Making Bulb better

Hey Bulb and Bulbers,

I had a great chat with Matt Jones last year who called me to talk about referrals and one of the questions he asked me, was How could Bulb do better?

Well, it’s been some time but I’ve had some thoughts about this and wanted to send a more considered reply, at last. It seems that he’s moved on now, but I thought - maybe it’s better to share this feedback with the wider group anyhow. I hope that there’s something useful in these suggestions (although I expect the community on here has much of these points already covered as there are some great ideas on here!)

Improving Gas
It would be fantastic to see Bulb supply 100% Green Gas options (my excellent previous supplier Green Energy do this).
You might be interested to know that one of my referrals cancelled his switch (returning to Ecotricity) after he realised the gas was “only” 10% renewable (although I think he thought they were 100% but I believe they are 12%).

Enabling technologies for consumers
A number of things are happening at the moment which I think energy companies stand to benefit from if they invest appropriately:

  1. Solar PV is reducing in price and reducing customers use of grid.
  2. Battery storage is reducing in price to further reduce customers use of grid and/or mitigate peak demand.
  3. Feed in tariffs are ending.
Solar and batteries all incur big upfront investment from the consumer, with the pay-off in the longer term - those costs ultimately reduce the revenue for electricity suppliers like Bulb. Seems like an energy company able to provide installation and financing for PV and Battery packages at competitive rates could be helping to ensure their revenues are affected positively by these technologies rather than seeing reductions over time. If financing were separate to energy packages, customers could continue to switch suppliers frequently, in the way they do now, but a revenue stream could be maintained with them through the loan repayments. Community solar projects sort of deserve a mention in this regard - Brighton's own energy coop offers a good rate of return over 10+ years for investing in community solar projects. It's probably possible to work out what your own rate of return would be on financing average PV system costs. Did you hear about Ben Sullin's and his Tesla referrals? He runs a YouTube channel called Teslanomics, and through his 50 Tesla referrals (that's 50 people buying a Model S), earnt himself the latest $250,000 Roadster 2, completely free. The Tesla referral scheme is pretty nuts - but you have to own a Tesla to have access (https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/support/referral-program). How about switching to a tiered referral system? 50 Bulb referrals gets you free home Solar? Another 100 and it includes a battery? Tiered referral scheme FTW!

Future of gas
To tackle climate change the future needs to be gas-free, but people don’t really talk about this too much - perhaps because of the convenience and efficiencies of gas.
Micro CHP systems have been brought to the consumer market with companies like Flow in recent years (they provided a discounted price of CHP boiler, took profits from feed-in tariff for contract-bound 5 years, after which customer owns boiler and electricity generated outright). But CHP is still a gas system and it looks like they’ve ended that service with the wake of FIT’s ending.
I’d like to switch to an electric combi-boiler, when I can afford to, and when I can offset the increased cost of running one with Solar PV. I guess I’d just like to see energy companies encouraging people to go gas free, with cost-effective solutions? I appreciate we may not be there just yet.

Electric Vehicles
I mentioned EVs when we spoke, with a general desire to see more talk of them from Bulb.
All electricity companies stand to make a chunk of the automotive fuel profits-pie as people move to EVs and start charging their cars at home. The government grant for home charger installation has been extended for a few more years and I think this is something to be promoting at the moment. Partnerships with charging hardware providers for home installation, is a no brainer - help them get a good deal on a charging unit, save money on fuel and increase your customer’s energy usage. Bundling with an economy 7 meter would also be a good option for maximum consumer value and helping the grid.
For example, Ecotricity recently partnered with Rolec, who make the cheapest and most popular home 7kWh charging unit there is, to offer a bundle deal.
OVO energy are worth a mention as they do a great value bundle with excellent charging network Polar.
This is especially important for those who do not have the ability to charge their car at home, out and about is vital (I pay £7.95 a month to Polar at the moment, any chance to reduce that is a win).
…Ovo are also the first to announce vehicle-to-grid packages which is truly pushing the smart grid forward (!).
In my view, any promotion of EVs from renewable energy suppliers is good, because EVs need to be charged from renewable sources to have the biggest impact against climate change. They’re just a part of decarbonisation but customers stand to save so much in fuel costs they’re a win-win (I’ve saved £1192 in fuel in the first 16 months of owning an electric car, over my Mini Clubman Diesel).

