Where do your largest customers need help with the energy transition?

Survey reveals energy and utilities could be frontrunners for the job

Large commercial and industrial (C&I) companies across the US are trying to reduce energy use, cut costs and adopt cleaner energy technologies. Most have a plan for getting this done, according to our 2023 Large Energy User Survey, but they don’t want to go at it alone. In fact, across industries, an overwhelming majority want external support. All this could present untapped growth opportunities for someone. And while it’s common to hear of emerging players, or so-called disrupters, stepping in to offer new products and services to these customers, our survey reveals something that may be unexpected. These large customers may be inclined to turn to incumbent energy and utility providers for this support above others. Also, their needs are broad, offering the opportunity to help customers achieve their clean energy goals in many ways.

C&I customers seek end-to-end help across energy initiatives

More than 90% of our survey respondents want at least some external support or major support for energy-related improvements such as on-site generation, battery storage or other complex energy efficiency initiatives. The need spans across most stages of their projects, including identifying the initiatives to pursue, selecting the right design for the business, installing equipment or making improvements, facilitating rapid repairs, maintaining equipment on an ongoing basis, identifying the financial impacts of initiative and using data to make energy decisions.

Looking at where respondents say they want “major support,” a few areas stand out a bit more than others. For instance, initiative identification, installation, maintenance and repairs nudge ahead of other needs. These desired support areas shift a bit as you look across industries. While 79% of large retailers want major external support in identifying the right improvements to make, for example, that’s important but not as pressing for consumer goods (52%) and transportation (55%). Meanwhile, industries like metals and mining appear more focused on major external support for equipment maintenance (74%) than all other industries (56%).

Who will large companies turn to for help with cleaner energy?

Major utilities and other long-time energy providers could be better positioned to help these large energy users than others. More than three-fourths of those surveyed indicate they’d trust their existing electricity provider for assistance with a significant energy improvement initiative, the second highest response — just under equipment manufacturers at 80%. The opportunity likely extends beyond utilities to include the broader energy industry based on what C&I leaders say is most important when selecting external support for energy-related investments. Above all else, those surveyed want to work with an “established energy-focused company with tried and true practices” — the top ranked response. It should be noted that an “innovative company new to energy with novel ideas and the latest technology” was the second-most-selected top response, followed by familiarity with local regulations, permitting and incentives as well as excellent customer service.

What’s the next move for energy and utilities?

Long-time providers like utilities and energy companies may innately have much of what customers want when looking for support in their clean energy transition. You’re innovating and leading your own cleaner energy journey, developing new capabilities and discovering leading practices along the way. While you’re well-positioned to help, you may be even stronger if you augment your capabilities in the areas your C&I customers need most or team up with emerging players or known technology providers to help these customers. The greatest opportunity may exist at the intersection of what your customers need and what they find important in a service provider.

Explore more survey insights

What are your largest customers’ energy efficiency and clean energy goals?

Most have energy strategies focused on reducing energy, cutting costs, moving to more renewables and adopting other clean energy technologies. See these priorities by industry and region.

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Contact us

Earl Simpkins

US Board member, US Industrial Products & Services, Energy Strategy Leader, Dallas, PwC US


Geoff Plese

Energy and Utilities Customer Transformation Leader, Atlanta, PwC US