Internet Sites Serving Marketers, Customers
For those seeking to sell energy in a competitive environment,
it's a happy coincidence widespread consumer use of the Internet
has come about at the same time deregulation of gas and power
unfolds. Several Internet sites have been established to simplify
shopping for consumers and reduce the cost to marketers of reaching
Energy.com, Energyagent.com, Energymarketplace.com and
Energyguide.com are a few sites that put marketers and customers in
touch with one another and in some cases allow energy transactions
to be consummated on line.
Martin Flusberg, president of Nexus Energy Software, developer
of Energyguide, said his company's site lists about 55 gas and 35
electricity marketers. Gas customers in New York, Ohio, Maryland,
Michigan and Georgia can access information about suppliers. And
customers in New York, Pennsylvania, California, Massachusetts and
Rhode Island can access information about electric suppliers.
Currently, Energyguide can initiate transactions for about 12 of
the 35 electric suppliers and none of the gas suppliers. The site
lists all suppliers in a market and provides information. Once a
supplier contracts with Energyguide, it gets a more extensive
listing and the ability to begin sales transactions over the Web.
"We expand the information significantly if they sign up with
us," Flusberg said. "The supplier gets their logo. They have the
opportunity to have a custom message. plus the ability to do
Currently the site, which began operation focusing on
electricity and later added gas, targets only residential
customers, but plans are to add small businesses as well. Revenue
is derived from a transaction fee when a deal initiated through the
site is consummated.
Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) announced last week Aquila
Energy and Engage Energy agreed to participate as marketers on the
utility's Energy Marketplace Web site.
The website was launched in November 1997 to provide customers
with free real-time access to comparative information on energy
service providers, electric and natural gas prices and other energy
Energy Marketplace features a request for proposal (RFP)
function that enables customers to secure price quotes from
independent energy suppliers based on the customers' specific
consumption profile and price preferences.
With the addition of Aquila and Engage, the Marketplace now
hosts 16 marketers serving natural gas and/or electric customers in
California on its site. For a small fee, marketers can participate
as suppliers on the system and receive pricing requests from
customers. Marketers can also use Energy Marketplace to display
detailed information on their companies and service offerings.
Unlike Energyguide, Energyagent, which went live Jan. 1, 1998,
is only targeting commercial and industrial customers for the time
being. Residentials will come later, said Dan Piche, director of
energy services for North American Power Brokers Inc., developer of
the site. Also unlike Energyguide, Energyagent can process
transactions on line following an auction process that matches
suppliers with buyers. The site serves Connecticut, Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and a few customers
in the Chicago area. The service is predominantly natural gas.
Revenue comes from transaction fees. North American Power
Brokers also licenses its software to utilities. Right now revenue
is about evenly split between transaction and licensing fees, Piche
said. In the future, the contribution from transaction fees is
expected to be larger. Also in the future, privately held North
American Power Brokers could go public. "I hope so," Piche said. "I
think everybody that has a dot-com tag at the end of their names
looks to go in that direction."
Energy.com also gets the bulk of its revenue from transaction
fees paid by marketers. "It actually varies from region to region
depending on the markets there," said Tammy Cardoso, marketing
services manager for Energy.com. "If we sell a product [such as
light bulbs], we'll take a commission off of that as well.
"The marketers are not incurring a cost unless they're acquiring
the customer or making a sale or getting a lead. We also do banner
advertising, like a lot of the sites do, and generate some revenue
Currently, most of Energy.com's business is gas, but the site
handles power transactions as well. The site was launched in March
1998 by Columbia Energy Group, which is seeking investors in the
project. The site also offers courses in the fundamentals of gas,
electricity and deregulation. Originally intended for consumers,
these courses have become somewhat popular with energy companies
who use them to train new hires who are new to the energy industry,