“Utilities are [prepared to give] away about $3 billion a year” as rebates on energy-efficient appliances, Simple Energy CEO and cofounder Yoav Lurie told VentureBeat.
“But,” he added, “less than seven percent [of consumers] follow them up on the offer, because the forms are complicated.”
In other words, it’s an opportunity for disruption.
Lurie’s company is today unveiling its utility-partnering Marketplace for instant appliance rebates. Instead of having to fill out forms, send them in, and wait for weeks, consumers get energy-efficiency rebates from the utility right on the website at the time of purchase.
As a regulated industry, utilities “have to make certain concessions” to the state governmental regulators, he explained. This includes providing “power to everybody” and helping consumers save energy.
If a utility helps a consumer cut down on energy, he said, the utility makes money via a reimbursement from the state regulator. Not every appliance on the Marketplace has a utility rebate, he said, but most do.
Simple Energy’s Marketplace makes its money on the retail margin of the appliance sale, as well as on software license fees the utility pays for the marketplace. Lurie said the utility doesn’t make money on sales of appliances.
In addition to the utility’s rebates, consumers can later also file for manufacturers’ rebates when available. But that usually involves forms to fill out and mail, and weeks to wait.
After purchase on the Marketplace, the appliance is then delivered to your home, just as if you ordered it online from, say, Home Depot. In fact, Lurie said his company is partnering with Home Depot for some of the larger appliances. Appliance prices in the Marketplace, he said, are comparable to those found in “big box” retailers.
The Simple Energy platform is intended to be white-labeled by partnering utilities. As part of the partnership, the platform has access to your utility bills and meter readings, so it knows your energy usage profile and can make personalized recommendations on the site or via email.
Simple Energy told us no consumer data is sent outside the platform, such as to appliance makers or marketers.
At launch, two North American utilities have signed up, covering over 2.5 million households in the Midwest and Western U.S. One unnamed utility in Colorado offers a smart thermostat rebate program. The other, San Diego Gas & Electric, is integrating the Simple Energy platform into its own existing Manage-Act-Save customer engagement platform.
Lurie noted that there are competing utility-branded stores, such as EFI.org. But, he said, they don’t provide instant rebates.
“Right now,” he said, “no one [else] has pulled together a utility marketplace with instant rebates” from the utilities, along with personalized recommendations based on actual energy bills.
Founded in 2011, the Boulder, Colorado-based Simple Energy previously released a customer engagement platform to encourage energy-saving actions by customers, for which they receive such rewards as gift cards or air miles.