

My aim is to understand which of the above sounds most appealing to you. What would you like to see us do?


21 replies

Ooh you are awful, all these options.

Well the way I see it, and in some ways I may be shooting myself in the foot here:
 

Short term - now and into  the next year or two

Support most, in order 

1: Continue to offer renewable energy at affordable prices, continue to encourage Members to engage with their energy usage through the Community and through useful account information such as detailed energy usage, celebrate CO2 reduction, and continue to work with Members on testing new services.

2: Assist vulnerable Members through effective administration of schemes such as the Warm Home Discount. Improve web support for those on Priority Services Register. Expand partnerships with charities, such as debt charity Stepchange.

3: Test the ease of installing and using rooftop PV panels and battery storage.


4: Grow EV services to include different types of tariffs, leasing, home charger installation services.
and
5: Create a social tariff.

My reasons are as follows:

1: You could solve the ‘social tariff’ issue by what you already intend to do, offer renewable energy at affordable prices, and by expanding the scope of who qualifies for some form of WHD?

2: PVs aren’t only useful for people with EVs, but people with EVs can use PVs - therefore PVs first, EVs second.

 

Medium term - by 2030

 

1: Explore financing options for hardware so it is affordable to Members, and scalable. 
2: Pure Planet to facilitate more Government-backed grants, along the same lines as WHD, to encourage adoption of EVs, .

3: Partner with hardware installers.

I feel the 3 options above, need to come before you can do the 2 options below:

3: Offer various ‘tiers’ of rooftop PV, battery, heat pump and EV combinations, depending on Members’ home set up and needs. 
4: Offer a leasing model of PVs/battery so Pure Planet retains ownership and in return for powering homes can sell unused energy back to the grid.

I’m also a bit concerned that people may not want to be ‘trapped’ in a long-term lease with their energy provider.

Then you have:

5: Vulnerable Members are, if in receipt of benefits, to join a social tariff with cheaper rates.

6: Create an opportunity for more well-off members to donate - no more than a few pence per month - into our social tariff fund. 

Yes I know I’m a ‘vulnerable member’ but they way I see it, possibly incorrectly, something needs to be done to get the ‘major’ energy consumers into ‘creating’ as well as ‘consuming’ renewable energy, (which I guess ties in nicely to the ‘EV’ users in the short-term section) I work on the assumption that it’s more ‘cost-effective’ that way (location and property permitting.)

 

Long term - by 2035 and into 2040s


I agree with this in the order provided:

Via a community of homes with PVs, EVs and storage, Pure Planet will facilitate and serve a Membership of ‘prosumers’ - renewable energy flows both ways (and peer to peer between Members).

Services would include - for a monthly fee - all energy needs provided, via our leasing of hardware and/or local hubs (geothermal, solar) where rooftop PVs are not applicable.

Energy storage will enable us to reduce demand at peak times, thereby lowering overall costs and help to socialise the accessibility of renewable energy for all. 

By now via smart tech and peer-to-peer trading, our social tariff scheme also enables Members to share energy with others. 


Me

 

Marc, this needs some thought. I will apply my brain over the next few days. It may be there are some other options to consider. For example, Solar panels may be fine for those in Bath and the SW but up here in the NE, despite some misguided people installing them they are not helpful in the long run. Not to the consumer. We are currently short of the technology to make progress but that problem will not last.

What an epic @Marc! You deserve a Masters for all that thought. I’m gonna go typically terse... 

Short-term: Make the tech more accessible to those who are scared of online services.

Longer term: Peer-to-peer sharing of excess energy to PP members at a better rate than the typical high spread between sell and buy-price. A kinda energy Co-op. 

Other ideas are clearly worthy, but didn’t excite me as much as these. 😊 

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I think Gwynd deserves the Masters 😳😳😳👍👍👍👍👏👏👏👏👏👏👏🤣

I think Gwynd deserves the Masters 😳😳😳👍👍👍👍👏👏👏👏👏👏👏🤣

No thank you, getting a BA was enough ‘fun’ - I don’t envy @Marc in the slightest.


