Fall Distinguished Leaders Series Closes with Discussion on Future of Home Energy Technology
Students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business interested in pursuing careers in the energy industry got input from one of its leaders this fall, as Direct Energy President and CEO Badar Khan headlined the second Distinguished Leaders Series event of the semester.
Khan presented “Innovations in Energy” during the Oct. 23 event, which is presented twice a semester and sponsored by AGL Resources and their Houston-based companies. His talk addressed the public’s understanding of home energy pricing and consumption as complicated and hard to control.
The next big home energy innovation, he said, will likely be mobile, user-friendly technology that will allow consumers to better understand their monthly energy bills.
“The single biggest enabler of that engagement is technology,” said Khan, a two-decade veteran of the retail energy sector. “When I talk about technology, I mean hardware and software that is engaging, easy to use, that’s represented by mobile devices that we all carry around with us.”
Direct Energy uses technology to educate consumers through a text message program with more than 75,000 customers. In the program, customers receive a daily text explaining how much energy they consume each day in dollars. As a result of receiving just one piece of information, Khan said, those customers reduced their energy consumption by 18 percent.
Through partnerships with Nest Labs and Honeywell, the company has been able to provide smart thermostats, allowing customers to control and monitor their home thermostat through their mobile device. Direct Energy recently added Smart Things, a company whose mobile app monitors other home appliances and devices, to the list of interactive mobile options.
“Imagine if you could not just understand how much you used in energy for your home, but for every single energy consuming device,” Khan said. “Imagine if you could actually control those devices. That is actually available today.”
The growth and availability of technology has presented Direct Energy with a wealth of new opportunities for the company and consumers, he added.
“We need to stand for something beyond just selling stuff and making money, and so we developed this mission,” Khan said. “For the last five years we have been searching for ways that we could provide something of value to people, and I believe with technology, we are finding it today.”
Bringing in thought leaders like Khan helps Bauer College to meet its goal of producing an educated and innovated workforce, Dean Latha Ramchand said.
“We want to groom talent so that when the CEOs in Houston want to hire, the first place they come to is Bauer,” she said. “We can’t do that using just the academic structure we have. We serve industry and need input from industry all the time.”
Ramchand added: “I think that’s really what speaker events like our Distinguished Leaders Series are all about. It’s to connect our students with industry, not only so they understand where the leaders are coming from, but also to make sure that our curriculum is rigorous as well as relevant to the changing industry.”
By Ann Lynd
Preview: Badar Khan, “Innovations in Energy”
On October 23, Direct Energy President and CEO Badar Khan addressed students, faculty and alumni at the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston during the final installment of the Distinguished Leaders Series of the fall semester. Click here for full event coverage.