Consumer Power!

Nandini Basuthakur

Nandini Basuthakur of Opower shares her experience of the brainstorm. 

Nandini Basuthakur, Senior VP and MD for Opower EMEA discusses the ideas that she felt were the strongest as well as discussing the challenges left untouched. Do you agree that consumers and citizens must lead, or are there business imperatives that can drive individual behaviour change? Are there clear avenues open for government to effect a switch in direction?

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Bathed in the sunny and spectacular views, buoyed by champagne and sushi, plus the swinging light bulbs and our Squawk Box anchor Geoff Cutmore, the evening’s format enabled a free flow of ideas and conversation without hierarchy of company or role.

Each table was asked to look into the future and assume a successful outcome of a sustained and significant reduction in green house gas emissions in the year 2035. The objective was to articulate how ICT would contribute to such an outcome.

The predominant and consistent theme across eleven tables was on a networked, connected society, driven by sensible policy that would make it easy to understand and act on energy and carbon usage; financially attractive to save and punitive to pollute.

Some of the themes and concepts highlighted were:

  • A self-optimizing service aware network trademarked SOSAN by my table!
  • A higher price of carbon to encourage investment in new low carbon technologies as well as personal carbon allowances that would allow people to swap carbon credits swiftly
  • The use of big data to make informed and personalized recommendations around energy usage without the need for expensive hardware
  • Energy visualization of the future via trip advisor, justgiving, wikileaks and cBay or ebay for carbon!

While the conversation and the ideas centered on technology and policy, it was illuminating that not enough emphasis was placed on the person at the center of all this.  Business and governments don’t pollute, consumers and citizens do!  It was also interesting to note that when the different teams presented, the focus was on what was needed and not the vision of how we were going to get there. This is where the IT industry needs to step up and really demonstrate a vision of the future. Steve Jobs never explained how his technology worked or even its benefits. He simply sold us a vision of how this technology would make your life easier and he delivered on this promise by making his gadgets so easy to use that a 3 year old can start using it within minutes. That’s our challenge going forward; technology leaders need to make energy as fun and compelling as the iPhone!

When consumers and citizens do start to become smarter and more engaged on their energy usage at home, then their purchasing decisions will also change. This pull through is what will be key in driving businesses to invest and make money in low carbon products and services. Whether it’s a smart energy device for an Apple, a brewery that sells only low carbon beer or an airline that only uses bio fuels. It is consumer demand that will really dictate if these products ever make it to market. Whatever happens, IT will be a key part of the solution to a sustainable low carbon economy and as a technology executive it’s exciting to be part of it. 

The future looks bright. (LED bright of course!) 

See highlights from the brainstorm here

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