 

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I agree with @Bev 🤣

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A really noticeable thing for me, is how the less tech savvy individuals are getting left behind. I mean this in general, with all services. So a huge factor, going forward, is the importance of being mindful of this group. It’s not necessarily a small group, nor just senior citizens. It may be those without devices due to poverty, the vulnerable section unable to use technology, or yes those older who do not wish to embrace technology. But whatever reason, this group will always be there, and it cannot be assumed that they’ll always have someone else there to help them. I think this group is getting left behind, and fear it could get worse, as technology moves so so fast. So, for me, I see this as very high importance. Most of us are very fortunate to be fully independent, brought up using technology, so fully able to embrace services that are moving to this format, but but but it cannot be assumed that everyone will, nor that as we get older, we’ll always be able.

I think the pandemic actually highlighted just how potentially difficult an online life, without High Street, call centres, someone to directly ask a query to, could be for some people. It became more apparent, definitely, that there was a need for this older school style. I fully embrace the new digital approach, and felt thrilled that a positive from the pandemic seemed to be this new way forward, but in reality, it did seem to leave a large demographic relying on others, when they’d previously been fully able and independent to manage.

I always see PP as caring for the customer, so going forwards I think it’s important that that message continues to come across. The Community is a good starting point for those already in tune with tech, but I think the Priority Register thingy (which is obviously offered by all, not just PP) is vital, as is the excellent Step Change, which PP truly embraced. I hope that continues as, just looking in as an outsider, I even felt the comfort, warmth and reassurance of it, as it must be such a terrifying stressful place to be if suddenly you find yourself in such a crisis. Social Tariff funds? Not sure about this. Can see it working if it became the norm for ALL energy providers to have it in place but if it was just one or two, it may put people off joining. Know it’d be optional, but first impressions for some, may be off-putting. I’m just playing devils advocate here, it’s not my own view of such a fund.

Finally, there’s a huge effort to try bring EV to everyone’s attention, but all I hear, even from those usually soooooo welcoming of ways to help the planet and move forwards, is “there’s just not enough charging points”, so “it’s way too soon to buy electric yet” etc. Same with driverless vehicles. IMO, that attracts a much bigger percentage, and could potentially cut out the EV driver stage. Electric driverless vehicles would be the game changer, but 100% on the roads. Mixing vehicles would definitely NOT work. All or nothing IMO. Radical approach, but think it’s the way to go. So even short term, and I think we saw this from the reaction to the EV section being really in your face when the new app was released by PP, I don’t personally think it’s where the majority are right now. It’s way further down on the list of what’s important. 

So, to summarise, accessibility is paramount, so no one is discriminated, and continue to maintain that care for the customer image, that’s keeps PP standing out from so many others.now. EV options yes, but less in the forefront, less priority. 

Hope the feedback helps a tiny way for you, Marc, and good luck! 

Absolutely, @Bev! 👍 

P.S. That’s what I said. 😉  🤣

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Smart a*se 😁😁😁

Well said! 😁

Marc, this needs some thought. I will apply my brain over the next few days. It may be there are some other options to consider. For example, Solar panels may be fine for those in Bath and the SW but up here in the NE, despite some misguided people installing them they are not helpful in the long run. Not to the consumer. We are currently short of the technology to make progress but that problem will not last.

Thanks @G4RHL Yes, no hurry on this. I do appreciate any input/thoughts :relaxed:

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Well...I tried to apply my brain but it was overwhelmed by the size of the remit, so I’ll just have a waffle.
Lovely waffle with syrup mmm..

Sorry I don’t have the time to deal with correcting a huge essay here so if this is a bit disjointed I apologise, (also my typing elbow is faulty and really painful)

Starting with the first line - that is where I really stumbled.

you really need to lose the word affordable, (did you mean competitive?) it’s not what PP’s about nor has it ever been. That line needs a big rethink,  as it stands the ASA would throw it out (and so would I).

