Fresh off the back of a trial with Northern Powergrid, gamification firm GenGame is ramping up what its consumer-facing demand side response app has to offer. The app incentivises domestic demand side response through opportunities to win prizes, a points system and mini-games.
It brings together EVs, solar PV and battery storage, providing information such as personalised solar forecasts and charging insights, helping consumers to shift their energy consumption.
The firm is also trialling vehicle-to-grid with Ecotricity consumers, adding to its current EV offerings.
Stephane Lee-Favier, GenGame CEO, spoke to Current± about the evolution of GenGame since the Northern Powegrid project, working with suppliers and the best way to incentivise domestic demand response.
How does the GenGame app work?
What we’re trying to do is build a mobile app platform that we then sell to the supplier.
The two key things about it are that it’s designed for an everyday user over someone who is knowledgeable about energy. The logic is that a lot of low carbon tech is becoming mainstream. Smart meters are being rolled out, lots of people have solar and there’s interest in electric vehicles and domestic storage. Over the next few years these will continue growing into homes of people who are not your typical tech or energy expert. If you look at a lot of the consumer interfaces for those technologies, they often look like mini control rooms. Our focus is very much on making it engaging, making it consumer focused, making it simple and making it fun.
Then the second thing is bringing all these technologies into one place. Consumers don’t want multiple energy apps to manage their battery, their EV charging and their solar. There’s value in bringing those into one place. Things like demand flexibility mean you want to look at controlling a lot of these devices in one place in a coordinated fashion.
If you’re thinking about something that relates to energy, the more useful stuff you can put in there, the more likely a consumer is to keep it on their phone. If you’re doing something with behaviour change, you need a space in their life and the way to do that is to be useful.
The route to market is through the supplier as they’re the companies consumers are most likely to expect to receive these services from. They can monetise demand flexibility and they’re also extremely keen to acquire and retain customers so there’s a business case for providing something that engages their customers and makes them less likely to switch.
We’re building the app and then selling it as a white-labelled product which we add their branding to. They then roll it out to their customer base.
What were some of those learnings from the trial with Northern Powergrid that you’ve applied to the app?
It was a three-year project and when I look at what we had when we started and where we ended, it was a huge evolution.
We learned a lot about how you develop digital products. It’s a very iterative process. The DNOs are used to big infrastructure projects where you do a lot of planning and modelling and you execute it, you build it, and you know it’s going to work. With things like consumer engagement apps- you can’t model humans. The most effective way to do it is to test it.
In terms of gamification, we learned that it works. The cost of the incentives we were offering consumers to shift their energy consumption was 20 times lower than similar projects that didn’t have gamification. We were offering around 40p, and for that 40p consumers were reducing around 10-12% peak time consumption. The main difference in the approach is how you’re framing it. Offering a chance to win £100 instead of offering 10p for turning a washing machine off is a much more engaging way of framing that same incentive.
We also learned about automation. One part of the trial was behavioural and another was leveraging automation. You need engagement with both because even if there’s automation there, you need a reason for the customer to want to give you control of that and set it up in the first place.
What automation does do is it improves the longevity of the DSR. For a lot of consumers, eventually that enthusiasm wears off. Once the automation is set up and you’re given control, you don’t need that consistent engagement you’d need with a behavioural change.
What sorts of consumers engaged most with DSR?
In general terms, we were getting roughly around 80% of the reductions from 20% of the homes. When you start digging into those households, it tended to be households that had a lot of low carbon tech, for example EVs or heat pumps. In terms of a marketing cost of recruiting someone for a DSR programme, it costs the same to recruit someone who has a heat pump as someone who doesn’t.
So if you’re trying to do this cost effectively, you want to focus on those people that have low carbon technologies and that’s where we’ve ended up. If we build useful features into our product for those households, we’re more likely to be able to target them.
Why have you made the switch from working with a DNO like Northern Powergrid to partnering with suppliers?
With a DNO, they don’t usually have a relationship with their customers. Most people don’t know who their DNO is but do know who their supplier is.
The suppliers already have relationships with consumers around energy so in terms of having the biggest impact, the suppliers are the best way to do it. They’re also the ones who can potentially extract the most value from it.
What makes your app different to other demand response projects?
There are a lot of projects looking at demand side response; we’re not the only ones. But there’s a lot of focus on the technology as the enabler, for instance in peer-to-peer (P2P) trading and smart metering.
All these ideas are great and key to households benefitting from flexibility but you have to frame it in a way that’s engaging to consumers. That’s something I feel is often overlooked. The technology is one part of the puzzle. Bringing consumers along in a way that makes it interesting and understandable is the other.