How the evolution of technology is enabling a revolution in the world of energy supply

Geoff childs cropby Geoff Childs, Business Development Director

As an energy industry person through and through, and as one who has joined a technology company relatively recently, I’m able to give a view of the industry from ‘the other side of the fence’.

There is no doubt that we’re on the cusp on an energy revolution. Over the past five years we’ve gone from 20 domestic energy suppliers in 2012 to 54 active market participants in December 2016 – and even more have joined since then. Many of these new suppliers are offering new, digitally led propositions.

That leads me to ask – what has enabled this energy revolution and with it the massive increase in competition in the domestic energy market?

Turn the clock back 10 years and the UK energy supply market was dominated by the ‘big 6’ and the industry seemed closed to new entrants. The biggest blocker to entry was investment and the cost of set up. 10 years ago you needed custom built and expensive back end systems to cope with the complexity of the UK energy market. You didn’t buy a ‘billing’ or ‘customer information’ system, you bought a platform on which you could build what you needed. There were a few large providers who had a monopoly in the sector and the software eco-system was incredibly limited. Not only did you need to have the large up-front funding, you also had to go through a painful customised implementation project in order to fully set up the ‘product’, tying up large numbers of staff at great expense.

So what’s changed? We’re all used to the pace of change accelerating in the technology we use at home. And with the iPhone celebrating its 10th birthday, who could have foreseen the rapid pace of change we’ve seen since then? The proliferation of apps that do everything from controlling your heating, to allowing you to check in for flights, the cloud, new hardware – the face of consumer technology has changed completely and become far more accessible.

The same can be said for large scale enterprise level technology. Gone are the days when energy suppliers have to go through large scale customised software implementations before they can launch their products to paying customers. The market has moved towards significantly lower cost, productised, off-the-shelf offerings which are designed specifically for the market in which they operate. There is no longer the question of whether a product can be customised to meet a business need – people are happy to look for an other-the-shelf product that does the job.

Having worked in ‘big six’ and new entrant energy suppliers alike, I always find it amazing when a salesman says that their product is fully customisable and can do anything the client desires. I am fully convinced that if I were to ask to turn the moon pink, I would be told it was possible – at a cost of course – because with greater customisation comes greater complexity and cost.

Traditionally, Board level IT or Operations directors are used to operating in environments where IT implementations are complex, and that brings a level of comfort. Unless an IT project costs tens of millions of pounds, and has at least a 2 year project plan, then it can’t be the right solution for the business.

Times have changed however. I firmly believe the days of fully customised, complex and costly infrastructure implementations are gone. Instead of customisation, we’re now seeing productisation, and for businesses that can keep up with this software revolution, there are measurable business benefits.

What we’ve seen over the past 12 months is a new breed of entrepreneurial minded business who, not tainted with the legacy of large difficult software implementations, are looking a product to meet their requirements. They’ve asked the question – there must be another way – and are reaping the benefits.

Junifer Systems continues its market dominance in energy billing solutions for the UK energy market

logicor-energy-logo_3Junifer Systems, a Gentrack Company, is pleased to announce it has continued its success in the UK with yet another energy supply business choosing its proven and trusted Junifer CIS platform.

Neil Williams of Logicor, commented “It’s clear that Junifer provides a market leading product for new entrants to the UK energy retail market – the quality of the ‘Software as a Service’ they provide is second to none. I’ve been particularly impressed by the Knowledge Portal and support from the team. The Utilities industry is often behind the times when it comes to using new technology to provide service and support, but Junifer is the exception, and I’ve found it really refreshing. They are extremely professional in their approach, and have really opened up the UK energy market to new entrants by reducing barriers to entry.”

Junifer is currently used by over 60% of energy utilities in the UK, dominating the back-end customer information and billing space. and continues to grow through its “out of the box” software solution for energy suppliers. The introduction of the Junifer has revolutionised the competitive energy retail market.

Customers using Junifer are currently ranked in the top 6 suppliers for customer service in the Trustpilot rankings and are leading the way in bringing innovative energy products to the consumer market.

