Putting Consumers First

"We know that consumer action and behaviour change will be vital if we are going to reach net zero by 2050."

James Kerr is the Consumer Strategy Lead in the Consumer Strategy team. The team is brand new for RIIO-2 with the ultimate purpose of enabling the ESO to fulfil their role as a Consumer Champion, as we set out in our RIIO-2 Business Plan.

Why is your role so important to the ESO?

As we work towards net zero, understanding how consumers interact with their energy supply (and how this might change in the future) will be crucial. Understanding what actions the ESO can take to ensure that consumers are best placed to take advantage of the energy transition is equally important. Ultimately, the team’s role is to help the ESO to be a champion for consumers across the energy industry.

Broadly my role is to support my colleagues in the ESO to become better consumer champions by bringing consumer insight into the business and helping them use this in their own roles, to drive the right outcomes for consumers and the ESO.

What are you guys currently working on in relation to consumers?

As this is a new team we needed to start by agreeing the scope of our consumer work, and what we hope to achieve. We are now working to develop a detailed strategy and associated work plan.

In terms of specific deliverables, we are:

  • Building relationships with consumer groups;
  • Supporting direct consumer research as part of some work ahead of COP26;
  • Looking at the consumer journey through the energy ecosystem today and how this might change in the future;
  • Building up resources to support teams across the ESO; and
  • Designing consumer training and toolkits for our colleagues across the ESO.

How does your work support what the rest of the ESO is doing?

The team exists to support and enhance the work of the ESO by bringing in consumer insight. For example, I’m currently working closely with the Energy Insights & Analysis team to develop consumer archetypes that will help us further develop and refine our Future Energy Scenarios.

How does your work specifically help our zero carbon ambition?

Our Future Energy Scenarios tell us that until now, the main changes to the energy system on the journey to net zero have been within the energy sector, for example by closing coal-fired power stations and building more wind farms. This shift has been, for the most part, invisible inside people’s homes or businesses. However, we know that consumer action and behaviour change will be vital if we are going to reach net zero by 2050. We need to understand how consumers might be more flexible in the way they use energy in the future, and how we in the ESO can play our part through working with others in the industry to support consumers to make informed choices about their energy consumption, to help the transition to net zero.

What do you enjoy about your job? What's the most exciting thing?

Working across the ESO on different projects and thinking about how consumers will use energy in the future is fascinating.