The latest buzz among utilities is the need to become more customer-centric, and E Source is turning this buzz into action by bringing design thinking to the energy world via the E Source E Design 2020 initiative. The ultimate goal? Transformative change in product development and customer offerings. Design thinking puts customers at the heart of product development and uncovers unmet needs through ethnographic research, rapid prototyping, and other techniques.

E Source, with partner Egg Strategy, is beginning the field-research phase with residential utility customers to discover new concepts for:

  • Solar products, services, and experiences
  • Connected/smart home solutions
  • Electric vehicle (EV) programs
  • The low-income segment
  • Energy-efficiency, demand-response, and behavior-change programs
  • Rate design
  • Value-added and revenue-generating products and services

Nineteen utilities have joined E Design 2020 so far, including investor-owned, municipal, and cooperative utilities of various sizes. “We’re thrilled with the strong interest in creating the next generation of utility customer products and services,” says E Source Chief Instigation Agent Bill LeBlanc. “With so many utilities on board, we’re able to gather deep data and insights in areas that are ripe for new utility offerings. We’ll be using digital mobile ethnography with some fascinating customers—those who are outspoken and often on the extreme edges of the bell curve.” Design-thinking practitioners have learned that average customers rarely offer unique points of view, but those who are passionate about something like solar or EVs provide new ways of thinking about problems, sparking new ideas for product developers.

Early E Design 2020 workshops produced exciting concepts such as Pokémon Go Green, where customers using smartphones with augmented reality compete with friends to discover energy-saving opportunities in their homes. Another is the Craft Beer Network, where microbrewery owners and managers share strategies—with the utility as the network hub—for improving the bottom line while being more sustainable.

At the E Design 2020 NextGen Workshop in October, utility participants will converge on Boulder, Colorado, to study the market research, develop concepts, and make plans to take those concepts into the prototyping phase. LeBlanc adds, “This initiative will help utilities get new products, enhanced experiences, and service improvements into the field as fast as possible and retrain them to create solutions that are inherently more attractive to customers. This will ultimately boost program participation and lead to greater customer satisfaction. I’m personally excited to see the innovative concepts that emerge from this initiative.”

To learn more about E Design 2020, visit

About E Source

For 30 years, E Source has been providing market research, data, and consulting services to more than 300 utilities and their partners. This guidance helps our customers advance their efficiency programs, enhance customer relationships, and use energy more efficiently.

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Kym Wootton, Vice President of Marketing, E Source
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Vice President, Operations

Kym Wootton oversees operations at E Source, which includes marketing, project management, IT, facilities, content management, and business...