Opower: Transforming the Way Utilities Relate to Their Customers

Daniel Yates, CEO & Founder Whenever a power plant is setup near the vicinity of a village, town, or a city, a big part of diverse population, utility organizations and government are benefited from it. However, many neglect to acknowledge the adverse effects of carbon emission and inefficient energy consumption. The International Energy Agency (IEA), Paris-based autonomous organization which facilitates the global energy dialogue, sheds more light on this reality. According to IEA, the use of low-carbon fuels and technologies is on the rise, and the share of non-fossil fuels in the total mix is set to increase from 19 to 25 percent by 2040. This trend confirmed what the IEA calls a “tantalizing hint”, on how the economic growth can systematically translate into higher carbon emissions. The good news is utility organizations have the technology and tools today to change the trajectory of their industry to a whole new, efficient, and environmental-friendly paradigm. The Arlington, VA headquartered Opower (NYSE:OPWR) has already embarked on a journey to transform this vision into a reality.

“Our capabilities and offerings are built at the nexus of a cloud-based platform, big data, and behavioral science, which aid utilities around the world to reduce energy consumption and improve their relationship with their customers,” says Daniel Yates, CEO and Founder, Opower. With a mission to transform the way the world approaches household energy conservation, the firm is helping its consumers to curb energy use and costs, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Start of the Expedition

Opower was founded in 2007, where the company partnered with their first client from a rented desk in San Francisco. “It has been a roller coaster ride since then,” exclaims Yates. From their onset, the company has grown into a commendable capitalized business with over 550 employees and offices in Arlington, San Francisco, London, Singapore, and Tokyo. The clientele of Opower is embellished with the names such as Commonwealth Edison, Duke, First Energy, National Grid, PG&E, Southern California Edison, and Southern Company, as well as E.ON, EDF, and TEPCO internationally.

Various organizations are willing to put their trust in Opower owing to the unique functionality of its platforms and solutions that are building a stage to redefine the relationship between utilities and their customers. “Unlike legacy hardware solutions, we offer a cost-effective means of engagement, including energy efficiency, behavioral demand response, and smart thermostats, across a utility’s entire customer base,” adds Yates.

Unlike legacy hardware solutions, we offer a cost-effective means of engagement, including energy efficiency, behavioral demand response, and smart thermostats, across a utility’s entire customer base

Saving Energy in a Smart Way

Energy is not all about consuming, but saving too. With various slogans such as, “Today’s wastage is tomorrow’s shortage” resonating at every corner of the world, the need is to act fast in a smart fashion. Opower’s solutions deliver large-scale energy savings quickly and reliably, yielding more kWh across a territory than other approaches. This helps utilities to meet ambitious energy efficiency mandates while maintaining cost effectiveness. Patricia K. Poppe, VP Customer Operations at Consumers Energy, the public utility organization who provides natural gas and electricity, highlights a vital feedback after the company leveraged the solutions of Opower. According to Patricia, the firm successfully bridged the gap between them and their users as they gave them reliable platforms to increase the energy efficiency. “We are using Opower solutions as a precursor to smart meters, which is helping us to build profound relationship with our customers on the roots of mutual trust,” she adds. To stay miles ahead of its competitors in saving energy, Opower brought Demand Response that further shortens the gap between utility and end-users and provides means to avoid power consumption

Sitting on the Largest Repository of Energy Data

Various industries, today are weaving data to streamline their operations, and utility sector is no different from any—developing unparallel opportunities to address customers and environment. “As utilities deploy smart grid technologies, the volume of data they produce each day increases more than 3000-fold,” says Yates. Leveraging their data can unlock the viable potential of the industry. “Our Data Analytics Engine capitalizes on the largest repository of energy data—currently spanning more than 52 million households and businesses,” adds Yates. The analytics engine of the company, Opower 6 can import massive and diverse data sets into one system, which is essential to unearth the customer value that generally remains trapped in disjointed legacy technology. Opower 6 extracts both structured and unstructured data from a range of sources including utility customer systems, meter data management systems, CRM systems, and third-party data sources.
“This data is validated and cleaned using techniques that have been shaped by years of experience of working with over 100 clients,” says Yates.

Opower 6 is optimized for large amounts of time-series data and analytic processing, and can run analytics on billions of meter reads per minute to deliver customers and utility insights in real-time with sub-second latencies. The engine runs hundreds of Opower algorithms that process utility data, third-party data, and customer behavioral data to power millions of personalized communications of utility customers on the Opower platform. “With our analytics engine, we perform sophisticated segmentation in real-time, tailor content, and trigger messages specific to each individual customer,” says Yates. Opower 6 is also capable of delivering millions of outbound messages in short time frames in order to meet the time sensitive objectives of utilities. “Our system synchronizes delivery of content across all channels including email, direct mail, SMS, IVR, web, mobile, and CSR interfaces.” Interactions are automatically fed into the analytics and automation engines in order to dynamically change content and channel.

Opower is also acclaimed for its customer data warehouse, which fulfills the need of having a centralized repository for a customer data, customer interaction data, operational data, and third party data. The warehouse is built on leading technologies like Hadoop and HBase, and provides utilities a unified view of customer attributes, behaviors, and trends. In today’s scenario, it is quite evident that organizations crave for having an in-depth knowledge of their data and ways to weave it. For them, Opower has launched customer intelligence as part of the Flex release, a business intelligence service that aggregates customer information from multiple utility systems and third-party sources alongside data on customer interactions with Opower’s digital channels. “Customer intelligence is comported to each client’s market segmentation schemes to highlight behavioral insights relevant to other marketing and customer outreach activities at the utility,” reveals Yates.

There is no denying of the fact that engaged customers are satisfied customers. Bill Advisor, a service offered by Opower allows organizations to achieve same results with their end users. With Bill Advisor, utilities can improve their bottom line by increasing self-service, reducing call volumes, and motivating customers to save energy in the moments that count.

Building a Happier Tomorrow

Providing solutions and platforms for the betterment of tomorrow is not enough, until everyone joins hands and makes it as their common mission. In this light, Opower hosts an annual event called PowerUp, a place where hundreds of leaders gather to discuss the most pressing issues the utility industry faces today, and the innovative options available to address them. With such leaders taking the charge and Opower setting an example to enhance efficiency in the energy industry; one can optimistically say, “a happier tomorrow is underway.”


Arlington, VA

Daniel Yates, CEO & Founder

Opower's customer engagement platform positions utilities as trusted energy advisors to the customers by combining data management, insightful analytics, and behavioral science