Against this backdrop, there is little surprise that Logicor, the latest entrant to the UK energy supply market has chosen Junifer to provide their backend systems. Logicor is a UK based pioneer in energy saving products, fitting their smart connected space and water heaters into homes to help reduce energy costs. Setting up an energy supply company was the next logical step in helping customers to reduce their energy bills even further.

The new smart world – what comes next?

Smart cloud small
Earlier this week, the team from Junifer attended the Smart Energy London Masterclass as sponsors. We presented our thoughts on the smart meter roll-out, and then took part in a series of roundtable conversations with participants on the future of smart and what it meant for consumers. With a diverse range of attendees, conversations varied from the impact on fuel poor, through to National Grid’s thoughts on the growth of Electric Vehicles.

However, one theme was clear – whilst the roll-out of smart meters across the UK is inevitable, it’s still not clear what the future will bring in terms of how they are used. However, engagement and data are key – as other presenters discussed the role that the increase in data will play in customer engagement – and the Carbon Trust outlined their thoughts on making energy efficiency more relevant for people.

Smart metering is many different things to many different people. To some it’s a way to reduce energy consumption in the home, reducing carbon intensity, whilst for others it’s a way to revolutionise the energy grid. Some see it as the answer to fuel poverty by putting power into the hands of the consumers, while for others, it will simply reduce the number of touchpoints that energy customers have to have with their suppliers, thus improving customer perception. Technology companies perceive the future as being full of gadgets and devices that connect us with how we use energy, and suppliers are working out whether Time of Use tariffs will encourage people to avoid peak demand.

One thing is clear with all this – we as an industry need to balance the need for simplicity for the consumer with all of this new innovation and technology. With energy being one of the least engaged purchases that consumers make, and such negative perceptions of suppliers, smart metering does present the opportunity for energy companies to carry out a fundamental shift. But it must be done carefully, and without assuming that consumers WANT all this exciting technology, increased insight into their energy use, and to reduce consumption.

It is apparent that there is no crystal ball, but companies need to be prepared for every future eventuality. The smart revolution brings with it a wealth of data, and a change in what information suppliers will know and hold. Systems will need to be able to handle that data easily, and flex to meet new propositions, products and services.

Junifer is a leading provider of smart systems for utilities. Built with the new smart world in mind, we’re enabling our customers to deliver leading customer service, innovative propositions and low prices.

Project Nexus – are you ready?

Project Nexus - are you ready?-2Last week, Ofgem announced that it was allowing Nexus go-live next on the anticipated date of 1st June, ten years after the project was kicked off in 2007.

What is Project Nexus?

Project Nexus delivers long-awaited changes and updates to the gas settlement system, ‘UK Link’. The changes are intended to bring the system up to date, but also facilitate further updates as the wider smart roll out brings further updates to the way settlement is carried out. It also affects how customers will switch their gas supplier and resolves the current ‘Reconciliation by Difference’ regime of approximating domestic settlement volumes. Gas shippers will therefore be more accurately able to reconcile settled and billed volumes. It has been described by one of the largest suppliers as ‘central to resolving many of the current issues with gas settlement.’

What should I be aware of?

Project Nexus will bring changes to various data flows and registration systems and suppliers should have been working with their system providers over the last few years to ensure systems are ready for the new UK Link updates.

There will be some increase in switching times as the systems go through the change process and some industry data flows have changed slightly – suppliers should see minimal changes as the largest impact is on shippers and transporters.

You can find more information on Project Nexus here.

We’ve been working with our clients over the past few months to ensure they are ready for go live on the 1st June. We’ve held a series of workshops to outline the changes that we’ve implemented in the Junifer system, and outlines the process of switching over ready for Nexus Go-Live. Over the next few weeks we’ll be holding webinars with our customers to carry out further training on how Nexus might affect them.

Innovation in the energy sector – are small suppliers leading the way?

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a number of our clients announce industry leading products and services – Octopus Energy with their wholesale tracker, Pure Planet with a unique ‘membership’ model and Engie with a promise to roll fixed customers onto their cheapest unit rate when their contract comes to an end. And earlier this week the Daily Mail profiled the companies offering the best dual fuel deals, all of which are Junifer customers too.

