Stakeholder engagement needs to transform with the rest of the market

June 8, 2020

This article on stakeholder engagement in the energy sector was first published on energylivenews.com

By Stefan Leedham, Director of Governance Services

The current transformation of the energy industry has meant greater levels of innovation happening faster than possibly ever before. In part, this is because the industry has opened itself up to the energy ecosystem’s untraditional disrupters.

While this upturn in innovation and transformation brings great benefits, particularly to the end consumer, it also brings challenges. One such challenge is how we engage with the increasing number and variety of stakeholders. This is particularly important in the context of self-regulation and the increasing move to more principle-based regulation.

Self-governance is a central tenet of energy industry regulation. But for self-governance to be effective, it relies on the mechanisms for that self-regulation to be representative of the needs of the full spectrum of stakeholders impacted, while keeping consumers at the heart of all decision making.

In recent years, the energy industry has made great strides in improving and expanding its stakeholder engagement. At ElectraLink, our roles in the management of three industry codes and the delivery of the Energy Market Data Hub (EMDH), has meant we have engaged with stakeholders from various fields with differing and sometimes diverging interests.

Over the last few years, we have looked to technology to improve this engagement, providing greater means for our stakeholders to engage with us and vice versa. This has included the introduction of tools such as video conferencing and live chat but we, like others, recognise that more needs to be done.

If we want to engender a more representative energy governance landscape, we must supplement our traditional engagement mechanisms with those that better suit our stakeholders, making them, and the content we are engaging on, more appropriate, accessible and agile.

We believe that there are three main areas of stakeholder engagement for the industry to either adopt or improve:

  • Content personalisation, which will ensure the content is appropriate to the needs of a wider range of stakeholders.
  • Targeted engagement mechanisms for innovators, such as sandboxes, that will introduce a more agile approach to energy governance.
  • Technology that will support the above to make energy governance more accessible to a wider stakeholder landscape.

What this means in practice

Personalisation

The content on code websites should be tailored to specific target audiences based on their behaviour, status and needs, thereby providing an outstanding customer experience. Allowing access and directing attention to personalised content will engage more stakeholders as they can easily navigate and access the information relevant to them, in turn increasing engagement with the codes.

Furthermore, if a consumer login to a website provides communication streams alongside online content, it becomes a one-stop shop. Live chat’s quick response time means customers are only required to visit one place to access information or speak to an advisor with the required level of industry knowledge.

Targeted engagement mechanisms for innovators

To support innovation, we need to create an environment that allows market participants to test ideas quickly to demonstrate the best possible principles for a change. ElectraLink has first-hand experience of delivering the DCUSA Innovation Sandbox that responds to consumer and industry interests and supports the testing of new solutions.

A clear sandbox journey allows new entrants to effortlessly engage with a new code and trial innovations in a real-world environment with some of the usual rules not applying. This allows market participants to understand where their new products and business models will face obstacles and require further guidance.

Technology

The transition from paperwork and face-to-face meetings to online content and virtual collaboration has been a slow one. However, there are a variety of tools which can improve the way stakeholders communicate opinions and decisions to their peers.

For example, online voting tools for industry changes could democratise the change process and reduce the need for face to face meetings, which would support stakeholder based outside of London and those with limited resource for meeting attendance. There are also opportunities for other kinds of virtual collaboration and idea sharing tools like Microsoft Teams and online forums.

As code managers, we need to actively encourage engagement among various stakeholder groups across all parts of the sector. The more contrasting objectives and perspectives that are brought to the table, the more we can uplift the quality of changes and deliver the best experience for customers and consumers. Catering to each group’s specific needs and encouraging collaboration using technology is at the top of our agenda for improving stakeholder engagement in the energy market.

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