On 16 July we held our first #FlickConnects event at our new HQ. We asked reps from HR Shop, Garage Project, Wellington Zoo, Pledge Me and our own Chief Flickster to answer the questions Why must we reinvent the wheel? This is what Steve had to say.
Why must we re-invent the wheel?
The simple answer is – because it will not take us where we need to go.
And I use the word need deliberately. There is a future that awaits us that we must embrace. It is a future beyond any existing political ideology. It is a future that puts people in control as producers and consumers, enabled by technology. It is a future that is fair.
Electricity is a beautiful thing.
Almost since the beginning of human civilisation, it has intrigued and amazed us with its potential.
The ancient Egyptians wrote about the ‘Thunderers of the Nile’ – species of electric fish that would deliver a mighty shock to anyone or anything that got too close. In the 15th century Arabian writers documented the natural phenomenon of lightening. And studies of ancient Mediterranean cultures show they understood static electricity and magnetism.
But – with the exception of using electric fish in efforts to cure headaches and gout – until 200 years ago there was still no real understanding of the great potential of electricity. It was just a curiosity.
Enter two little known European inventors – a German by the name of von Kleist and a Dutchman, Musschenbroek – who simultaneously invented the Leyden jar in the late 1700s.
The Leyden jar was the very earliest device for storing static electricity. And it’s the point where the beautiful story of electricity gets exciting.
If you could store electricity, you could capture its potential. You could transport it. And you could use it at will. And of course we all know where that’s led us.
After the Leyden jar, came the industrial revolution, and with it the first big name in modern electrical science. Benjamin Franklin conducted extensive research on electricity, documenting the science of hundreds of years of observed phenomena.
And then, in 1879 – a mere 150 years ago – Thomas Edison put millennia of discovery and enquiry into ordinary peoples’ hands with the invention of the lightbulb.
Almost since that day, the way we live and work has been wholly defined by our access to electricity.
Lesser known is that Edison – possibly the greatest inventor of the 20th century – went on to develop the very first electricity grid. In 1882 he launched Pearl Street Station in New York City – a complete system connecting a one-hundred-volt generator that burned coal, to a few hundred lamps in the neighbourhood.
Within three years of the invention of the lightbulb electricity was available to the masses.
But as magical as this story is – from electric fish in the Nile, to a fully connected electricity grid in New York City – this is also where the wheel, so to speak, came to a grinding halt.
The role of the customer – as a passive consumer – was defined in 1882 and has fundamentally not changed for 150 years.
That’s not to say that having electricity delivered to your door, and the invention of a plethora of electricity-powered personal devices that makes our lives better and easier, isn’t a great thing.
Who would be without the lightbulb? The electric stove? The television? The personal computer? The mobile phone?
But the role of the individual hasn’t evolved with technology. The individual has remained the recipient of a service. One of many spokes in a great big wheel, that turns, almost of its own accord, day in day out.
And over the decades since Edison flicked the switch at Pearl Street Station the customer has become increasingly passive. Distanced from the magical machinations of electricity supply and demand.
We created Flick to put the customer in the driving seat for the first time. A totally new offering that lets the customer control what they pay, for what they want to do. An offer that is best realised when the customer is engaged.
We truly believe Flick represents the beginning of an energy future that is completely different from what we have known for the past 150 years.
We think very little about the industry we are in. We are only interested in the value we create.
In some ways we think we know what the future looks like. I’m talking the next couple of years.
Wearable tech. Home automation. Residential battery storage. Interesting but obvious. Devices that take a price signal direct from the market. Now it’s getting more exciting!
Mass uptake of technology that makes consumption of cheap – and by extension green – energy, effortless.
Communities of producer-consumers – or prosumers if you will – who trade electricity between themselves.
This is where we are going. To a future where we are not building a system to peak load.
Where there is less need for investment in large-scale generation and transmission infrastructure.
Where customers are truly empowered to manage the cost of their consumption.
If the wheel represents the evolution of electricity retail, then where we are going there is no wheel. We are completely re-imagining the future, with our customers.
For more information about us, watch our video and find out why we think you deserve New Zealand’s Fairest Power Deal!