I’m going to generalise,  there are some great ideas in there but lets look at the stark reality for the slightly less well off. Where PP need to concentrate their efforts is on becoming an enabler so that people who may be less well off or less savvy are actually able to use some of what’s on offer.

It becomes all about helping people across the barriers.

Two examples spring to mind here, you won’t like what I’m going to write so look away now if easily offended.. The first is PV installations. I wouldn’t say the track record of PP in incentivising people for whom the cost and more importantly the support in helping to make it worthwhile (or helping the perception that it’s worthwhile) has been stellar. If you wanted to encourage it there was a lot you could have done (and still could), and the other example is a TOD tariff for moving usage to where supply outstrips demand. A lot of talk about an EV tariff but no enabling.
TOD tariffs have for some reason been associated almost exclusively with those getting an EV, when they should and could be aimed at everyone. The engineer doing the grid balancing doesn’t know or care whether I’m using that energy to power my hydroponic pot plant farm (more cheaply) by storing in daytime then using at night, or charging my Porsche because I can save a few hundred quid, or using my dryer on a timer because I live in a flat and can’t hang out my washing, or heating my hot tub at night.  So why is the focus on EV users?

There’s also a bit of a general blindness when it comes to TOD tariffs, for example you’ve never supported E7 and always promoted the one rate as being advantageous to all. It certainly isn’t advantageous to grid balancing. All TOD tariffs are a valid tool in reducing carbon emissions.

TOD tariffs tie in well with battery storage too.

My point is  you can offer all sorts of esoteric energy saving solutions but none of them amount to a thing if you don’t support and ENABLE people - that’s all your customers  to take them up by making it as easy as possible to get past the things they see as barriers.

“helping our Members access and generate renewable energy”, should read helping and enabling our Members access and generate renewable energy.

 

Case in point, article on govs green deal on you and yours R4 today, huge percentage being rejected because of stupid (yes stupid) rules like estimated costs being too high because your property is larger than average and costs are based on an average size, not on the size of your property…

I mention this because in a lovely fluffy enabled world an energy company could and should offer help and support by some means to those who wanted to improve their insulation (which is just as important and will remain so for a very long time as for example having Solar Panels installed)

Helping the vulnerable and those who find themselves in difficulty is a tough one because there has to be a balance struck, you are not a charity (although I can’t see why you could not set up a charity too). Assistance to vulnerable and less well off  members should include steering them in the right direction to make sure they are claiming what they are entitled to. I applaud step change and agreeing  payment plans, but at the end of the day if a customer is unfortunate enough to be in dire straits,  I’d rather go with an organisation that does everything they can possibly do before a third party is sent to recover the debt, but that said there are bad people out there who will deliberately defraud so how you discriminate I don’t know.

The next 10 years are going to be very very hard. How do you encourage people to use less or no gas? The barrier is the cost, more so the running costs rather than the infrastructure.

To achieve this two things need to happen, the cost of electricity has to fall (if anyone tells me no, the cost of gas will have to rise, I would agree if it was not for the ensuing riots)

So PP need to concentrate on

Helping/enabling PV installs - What are the barriers? Install cost is by far the largest barrier,  - it won’t pay back in my lifetime is a phrase often heard, but the payback for not doing it will be in your children’s and their children’s lifetimes (but if your roof is pointing the wrong way tough luck)

Finding innovative financial solutions and partnerships to enable (sometimes incremental) changes to efficiency, micro generation, encouraging energy efficient appliances, don’t ignore the smaller things, I may not be able to afford PV, or to rip my boiler out, but I could be persuaded to spend £200 more on a A+ rated tumble drier for example.

Don’t get involved in very early adoption of new tech, and don’t release any new incentive without brainstorming what will happen if it all goes wrong - can you support it?  (think IHD’s - there was no option to refuse but the amount of carbon generated  and stress and extra work caused by teething has far outweighed any advantages, so leave “new” untested tech for the big boys. They have more resources to deal with the early fallout.  

