Exclusive Interview: Patrick Caiger-Smith, CEO of geo
Patrick is a Chartered Engineer with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College and an MBA from Cranfield University. His career has been in manufacturing, where he has run several international operations. Active with Industry Groups, he currently sits on the Board of BEAMA, chairs the Consumer Committee for ESMIG and is a member of the Enterprise Council of the CBI and a Fellow of the RSA.
When the sustainability agenda was still a novelty, Patrick saw the need to generate consumer interest and understanding of household energy consumption. In 2006, he co-founded his current Cambridge-based business, geo, which helps the energy retail industry with technology and insight around consumer attitudes and behaviour change. This interest is now moving towards ‘hybrid homes’ and enabling demand response in the residential sector.
In 140 characters or less – what is geo?
The pioneering developer of smarter energy products and services for the home including smart meter in-home displays, solar monitoring and smart thermostats.
What was the driver for creating geo – what gap did it fill?
To make a positive impact on home energy consumption. We wanted to provide consumers with energy data that they could use, long before the ideas of smart meters arrived.
Driven by concerns about the impact of climate change and the shortage of natural resources, we believe that technology has an important part to play in making energy visible to people enabling them to live greener, more comfortable and cost-effective lives in energy-efficient homes.
Who does it primarily serve?
Consumers. However, we work with most of the major utility companies and heating installers helping them to engage closer with their customers. We also sell products direct to consumers. Our Cosy smart thermostat is a good example of this.
What difference does geo want to make?
geo’s long-term objective is to reduce energy consumption in our customer’s connected homes by up to two thirds over the next ten years. We’ll achieve this by integrating data from smart meters, energy appliances and storage systems to provide smarter energy controls, simplicity and visibility.
Smart meters will help homeowners to visualise what has the greatest, or the least impact on energy usage. It’s why the Government is pushing its campaign to kit-out every home in the country with a smart meter by 2020. Suddenly we’ll all be equipped with in-home displays, energy apps and web portals many of which will be supplied by geo. We will use this introduction as a catalyst to engage users in smarter energy devices and deliver increased benefits from the smart meter programme.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
Initially the biggest barrier was scepticism – most people couldn’t understand why we would start a company whose focus was to help utilities reduce energy consumption. Now, consumer engagement is mainstream in the energy sector.
Our next biggest barrier is delivering network benefits to end-users. Much of the benefit of smarter energy in our homes will be helping manage grid imbalances through demand management. However, monetising this benefit in a way that compensates users for the expenditure they are making is proving very difficult. The network has been set up as a centralised system where energy flows in one direction and money in the opposite direction. The future is a consumer centric distributed energy system but it will take a long time to change the motivations and regulations to make this a reality.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
Firstly, the team at geo. Together over the past ten years we’ve developed and delivered almost three million systems, which has allowed us to build a picture of how energy is used by consumers. We have a number of committed and far-thinking specialists who help us turn our vision into a reality.
Secondly, consumers: most disruptive change is driven by consumers. If we are able to present consumers with a compelling proposition that they want then we believe that will drive the inevitable market changes needed. That vision is for the Hybrid Home. Like a hybrid car which halves fuel consumption and provides a better driving experience we see the hybrid home doubling energy efficiency and giving a more enjoyable living experience.
What needs to happen politically to accelerate your growth?
Sensible incentives, not subsidies, that encourage consumers to buy energy efficient systems. For example a combination of a new Merton Rule and changes to Stamp Duty could provide the incentives for developers to build hybrid homes and people to buy them.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about geo?
Visit our website www.geotogether.com to find out about our company and products. You can also contact us on
Feel free to add a question you’d like us to have asked!
Why is geo different?
Most businesses in our sector concentrate on one element of the consumer value chain – products, platforms or services. Because we believe in providing an integrated consumer experience we have developed all three elements. We are therefore able to ensure the quality, reliability and usability of our solutions.
This is a different perspective to answering the challenge of interoperability. It is very pragmatic – delivering a working solution now to help build a market starting from the consumer rather than the technical perspective.
Similarly we have focused on the energy element of the smart home. We have built leading propositions in energy feedback, heating and solar and are unique in having this breadth. It is a breadth that enables us to converge these solutions into an integrated energy management system that will be the heart of the Hybrid Home.
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