Anyway, I think that’s about it - I hope my sporadic brain dump of thoughts are welcome and this isn’t too “teaching to suck eggs:slight_smile:

Congrats on the continued successes :slight_smile:

Hey Bulb and Bulbers,

I had a great chat with Matt Jones last year who called me to talk about referrals and one of the questions he asked me, was How could Bulb do better?

Well, it’s been some time but I’ve had some thoughts about this and wanted to send a more considered reply, at last. It seems that he’s moved on now, but I thought - maybe it’s better to share this feedback with the wider group anyhow. I hope that there’s something useful in these suggestions (although I expect the community on here has much of these points already covered as there are some great ideas on here!)

I've been considering writing something similar but I have so many comments and suggestions, it's tricky to just bundle them all into one thread!
It would be fantastic to see Bulb supply 100% Green Gas options (my excellent previous supplier Green Energy do this).
As much as Good Energy advertise 100% green gas, it's a lower percentage biogas than Bulb's offering, at only 8% rather than 10%. They claim to offset the other 90% with schemes in developing countries, but it's not quite as good as a 100% biogas supply option would be. (I'm also an ex-customer of theirs).
How about switching to a tiered referral system? 50 Bulb referrals gets you free home Solar? Another 100 and it includes a battery? Tiered referral scheme FTW!
I suspect at the current price of referrals this isn't too far off. I'd also be interested in options that aren't cash for referrals. Perhaps as they slow their insane growth, changing from a "free money" strategy might work just fine. You could do this yourself right now, but it'd be more like 100 referrals for solar at the £50 rate currently given.
To tackle climate change the future needs to be gas-free, but people don't really talk about this too much - perhaps because of the convenience and efficiencies of gas.

I’d just like to see energy companies encouraging people to go gas free, with cost-effective solutions? I appreciate we may not be there just yet.


I looked into this for my house when the boiler blew up but it really was prohibitively expensive. For my next house, I’d really like to go all electric (induction cooktop and electric combi boiler), but it will likely be a smaller house with underfloor heating and a heat pump.
I’d definitely be interested in seeing more analysis on moving away from gas completely and what people can do to make it more affordable.
Maybe we should start another thread on the matter…

Personally, as much as it’s quite a boring suggestion, right now I’d love for Bulb to really focus on the basics and get them perfect before looking at other things they could do.

:+1:

As much as Good Energy advertise 100% green gas, it's a lower percentage biogas than Bulb's offering...

Green Energy, not Good Energy :slight_smile:

You could do this yourself right now, but it'd be more like 100 referrals for solar at the £50 rate currently given.

You’re right, but my point there was that purchasing PV at larger scale could reduce costs with bulk buying to try and offer better value for the customer whilst also having a business incentive to do so. Plus, you know - it encourages people to do it :slight_smile:

Green Energy, not Good Energy :)
Doh!

Why can’t energy companies come up with more imaginative names? Bulb’s bad enough!

Wow, @tomkiss, firstly thank you so much for all of the fantastic thoughts and suggestions.

This is probably a good opportunity to tell you a bit more about our plans for the immediate future, and how we’ll incorporate suggestions like these into our roadmap.

  1. Getting the basics right (spot on, @mowcius). We’ve grown a lot recently, and in recent weeks we’ve not been responding to our members as quickly as we’d like to. To get our service back on track, we’ve thottled our growth right back, and we’re investing heavily in recruiting more Energy Specialists to join the Experience team. There are also a tonne of fixes and improvements in the works to make meter readings, and the Bulb Account a better experience.

