What U.S. Energy Companies Can Learn From European Utilities


Over the past few years, the energy market has been abuzz with new and disruptive technology, renewable breakthroughs and other advancements that have changed how consumers engage with and purchase energy.

However, redesigning large, complex organizations from the inside out is a difficult task. But the U.S. doesn’t have to look any further than the European market as a good example of embracing innovation to meet customer trends and disruption. While we can learn a lot from the European utility market, comparing U.S. and European utility scenes isn’t necessarily easy. There are key differences in market design that make this comparison tricky, most of which center around consumer choice.

Simply put, I’ve noticed that choosing an energy provider in Europe is similar to choosing a cell phone carrier in the U.S.; the EU allows European residents to switch providers, and the European Parliament may soon approve rules allowing European residents to switch to another provider within 24 hours. Since this means facing the risk of losing customers daily, European utilities must place more emphasis on customer retention through engagement. This model encourages a culture of customer engagement and consumer choice.

While the U.S. utility infrastructure might not shift dramatically any time soon, especially in ways that exactly mimic European ones, we are still seeing drastic shifts on which utilities can capitalize. Adapting to these new forms of technology and models by using tactics similar to what we’ve seen in Europe could be pivotal to a utility’s survivability, customer retention, and — in some cases — better definition of long-term renewable energy goals.

Here are a few items I think we can take from the European utility mindset based on my experience in the energy space.