British Gas exec berates energy industry’s “lack of innovation”

Mobile World Congress: British Gas’ emerging technologies group’s head of connected homes Alex Jones says the utilities sector is suffering from a “dire lack of innovation” despite the need for new thinking to help it reach targets to reduce carbon emissions.

British Gas Mobile App

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Jones said the UK energy industry needs to be “turned on its head” if it is to reduce carbon emissions by 34% to meet targets set by the government.

He added: “Energy is not typically a sector you associate with innovation, it’s a pretty settled industry, a bit like healthcare, but there is a massive opportunity in this space.”

British Gas predicts that this is set to change, estimating the energy sector will invest £200bn in innovation in the next decade to work on technology such as smart meters and services that help consumers visualise their energy consumption.

Jones said: “There are some really interesting nuggets of problems that need to be solved in the energy industry, especially when it comes to reducing energy wastage. Mobile technology has been effectively applied to telecoms and even the automotive industry, but we just don’t have as much attention applied to the energy industry.”

British Gas set up an emerging technologies group to drive innovation at the company, which is currently working on upcoming launches such as a mobile app that helps customers schedule when their heating comes on, remotely.

The company is also trialling heating apps that can use pattern recognition, room occupancy, current weather and a customer’s personal location to automatically control their heating settings.

Jones said: “For us, innovation is all about making the home more comfortable. It’s important to offer services that aren’t just about electricity and  gas but about how comfortable you are and customers should be able to interact with their home in any way they wish – whether it be through a phone, TV, the oven or a stick-on flexible interface to take around with you.”

Further innovation will also help the utilities sector increase brand engagement, Jones said. Currently consumers only spend about 30 seconds per month thinking about energy and 187,000 people change utilities providers every week, British Gas claims.

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