New entrants are attempting to tackle the ‘trust’ issue between energy companies and consumers head on. By introducing products that deal with the biggest issues that have been flagged in the media as causing mistrust with consumers, they are taking a resolutely different line to that of the big 6.

But what’s enabling them to do this? How can these new entrants introduce the products that consumers are demanding, when the more traditional businesses have not?

We think it’s their more flexible and leaner approach to business operations that is enabling these new, game changing services from challenger brands.

Businesses like Octopus, Pure Planet and Engie have come into the UK market with a focus on how they can remain lean, both operationally and in their systems and processes. By using cutting edge technology and best practise taken from other industries, they are able to innovate at a faster rate than the older energy companies, who are often trapped with cumbersome legacy systems and processes. Change happens slowly within these organisations, and as the pace of change across the industry speeds up, smaller more nimble suppliers are able to steel a march.

Junifer, a Gentrack company, offers scalable, flexible billing and CRM solutions that allows suppliers to get up and running quickly, using out of the box capability. The constant development of the system allows updates, upgrades and modifications to be implemented within a minimal change process, and modified easily for new products and services.

One thing is for sure, change will be a constant for the sector for many years to come – and we look forward to helping our customers meet that challenge!

Do small suppliers have the edge in an increasingly competitive energy market?

At Marketforce’s recent Future of Utilities event, our customer Bulb energy presented on what made their business model different, and why consumers were switching to them, and other new entrants, in droves. Looking at TrustPilot’s reviews of energy suppliers, one thing stands out – Junifer customers are leading the way in customer service. But why? What gives these new entrants the edge over the more traditional utilities companies that are languishing at the bottom of the TrustPilot rankings?

Junifer Trustpilot 2

*taken from www.TrustPilot.com on 11th April 2017

Amit Gudkha, Bulb’s co-founder, highlighted how Bulb’s ethos is to keep as lean as possible – keeping overheads and therefore prices, low. Processes are automated, meaning that resources are free to deal with customer issues when they do arise, keeping customers happier.

So what makes that different to the ‘big six’ utility models? And how are these smaller suppliers able to offer better customer service?

We think we know – it’s about the backend systems that these suppliers use to manage their customers, processes and billing. The traditional utilities have relied on systems that are heavily customised to fit internal processes and industry data flows, and on big teams to manage error resolution and inbound issues.

The new, challenger suppliers are able to capitalise on more modern and flexible systems, like Junifer, that are designed specifically for the UK energy market, and don’t have to be modified or amended with lengthy and costly change processes. These systems are easy to keep up to date with the constant flow of industry change, and create less room for error in processing data, issuing bills and collecting payment. They give energy consumers a better customer experience with less reason to complain, whilst suppliers themselves are able to maintain lean internal processes, keeping costs down, all meaning they can provide low prices. It’s a win-win situation. And with the top four ranked suppliers on TrustPilot all using the Junifer system, we’re proud to be supporting better customer satisfaction with the UK energy market.

No wonder the new suppliers are leading the pack!

Junifer teams up with Gentrack

Junifer Systems Limited (“Junifer”) the UK based utility customer information and billing system provider is pleased to announce that it has entered into an unconditional agreement to be acquired by Gentrack Group Limited (NZX/ASX: GTK) through a wholly owned subsidiary. The transaction is expected to settle on 1st April 2017.

Junifer Utility CIS is the market leading utility customer information and billing system provider for energy retailers in the UK with 25 existing customers out of approximately 50 energy retailers in that market. Junifer’s technology is provided on a SaaS basis and offers new entrant utilities a cost effective and preconfigured solution.

The combined Gentrack and Junifer business will be the clear market leader by number of utilities in the UK with 32 customers, supported by 130 local staff and a full product range for energy and water utilities.