Someone is going to argue that less delay in offering innovative products is important, and I agree but offering something too early can wreck a business. I’m not an analyst I don’t have an answer for that.

In the medium term (10-15 years) Hydrogen distribution could have become an important tool in reducing emissions affordably; the statement by the government that no new gas boilers are to be installed from 2025 has screwed any real hope of Hydrogen conversions becoming a mass reality and it’s now going to be swapped for the mass reality of extreme fuel poverty. Bizarrely it would have been a much smoother and less painful transition and ultimately better for the planet  if the gov  had extended that time and allowed a hydrogen transition time.

Laudable though it is to support it , unless we’ve become a third world country (that’s a whole geo-political discussion by itself), my personal opinion is that the UN’s Sustainable Development  Goal doesn’t have much relevance to a UK national Energy company especially when compared to much poorer nations. I’ll leave that one there…

Much else to do- so apologies if it doesn’t read well or is a bit garbled.

 

 

 

@woz Much good thinking here, and by the kook of it in the early hours! I don’t, with their current efficiency support your thoughts on solar installations, PV (not the disease!). Good in Australia but here Independant research shows you don’t recover your capital cost - at present that is. Like putting a new boiler in, it may produce a saving, but never enough to cover the cost.

Thank you @woz This is amazing feedback :raised_hands:

 

Love this:

I’m going to generalise,  there are some great ideas in there but lets look at the stark reality for the slightly less well off. Where PP need to concentrate their efforts is on becoming an enabler so that people who may be less well off or less savvy are actually able to use some of what’s on offer.

It becomes all about helping people across the barriers.

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@woz Much good thinking here, and by the kook of it in the early hours! I don’t, with their current efficiency support your thoughts on solar installations, PV (not the disease!). Good in Australia but here Independant research shows you don’t recover your capital cost - at present that is. Like putting a new boiler in, it may produce a saving, but never enough to cover the cost.

That was exactly my point, the inability to imagine it paying for itself in a “reasonable” time-frame is a barrier.

Oh I didn’t realise he wanted actual ‘written feedback’ I thought it was just ‘what do you agree with most.’

Ho Hum

Anyway to second something @woz raised:


“The engineer doing the grid balancing doesn’t know or care whether I’m using that energy to power my hydroponic pot plant farm (more cheaply) by storing in daytime then using at night, or charging my Porsche because I can save a few hundred quid, or using my dryer on a timer because I live in a flat and can’t hang out my washing, or heating my hot tub at night.  So why is the focus on EV users?”

I set my washing machine, and my dishwasher to work overnight via timers (normally between 3am and 6am, so they finish roughly when I wake up) I also tend to do my tumbling when necessary, late at night.

 

I agree with a lot of what @woz had to say related to infrastructure.

A big problem is that the cost burden of new technology is placed on the homeowner.  If you already struggle to make ends meet you certainly don’t have any spare money sat around for things like PV or ASHP.  Even replacing your £500 car with an EV isn’t financially practical right now (or for quite a few years to come) and probably logistically impractical too if you wouldn’t have anywhere to charge it (at home or at work).

Another issue is that the homeowner and energy consumer are not always the same.  For a landlord, fitting PV or an ASHP is pure cost.  They get no benefit themselves.  The only way to recoup the costs is to get the most out of government grants and put the rent up.  That then doesn’t help the consumer at all because any energy cost savings are replaced by higher rent.

Even the more financially well off homeowners struggle to justify the costs of installing this new technology.  For example, I have been investigating an ASHP, but it will cost around £12-15k due to the need to replace most of the radiators in the house and have a new water tank.  I will also lose a chunk of garden space for the unit itself as well as extra space in the house for larger water tanks.  The RHI only returns around £8k over 7 years.  I gain no annual cost saving (and in fact would pay a little more) because the ASHP is reportedly 4 times as efficient as my gas boiler but electricity is currently more than 4 times the cost of gas.  Spending £4-7k just to “do the right thing” seems excessive.

