4 Oct 2011

Best Buy aiming to demystify home energy with services launching today in Chicago, SF and Houston

Written by Jim Pierobon

Striving to become U.S. consumers’ “home energy department” store with a “Geek Squad” for energy appliances and software applications, Best Buy Senior Vice President Neil McPhail kicked off the company’s move to become the go-to resource for understanding, controlling and reducing consumption while “maximizing” their lifestyle.

Stores in Chicago, Houston and San Francisco are in various stages of a “soft launch” today as McPhail addressed the Alliance To Save Energy’s annual policy forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A grand opening at each store is slated for Friday, November 4.

McPhail envisions Best Buy offering two levels of home energy audits and working closely with utilities to help educate and integrate offerings throughout the “entire eco system.”

The entry of Best Buy ups the ante for national companies trying to profit by helping consumers manage energy with more efficient appliances and the technologies to program and control them via home computers and Smart phones.¬† McPhail said the company years ago identified home energy management as an industry in transition they could add value to on a national scale by helping consumers “navigate the complexity of choices.”

Important to Best Buy’s success will be its ability to integrate offerings with local energy utilities. In Houston, where CenterPoint Energy is widely considered to be at the forefront of smarter energy applications, success seems a high probability.But in Chicago, served by Commonwealth Edison, and San Francisco, served by Pacific Gas & Electric, some industry observers have their doubts. Both of those utilities have stumbled recently in the Smart Grid arena.

It could be that Best Buy is just what those two utilities need to catch up with where they ought to be. Who offers more credibility vis a vis the consumer remains to be seen. How Best Buy co-brands with the utility should be very interesting to watch.

VIDEO: Watch how McPhail and¬†Kristen Bowring, Best Buy’s Senior Director & Platform Lead for the company’s new business solutions group, summarize their approach and used “research mosh pits” with other companies to decide what offerings they think will make sense.

Bowring said Best Buy aspires to “walk the walk” with the consumer whether he/she wants to go it alone with products off the shelf, a little bit of help or lots of hand-holding.

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