America’s most energy-intensive industries want to reduce energy, cut costs, move to more renewables and adopt other clean energy technologies. They’re making progress and have a desire to do more, but need support. This is a potential untapped opportunity for energy and utilities. As you lead your own cleaner energy transition, you may be able to help your largest commercial and industrial (C&I) customers succeed on the same path. Even for those already developing and offering energy and renewables-related services to customers, the opportunities could be much larger than you realize.
These insights come from the PwC 2023 US Large Energy User Survey, our cross-industry look at the energy needs and priorities of C&I companies across manufacturing, transportation, retail, consumer products and several other industries. We asked more than 1,000 executives and business leaders about their plans for energy efficiency, carbon reduction and related investments — to help you gain insights into your largest customers and identify possible new revenue and growth opportunities.
Your C&I customers have sights set on building a cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable energy future, and want help getting there. Nearly all those surveyed expect their companies will need at least some or major support from external providers to help with their investments into on-site generation, battery storage and other significant energy initiatives. This need echoes across industries, regions as well as executives and functional leaders. Our survey also reveals that utilities and integrated energy companies could be frontrunners for this job based on what companies find important when selecting external support.
C&I leaders across the US share a common goal — to build a cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable future for their companies. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed say their organizations have comprehensive energy strategies that are backed with concrete goals and plausible plans to achieve them. These strategies prioritize adopting new technologies to reduce energy use, lowering energy costs, moving to sustainable and renewable sources of electricity and improving reliability — among other top focus areas.
When you take a closer look, specific priorities and carbon reduction commitments shift slightly from region to region. For instance, while important to everyone, business leaders in the Midwest, South Central and Southeast regions rank keeping energy costs down as the top priority. Adopting new technologies to reduce energy needs and improving reliability rise to the top in other areas. Respondents from the Southeast and Pacific are a bit more likely to report having comprehensive energy strategies.
Nearly half of all C&I leaders surveyed expect a significantly greater proportion of electricity will come from on-site generation or battery storage over the next two years. That shift appears to be well underway. More than half report having already implemented some degree of on-site battery storage (65%), on-site electric generation (64%) or renewables (62%), with plans to do more. Other efforts underway include electrifying fleets and installing complex energy efficient technology, including new manufacturing equipment. Energy strategy-related improvements straddle both of these complex and potentially costly initiatives as well as more routine energy efficiency actions like monitoring costs, changing processes and installing more basic technologies like motion sensors.
As leaders work toward carbon reduction and energy efficiency, they face some obstacles and may realize they could go further with help. Technology limitations, payback period and regulations or government policy emerge as the top obstacles organizations face in making progress toward energy strategy and goals.
The industry’s strategic reinventors should continue to look for new ways to help customers achieve their energy goals, resulting in new or expanded market opportunities. Certainly traditional utilities and energy companies face competition from emerging players and adjacent industries eager to step in and provide new products and services. But our survey suggests this perceived threat could become a real opportunity for some, particularly if you address these considerations.
Know who your growing and most strategically important large customers are. Evaluate if you have the right account management model and core capabilities to serve these customers today. Get the table stakes right before considering new and expanded service offerings.
Develop a deep understanding of your customers’ energy strategy, including plans for renewables, storage and other energy management.
Consider your customers’ needs across each stage of a project, from initiative selection and installation to maintenance and financial impacts.
Evaluate what skills and capabilities you could offer as a B2B solution or perhaps an energy as a service offering, and what should be developed or acquired in other ways.
Explore seven main areas where the largest energy users want major support. Also, learn why traditional utilities and integrated energy companies could be frontrunners in the race to support these C&I customers.
The PwC 2023 US Large Energy User Survey captured insights from 1,009 leaders across six US regions and the following industries or types of facilities: industrial manufacturing (20%), petroleum refining, chemicals, plastics (12%), consumer goods (10%), large retail (10%), transportation and logistics (10%), universities and other educational institutions (8%), metals and mining (7%), automotive (7%), hospitals (6%), other businesses (4%), airports (3%) and major corporate parks or campuses (3%). Respondents included CEOs, COOs, CSOs or others who oversee facilities, operations, sustainability or procurement. Most have the sole decision-making ability over electricity-related decisions or significant influence. The organizations they represent mostly own their business premises. PwC conducted this survey between September 6 and October 5, 2022.
US Board member, US Industrial Products & Services, Energy Strategy Leader, Dallas, PwC US