Actually delivering the EV or TOD tariff will help a lot of people.  While I am an EV driver I am mostly interested in the tariff for powering my whole house due to charging my battery storage during that period.  Daytime electricity usage would then be a combination of solar and cheap energy stored in the battery.  Surely this tariff is easy to implement and benefits everyone (better grid energy usage and cheaper consumer bills).  I appreciate that this does require smart meters, so their rollout needs to accelerate to those consumers that want or need them.

I wonder if there is more that can be done to move consumers to use make more efficient use of energy.  I get the impression from many posts on this forum that people pay quite a lot for energy and either just accept it or don’t know what they would do to change it).  If we can give people real information on the energy cost of devices and what a more efficient one would save them then maybe that would help.

I agree with a lot of what @woz had to say related to infrastructure.

A big problem is that the cost burden of new technology is placed on the homeowner.  If you already struggle to make ends meet you certainly don’t have any spare money sat around for things like PV or ASHP.  Even replacing your £500 car with an EV isn’t financially practical right now (or for quite a few years to come) and probably logistically impractical too if you wouldn’t have anywhere to charge it (at home or at work).

Another issue is that the homeowner and energy consumer are not always the same.  For a landlord, fitting PV or an ASHP is pure cost.  They get no benefit themselves.  The only way to recoup the costs is to get the most out of government grants and put the rent up.  That then doesn’t help the consumer at all because any energy cost savings are replaced by higher rent.

Even the more financially well off homeowners struggle to justify the costs of installing this new technology.  For example, I have been investigating an ASHP, but it will cost around £12-15k due to the need to replace most of the radiators in the house and have a new water tank.  I will also lose a chunk of garden space for the unit itself as well as extra space in the house for larger water tanks.  The RHI only returns around £8k over 7 years.  I gain no annual cost saving (and in fact would pay a little more) because the ASHP is reportedly 4 times as efficient as my gas boiler but electricity is currently more than 4 times the cost of gas.  Spending £4-7k just to “do the right thing” seems excessive.

Actually delivering the EV or TOD tariff will help a lot of people.  While I am an EV driver I am mostly interested in the tariff for powering my whole house due to charging my battery storage during that period.  Daytime electricity usage would then be a combination of solar and cheap energy stored in the battery.  Surely this tariff is easy to implement and benefits everyone (better grid energy usage and cheaper consumer bills).  I appreciate that this does require smart meters, so their rollout needs to accelerate to those consumers that want or need them.

I wonder if there is more that can be done to move consumers to use make more efficient use of energy.  I get the impression from many posts on this forum that people pay quite a lot for energy and either just accept it or don’t know what they would do to change it).  If we can give people real information on the energy cost of devices and what a more efficient one would save them then maybe that would help.

Thank you @Mark Pocock this is great stuff

A huge thanks to everyone who’s given feedback, both here and privately via DM.

It’s truly appreciated, and it’s also super useful for my dissertation. 

:raised_hands:

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Cheers Marc and sorry that I’ve got nothing to add your great research request followed by some great feedback.

I fall into the less tech requiring software updates all the better camp. I will of course get enabled when theres a real need to do so. I have my eye on what will be required when we move and whats in situ. With an early objective for switching from gas to air source heat options. Other than that I’m a sit on the fence type and will rely on advice via this great platform. 

Cheers Marc and sorry that I’ve got nothing to add your great research request followed by some great feedback.

I fall into the less tech requiring software updates all the better camp. I will of course get enabled when theres a real need to do so. I have my eye on what will be required when we move and whats in situ. With an early objective for switching from gas to air source heat options. Other than that I’m a sit on the fence type and will rely on advice via this great platform. 

No probs at all @Strutt G I hear your thoughts re ‘less tech the better’. That is a valid view and is actually quite useful too. Not everyone wants to be an ‘early adopter’ and get their hands dirty with the tech. :thumbsup:

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