Lowfoot Helping Homeowners Change Energy Use Behavior

Posted on June 11th, 2012 by

Phil Playfair, Co-founder of Lowfoot, discusses his company’s approach to getting customers to change their energy consumption habits.

Ben Lack Mr. Phil Playfair. Thanks for being with us today.
Phil Playfair You’re welcome.
Ben Lack Tell me a little bit about the company and what problems are you guys trying to solve?
Phil Playfair Okay we’re based on Toronto Canada and we are 100% focused on smart mirrors and helping resolve the issue of residential demands and demand response particularly in the area for a peak response. Our models actually, a little bit like in a knock for residential customers while we pay people to reduce usage during peak periods. So we’ve been rolling out in Ontario,  Texas and California and couple of pile going up but they’re launching in the Netherlands so all things going pretty well.
Ben Lack Two kind of obstacles opportunities so to speak for, your business is really the education of the end user, let them know that they have this opportunity and making it really easy for them to actually do so. Walk us through both assets of  how you make that happen.
Phil Playfair Right, the way we make it simple for them is really quite frankly not to explain very much. We really just present them with a data and say look if you lower your usage between this time and this time we’ll reward you. And they seem to catch on that pretty well. And for those who are areas where they’re being build on ton of views this would know what that means but for the most parts we just say a few, “don’t use between four and seven we’re going to pay you a cash” and they get it right away. And then we use a lot of similar tools to Facebook, Twitter, user feeds and more and more people are used to that kind of interface on  the web and we’re rapidly moving to mobile apps as well, so we don’t expect a lot of mind shares from our members. We just want daily little nudge and say “hey you’re okay you’re under your target or hey you’re, something’s happened” and then they jump on the side and check out what happened.
Ben Lack Over the last 2-3 years it’s been pretty recent, the industry is starting to see companies come up with solutions for trying to educate the residential customer to kind of move, so to speak. Talk me a little bit about how Lowfoot is differentiating itself compared to some other competitions that’s currently in place.
Phil Playfair You’re quite right there’s quite in the market right now and honestly we hoped that there are more because it’s a big job to do. But we differentiate ourselves because we only focus on small areas and we only are web electronic business. We don’t print out any letters or mail anything to the customer. We focus on communicating via electronic means and I think we’ve done more interesting way about engaging through Twitter and Facebook  and some other competitors we’re doing. And I think just the idea of actually associating the cash benefit with our reduction is also very noble and we’re halfway of that process and we’re getting very good feedback from the reviewers. So were definitely on something noble and unique.
Ben Lack Some companies in the space are trying to go after the utility and the utility is their customer. Others are looking at the homeowners as the actual end – user and trying to target directly to them and both strategies had some successes and some failures. Talk me a little bit about strategy you’re taking and why you think that going to be successful for Lowfoot.
Phil Playfair We’re doing built strategies my background is on the utility. I sold it software and utility section about 12 years. Successfully I succeeded a number of years ago. And also the data becoming increasingly available on the marketplace. So we want to be on the position to serve  both customers. Because utilities can really benefit from this especially those utilities who buy wholesale power because anytime you can push usage down during peak period. It’s very profitable for them or efficient for them. At the same time we don’t want to wait for the utility because sometimes they’re very slow to move. So if the data is available we go after it. And we think that approach is working and recently we had one utility contact us because they’re getting so many calls about Lowfoot. They said “how can we get you guys in here so we can stop this calls from coming in?”  We like those stories.
Ben Lack There’s a lot of talk about crowd sourcing and really including the social component to getting residential customers to become more responsible about energy use. Why is that an important tool that the industry needs to really leverage in order to make it happen?
Phil Playfair I think we need all the tools and that’s one of them and we’ve done some interesting experiments on that and we’re going to that out. And I think the industry is tending to be slow to move and people are making decisions, a lot of them, what they’re friends are saying, what they’re doing what’s being offered to them. And I think there are a lot of other organizations that could benefit from the need that these utilities have. So getting people out of the house those during these peak period let’s talk to businesses that want those people out of the house too. So Lowfoot  plans to marry those types of situations together we’re starting to do it here in Texas. I think it will be quite successful at it.
Ben Lack Walk me through the road map of the company for the next 6-12 months. What can we expect from you guys in the near future?
Phil Playfair  Well, I think our big push is to get our Texas customers alive and settled down and get access of getting Lowfoot into people’s hands, on getting data on their hands. I also think for a reason for the next couple of months that will really expand our development team. But we’ve got a really interesting project going on in the Netherlands and interestingly of to the gas is what’s really the differentiator there. And we’re really ruling out water smart meters as well and we had the full suite and so I think we’ll focus on development. But I’ll be on the road selling, that’s what I do, I think the concept is good and my experience in utility will help us to really, I think get some market share.
Ben Lack Talk me a little bit about the role that Surge plays or has played in the growth and development of Lowfoot.
Phil Playfair I spent huge; I think Steve and I have formed the company almost 2 years ago maybe longer than that. And we’ve been doing stuff and getting it rolling but we were not having that kind of attraction you saw and you know, we’ve been a successfully solar company so we weren’t probably as focused as we should have been. And then the Surge experience has been tremendous it has allowed me to work. We have to do this as itinerary 7 times a week, 17 hours a day and that kind of focused intensively to really move a project along and that certainly what has happened here. And also the contacts that they provide within the community have been fantastic. So we’ve been able to leverage our contacts through our advisers and that has made a huge difference for us to get in front of the right people.
Ben Lack Why are you doing what you’re doing and why have you chosen to spend your time working on the energy sector?
Phil Playfair I’m doing it for a couple of reasons. But I think really there’s a green element to it. I often talk about it because it’s not involved but it’s important to me. But I think there is a natural synchronicity between green and efficiency and efficiency and profitability. And I think time knows things together it’s very good for the environment but it’s also good for the society. Because we’re, you know our countries from Canada and United States, we’re in a challenging period where we have to be way more efficient and way more productive and just using our resources on much more intelligence it’s a sensible thing to do as we try and build out and compete on a global basis.
Ben Lack Thanks for your time and we really appreciate it .Much continued  success in the future and hope we’d stay in touch.
Phil Playfair Great! Thank you very much Ben. I appreciate it.



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One Person has left comments on this post

» Joan said: { Aug 3, 2012 - 09:08:30 }

Use more on/mid peak power & get more credits.My credits tripled when I used more power. Posted info and was suspended

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