Ontario’s Just Energy has positioned itself as a top energy provider in North America and its SVP and COO, Duncan Stiles, says it’s from rejecting a one-size-fits-all approach. In less than 20 years, the company has grown to serve 1.8 million people. Here, Stiles speaks to us about common misconceptions concerning his industry and making managing energy costs “shockingly easy.”
Just Energy is the parent company and brand for Hudson Energy’s consumer division, so tell me what sets Just Energy apart from other companies?
The primary thing that makes us unique is that we’re the largest independent energy retailer in North America. We didn’t come out of a utility company like many of the companies we’re in competition with, so we’ve literally had to win over every customer we have. That’s come with the understanding that we’re not going to win everyone over in any given area, but the customers we do win over appreciate that we offer advice and plenty of choices. We don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to energy.
“WE DIDN’T COME OUT OF A UTILITY COMPANY LIKE MANY OF THE COMPANIES WE’RE IN COMPETITION WITH, SO WE’VE LITERALLY HAD TO WIN OVER EVERY CUSTOMER WE HAVE.”
The myth that green energy companies increase the cost of utilities for consumers has been debunked—now what are the biggest misconceptions you’ve encountered?
The one we come up against the most often is that most people don’t know they have a choice in how they procure energy. If they do, they expect all the products to be the same and to be supplied the same. There are actually many choices and educated consumers can decide what matters most to them.
Historically, why has energy cost management been so complex?
We’ve made a lot of progress in terms of managing choice, which is part of the reason it doesn’t seem as complex anymore. People now have more access to information, which has allowed them to educate themselves and demystify energy cost management. When you’re not given the opportunity to manage the way you’re billed the process can seem complex and arbitrary. Data and technology has enabled consumers to access information that is relevant and meaningful to them.
Stiles’s overall mandate is to facilitate growth by leveraging existing capabilities and building new capabilities, while ensuring Just Energy realizes its expected margins
How does Just Energy make it “shockingly easy” to manage energy costs?
One of the things we do is take products that were once only offered to larger energy users and give smaller energy users these same options while making the process as painless as possible. The most up-to-date price quotes can be provided each day if potential customers want to execute a hedging strategy. Flexibility is very important. We don’t have a take-it-or-leave-it approach. Allowing customers to customize their approach and choose the option that’s best for them and their energy usage makes it so much easier to manage costs.
How important is technology for managing customer costs?
Our business is a data business, and the technology we employ allows us to manage energy risks for customers. We don’t just distribute energy to customers—we help them manage their risks. Hudson Energy provides access to online pricing tools. Previously, it would have taken a week to provide a quote. Now, it takes minutes. Software also provides the ability to customize the products being offered. Costs and offerings would be difficult to manage if these things weren’t in place.
How is technology shaping the direction of the industry?
If you look at the industry and where it’s going, data is exploding. New metering technology allows customers to get hourly meter readings. Before, they’d get one monthly reading. Data basically allows us and consumers to be more efficient.
What trends are emerging?
We’re going to see more of a focus on things like solar power generation, battery storage, and automated smart thermostats that let us manage not only how a building uses energy but also how it responds to market prices. Just Energy really understands the intersection of energy markets and energy-management technology, which creates an opportunity to unlock value for customers.