In the United Kingdom, retailer Marks & Spencer already sells power in the competitive electricity market.
In the United States, big-box stores haven’t quite gotten that far into the energy sector, but they’re starting to circle the wagons.
Earlier this year, Lowe’s released Iris, a cloud-based home management system provided by AlertMe. Opower started working with Home Depot. Instead of focusing just on energy, the stores are offering products for the full connected home, a sales proposition that is more about control and comfort than kilowatt savings.
Best Buy, which has three test stores for its Home Energy Learning Center concept (Houston, Chicago, San Francisco), has also released a home energy management system, Check-It HEM, which uses a circuit-level connection to see how energy much different loads are using. The kit, which sells for $399, is available online and comes with the requisite mobile app, has been selling despite its high price tag, according to Rich Peterson, director of growth operations for Best Buy.
In the three learning centers, customers spend an average of 35 minutes just talking to a sales rep and learning, said Peterson. For customers to waltz into a Best Buy to purchase a new phone or a television and then spend more than a half-hour learning about their home energy use is no small deal.
It illustrates that in the right setting, with the right information, people are interested in learning about how to reduce their energy bills, or at least understand it. In the California store, the staff in the learning center spent days with Pacific Gas & Electricity employees to learn more about how the utility works. In Texas and California, the learning center staff can help customers choose electricity providers.