Affordability, Sustainability, and Resiliency

John  Schultz

By John Schultz
President, Direct Energy Business

Affordability, Sustainability, and Resiliency

I recently sat down with CEO Magazine for an executive interview that was featured in their October-November issue to discuss my views on affordability, sustainability, and resiliency as the way ahead.

With over twenty-five years’ experience working in energy, I have seen many changes in the industry, and as president of Direct Energy Business, I am focused on the future of the company. I was leading Hess’s energy marketing business when it was acquired by Direct Energy in 2013 and I could tell that it was going to be an exciting opportunity, to combine the scope and capabilities of the new enterprise. I jumped at the chance to build an industry leader in competitive energy that would provide customers with new and innovative products and service.

Direct Energy was founded in 1986 and acquired by Centrica in 2000. Today, Direct Energy Business and its affiliate Direct Energy, is the second largest competitive energy retail company in North America, serving over 4 million customers in the United States and Canada. Centrica plans to grow their energy supply businesses in North America and aspires to create a full suite of energy solutions for business customers. Centrica recently launched Centrica Business Solutions in North America to provide distributed energy solutions to larger business customers.

I believe that Direct Energy/Centrica can deliver against the three core needs that business customers are focused on: affordability, sustainability, and resiliency.

Of course, businesses want budget certainty, they want their energy to be affordable, and they’re always focused on the bottom line. The other conversation, increasingly, is around sustainability. We see more and more companies considering how their energy usage, energy purchases, and their deployment of renewable energy fits into their corporate goals and brand.

And finally, resiliency. It’s probably the least talked about, but it’s an absolutely critical aspect in many industries, whether it’s the grocery business or healthcare. Disruptions to the power supply can have a significant impact on business, and so resiliency is a big part of the energy equation.

Standing out

I believe that Direct Energy Business's geographic reach helps our company stand out in its market space. Serving over half a million different utility business accounts in 23 US states and 8 Canadian provinces, there is still potential to grow in states where regulatory changes are offering new opportunities.

As you can imagine, we operate in a number of different markets and the rules are different in each of those markets, so that introduces a level of complexity that we have to manage inside the business in order to be successful. Some energy companies are very specific in terms of only focusing on one discipline or in one geography, and we find companies that we work with often want to have a single partner in the energy space to help them satisfy all of their needs.

Significant partnerships

Beyond the obvious benefit to cost, I think that if you can develop a strategic partnership with somebody, then you’re talking about a partner who can really understand your business and the outcomes you’re trying to achieve.

I see Direct Energy as a one-stop energy partner for companies to enable them to manage their energy needs across the three areas of affordability, sustainability, and resiliency, and believes our company has the abilities and strategic supply chain to satisfy those demands.

For example, if you’re in the steel industry, you make steel; if you’re in healthcare, you’re providing health benefits. Those customers can’t go to 50 or 100 different energy companies to solve all their individual energy needs. So we want to be their one-stop strategic energy partner and manage all the upstream complexity on their behalf.