John Clifford, Gentrack Chairman said, “We are delighted to bring Junifer and Gentrack together in the UK. The combined UK business, under the leadership of Junifer CEO Saul Nurtman, will be well positioned to continue to provide highly innovative and low risk solutions to UK energy and water utilities, and from that strong base to expand into new markets.”

Ian Black, Gentrack CEO said, “The acquisition of Junifer delivers us the full range of product functionality from SaaS billing for new entrant energy and water retailers, to cloud hosted and on premise solutions for the largest utility players.

The combined product offering of Gentrack Velocity and Junifer Utility CIS is well positioned for growth, capitalising on the growing market share of Independent energy retailers, the UK smart metering roll-out, and retail competition in water for commercial and industrial consumers. Gentrack will also take Junifer Utility CIS into other geographic markets as a solution for new entrant and SME retailers.”

The Junifer founders will invest NZ$5.3m (£3m) in newly issued Gentrack shares. The key executives of Junifer will remain as part of the management team of the combined UK business.

Junifer was advised by Innovation Advisors, an independent, technology focussed, global investment bank.

Junifer appoints industry expert to further enhance its consultancy approach to new customers

Junifer Systems, the UK’s leading provider of customer information and billing systems to utility companies, has appointed Geoff Childs to the position of Business Development Director.  Geoff, the former CEO of Extra Energy, the highly successful challenger supplier, and latterly the Managing Director of Inenco Direct, has joined Junifer to provide energy industry experience and guidance to both new and existing customers.  
 
Paul Fitzgerald, Director of Sales at Junifer said: ”We are delighted that Geoff is joining the ever growing team here at Junifer.  We’ve experienced incredible growth over the last 18 months as challenger brands in the energy market have recognised the value of the Junifer System.  Having set up and developed an extremely successful energy supplier, Geoff brings a wealth of in-depth industry experience to support our customers through the often complex industry entry process. His experience will add value to our new and existing customers alike, offering a consultancy approach to their set-up and ongoing business development.”
 
Geoff comments: “This is an incredibly exciting time to be joining Junifer and I was attracted to the company because of the strength of the product and the value it brings to suppliers. An example of this is the proactive approach that Junifer takes towards implementing industry change such as Project Nexus and P272 as well as the way the system enables new smart technologies. I am thrilled to be a part of the continued growth of the organisation.”
 
2017 looks set to be another successful year for Junifer, with the company having just moved into new, purpose built, office space in Euston, to accommodate the growing team.  Junifer supports 25 live energy suppliers across domestic, SME, industrial and commercial and district energy schemes, with several more due to go live in early 2017.

To find out more about Junifer Systems, the clients it works with, and how it could help your business become more competitive, visit www.junifersystems.com

Future of Utilities – March 29-30th

Screenshot 2017-03-14 14.22.38

We’re really excited to be presenting at Marketforce’s Future of Utilities Event, to be held in Central London on the 29th-30th March. Alongside Amit Gudka of Bulb Energy, we’ll be talking about ‘The Challenger Brand: Opportunities in a smart world’ – discussing how new entrants to the UK energy market can take advantage of the opportunities in the new smart energy system.

If you’d like to find out more about our presentation, or arrange a meeting at the event, then please email info@junifersystems.com.

We look forward to meeting you there!

Junifer has moved!

Junifer internal office

This has been a really exciting week here at Junifer. After months of planning, we’ve finally moved into our purposely designed office, just around the corner from our previous building in Euston. After a couple of years of fantastic growth, it’s finally time to move into our own space, which will give us better access to meeting rooms to host clients, collaboration space, and room to further grow our team.

As we’ve talked about before, 2016 was a busy year for Junifer. We’ve now got over 70 members of staff and the team is growing all the time as we bring new clients on board and further develop and expand the Junifer system to meet the demands of industry change.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be running a series of workshops in our new offices for our customers, highlighting some of the upcoming industry changes that will be reflected in the Junifer system – starting with project Nexus. These will give us a chance to explain what updates we’ve implemented to meet the requirements of this gas industry change, and what processes will need to be amended. It’s all part of the constant development of Junifer in order to to meet industry challenges – and what makes Junifer different.