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ESG CEO Matthew Hirst discusses the technologies driving net zero. Image: ESG.
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COP26 Spotlight: How ESG is enabling a smarter energy revolution

ESG CEO Matthew Hirst discusses the technologies driving net zero. Image: ESG.

Around the world, ESG’s energy software platform supports more than 21 million customers, and it is set to continue the rollout, helping to underpin smart meters, optimise market entry, manage assets and more.

As the COP26 climate conference kicks off, Current± caught up with ESG’s CEO Matthew Hirst to find out what makes the company’s offering unique.

What's the role of competitive retail energy in the path to net zero?

It’s clear that retail customers want to take control of their energy costs, reduce their usage, and secure the benefits that new technologies bring. This of course needs change – and this means energy companies need to change more. I believe we’ll see more change in the next 10 years than we have done in the last 50 years. Personally, I don't think there's ever been a more exciting time for the energy market - and consumers feel that in the energy market.

There are several reasons for that, and at ESG we are innovating on behalf of our customers - the energy companies, so that they can operate efficiently in an automated fashion in what is a complex industry and is about to get even more complex.

The amount of data available about consumer behaviour is exploding. There is more and more choice for customers, and everybody wants a more streamlined service. Competitive retailers are right at the heart of this because they own the relationship with the end consumer.

What's your view of smart metering is the foundation for participation in the use of energy?

As one of my former chairman used to say, if you can't measure it, you can’t manage it. He was talking about business in general, but it is very true of smart meters.

We're used to the energy market operating in an estimated reading fashion, we might be lucky to get one actual meter reading a year. We get bill shocks as consumers, as we're either in credit or in debit with our suppliers. If we owe them money, it can take at least a year and the bill shoots up for the next year as you're paying it off. Or conversely, someone else has got hold of your money. It's not a great way to operate.

I think the energy market is behind where it should be. But the good news is that it’s catching up. Smart meters are absolutely the cornerstone for all the technology that we're installing in our homes. We can start to understand when and how and why we're using energy so we can take action on it.

The evolution of the energy spiral. Image: ESG.
The evolution of the energy spiral. Image: ESG.

What technologies do you see making a major contribution in the journey to net zero?

The key thing to this is that it's already starting to happen. And with all the technology that's coming in, it's adding complexity for consumers. But technology is important to also simplify this and it's really important that energy retailers and energy suppliers embrace it.

If you look at the announcements made by Boris and the government recently, including petrol and diesel cars being eradicated, gas boilers will be eradicated, there's a lot of change coming. And we all need a more coherent approach towards heat pumps, EVs, battery storage, solar in the home.

This becomes powerful for the consumer, but also potentially daunting. We need someone to come in and simplify all of this on behalf of consumers.

And how is ESG mobilising to enable those who will deliver that journey for customers?

We're constantly innovating, and our software is at the heart of the UK smart meter rollout. It's at the heart of most energy retailer systems.

We're continuing to invest in innovative new technology, which is helping our customers to digitise quicker so that they can deliver a more personalised, streamlined experience to consumers.

Where does ESG see its global expansion in supporting its customers?

We work in the world's leading deregulated markets, across North America, Japan, and the UK. We're increasingly working with our multinational customers in taking them into the other markets that we operate. We're entering new markets ourselves, and deregulation is happening in new markets. The Philippines, for instance, are deregulating and several others like Singapore.

In the markets where we already operate we're seeing lots of innovation. If you look at the UK, we've got faster switching coming in next year which will be great for consumers.

Huge changes are happening to the structure of the Scandinavia markets, they're moving much more towards the model that's already adopted in the UK. There's a lot going on internationally and we're pleased to already be across most of the large international markets with competition, and we'll be entering more.

Do you find it's helpful to have a prominent position on the UK market and such a strong background into the UK market when you then look to others?

We’re really proud of what's happening and has happened in the UK market. We are very quick to kick ourselves in the UK, but if we look at the innovation that's happening here with new greener technologies, the way that the deregulated market has been working has been a beacon to other places and how our smart metering system is the most advanced in the world that is currently being rolled out.

I absolutely think the UK is a world leader when it comes to energy, energy management, innovation, and technology.

What kind of business culture or employment models support delivering ESG's objectives?

We all need to acknowledge that the clock isn't going back to 2019. Everybody has had to work differently to achieve what we need and to deliver the service for our customers. We were right on the front foot when it came to flexible working, hybrid working, transitioning everyone to working from home without missing a beat, and in terms of the service we provide to customers. And let's face it, we're not going back.

The marketplace for technology companies to attract new talent is as thirsty as it's ever been. It's important to get that balance right. We need to put the people first, maintain the culture, whilst accepting that we're not going to see everybody all the time as we used to do.

We're a people centric business, and we're listening to what they say. We have an office, but if people don't want to get together that's fine.

It is nice to get people together from time to time and bounce ideas off each other. I think it is such a delicate balance, and one that I think we're getting right at the moment.

What do you think makes ESG energy's offering unique in the industry?

We are the innovators at the heart of our customers businesses, we're helping them to manage complex data, the complex choreography of information that needs to be shared with lots of other organisations and distribution companies, metering companies, trading companies, settlement systems and many others. Because we do that on behalf of so many people in the industry, we help our customers to be more efficient, more effective, and more automated than their competitors.

We continue to strive forward in that to invest in automation and cloud technology. And we're very excited about the future because of that.

Editorial

Molly Lempriere Deputy Editor, Current±

Molly Lempriere is deputy editor at Solar Media, responsible for its UK-facing publications Solar Power Portal and Current±.

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