  2. Around 15% of UK homes have prepay meters. Traditionally, Big 6 energy companies make a larger profit from prepay than credit customers, which we don’t think is right. We’re currently in the trial phase for prepay, and this is a big project for us. We’re hyperfocused on creating a product we can be really proud of - one that will put more money back in our member’s pocket, as well as do good for the planet.

  3. Smart meters. We talk a lot about the future of energy here at Bulb, and the changing relationship that UK homes will have with their energy. We’re super keen to help our members become energy suppliers (with solar, battery storage, Vehicle to Grid), but we also want to help them become engaged energy consumers. The next few months is all about prepay and smart.

  4. I’ve added most of your suggestions to our open roadmap. If you’re interested, please do check it out and vote on other ideas that you think we should do next: https://trello.com/b/xjpjIt0e/bulbs-open-roadmap.

Keep the great suggestions coming!

Jenny

1) Getting the basics right (spot on, @mowcius). We've grown a lot recently, and in recent weeks we've not been responding to our members as quickly as we'd like to. To get our service back on track, we've thottled our growth right back, and we're investing heavily in recruiting more Energy Specialists to join the Experience team. There are also a tonne of fixes and improvements in the works to make meter readings, and the Bulb Account a better experience.
Does this mean you're not currently on some price comparison sites or have you done other things to reduce growth?

Thank you for your response Jenny, and the Trello link - I’ll take a peek :+1:

@“Jenny at Bulb” Jenny, could you please add a link to this thread in the description for those Trello tasks? That way the original context won’t get lost. Thanks!

Hey @tomkiss - loving the ideas! I’ve added a link to this thread on the trello cards as you suggested.

Hi guys,

We only signed up to Bulb in December, but I’ve got to say that I’m really impressed with the ethos of the company, plus the level of support and information that’s available in this forum.

My husband qualified as a Domestic Energy Assessor (think that’s the title) a couple of years ago, so we know a little bit about renewables and so on. Last year we had a 4KW solar panel system installed and we’ve since had quotes for batteries and also an Air Source Heat Pump, but both were quite a substantial outlay and when we did the numbers we didn’t think we’d ever recoup the cost, so we opted for a new A+ rated gas boiler instead and then we got this installed too…

https://www.earthwiseproducts.co.uk

I felt this was worth a mention, because (a) it’s cheap to add on to an existing solar system and (b) for almost 8 months last year we didn’t have our boiler on once, not for heating or for hot water, because the Solic 200 routes any excess energy from the solar panels to the immersion heater so it saves you having to use gas to heat your water.

Compared to the cost of a battery to store the excess energy (£5k plus?) or for a separate solar water heating system (£4K plus?) this little piece of equipment cost just £400 supplied and fitted, so we’ve got all of the benefits of a solar water heating system at a fraction of the price, plus there’s little point in us having a battery now either, because we’re exporting less than 10% of the energy generated. The majority of the excess energy we’re generating goes to heating the hot water instead.

If anyone is “on the fence” about getting solar panels, I’ve got to say that it’s one of the best investments we’ve ever made, but the addition of getting free hot water too has made it an absolute no-brainer. Taking into account the money we’ve received in FIT payments (which isn’t a lot now to be honest), a couple of cashback deals from switching and the Warm Home Discount scheme (we have a disabled daughter so qualified for that too), all in - since the start of April 2007 to date, roughly 10 months, we’ve paid… drumroll please…

£103.11 in total so just £10.31 a month for dual fuel.

We were paying £130 a month before getting the solar installed!

I just got my first bill from Bulb and the closing bill from my previous supplier this week, so I was able to update my spreadsheet with the Dec/Jan numbers today and it impressed me no end (can you tell? :-)).

Anyway, I thought I’d share that story, just because there are other ways to maximise the energy solar panels generate without the high cost of batteries, which - at the moment - don’t even store all that much. And if you’re on the fence about getting solar panels, I’d say… just do it, and do it now, while you’re still locked into the index-linked FIT payments for 20 years!

Hope this is helpful,

Lesley-Ann