Stredoslovenská energetika, a.s. (SSE / Central-Slovak Energy), the second biggest supplier of electrical power in Slovakia, last year enhanced its portfolio of products to include supply of natural gas. It attracts customers in the field of power supply mainly by offering competitive prices and providing good-quality client services. We discussed specific product offers to individual groups of purchasers, prices, the company’s strategy, and also energy efficiency with the director of SSE’s Commercial and Services Division, Szilárd Mangult.
Q: What motivated SSE to enter the gas market?
It is simply a trend which energy companies have already embarked on and which has gradually become a standard in the market. However, our main motivation is the range that we can offer to our customers thanks to gas. I think that the energy portfolio of the purchaser needs to be seen as a whole. If we want to advise the client professionally and to optimise their consumption within the whole energy mix, we cannot look at just one commodity. One cannot say that gas consumption does not impact electricity consumption, or the other way round. Gas is a commodity that has been directly connected with our traditional business – electrical power. By enhancing our range of products to include gas supply we create synergy effects, like bigger variability of services and price effectiveness, from which our customers can benefit.
Which target group is your offer of gas supply aimed at?
We have not opted for a selective approach; we offer gas supply to all groups of clients, including households. But we expect that the biggest interest in gas supply will come from corporate customers, industrial companies and local government administrations. We are actively focusing on these customers, as the problem of optimising consumption is most pressing for them. Currently, SSE supplies gas to hundreds of such customers. The corporate clientele has expressed the biggest interest in our product offering, as it is these clients who have a pro-active approach to the issue of using energy, and a joint supply of electrical power and gas can mean a distinct saving in costs, as well as other assets, for them.
How do you want to persuade customers to get their gas from SSE?
We have established complete customer care and are drawing on the experience we have gathered over 90 years. We offer good expertise, and stability. However, we are also aware of the fact that the decisive argument is lower price. Clients who have not had a bad experience with their original supplier would have no other motivation to change supplier. Lower price is the basic advantage. We have verified that it is the key factor when making decisions.
We operate in a market that is developing continually. One of our basic strategic goals is to become the company which is most accommodating towards its customers. And I mean what I say – for all segments, from the smallest household to the biggest industrial client. We regard this development and approach as a never-ending process. Part of this process is new products, competitive prices and special services.
What is the specific price offer that you have entered the market with?
We acknowledge that the offer must be attractive from the point of view of price. In the segment of small and medium-sized enterprises, we offer an 8- to 15-percent rebate as standard. As in every other sphere, it is true that the longer the period of commitment is, the bigger the saving. When the client commits to one year of consumption, the rebate is 8 percent, in case of two years it is 10 percent and in three years it is as much as 15 percent, compared to gas prices from the dominant supplier. Of course, there exists a special group of clients – mass purchasers – for whom we always prepare individual price offers. With a bigger consumption, we are also able to offer clients an attractive, flexible product – which enables the client to influence the amount and the final price of the purchased gas according to their needs. It is necessary to say that our contracts do not contain anything that would increase the price. We are careful not to have any fine print (with hidden catches), nor hidden fees or fines in our contracts. We clearly talk about the price, clearly calculate the saving. We build on openness and transparency, and we table all information for the client so that he can decide in a responsible manner.
How do you perceive the issue of energy saving and energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency services are within our sphere of priority interest and we are active in this respect. Usually, each customer minds how much each MWh of the supplied commodity costs – this is what is he is most interested in and what matters the most to him. However, he seldom looks beyond his electricity meter, into his inner network, and he rarely checks its quality, his own losses, 'empty' energy, or the effectiveness of his own facilities. Often an inspection, repair or small saving measures are enough – they can bring surprisingly positive results. And who else should advise customers, if not their energy supplier?
What do you do, specifically, to help your clients save energy?
We offer all our customers an energy consultation free of charge in the normal way, either by phone, or in person at our customer centres. For our industrial clients, our managers for business clients study the individual requirements of each client in detail and, based on these, propose saving measures. We perform energy audits, we offer services in lighting technologies, technical production of steam, installation of co-generation units, and installation or reconstruction of air-compression equipment.
We have also created the Šetríme spolu / We Save Together loyalty programme through which our customers can buy energy-efficient heating and insulation systems at advantageous prices, as well as plastic windows, boilers and other products with which they can markedly reduce their energy costs. Purchasers can also find recommendations in the form of advice and tips on energy saving on the webpage www.setrime-elektrinu.sk. We were the first energy company in Slovakia to develop an application for mobiles phones, Moja SSE / My SSE, which helps give an overview of consumption and which contains useful functions for all energy purchasers, not just for our clients. It can be downloaded from the www.mojasse.sk website.
What are your future plans in the sphere of energy efficiency?
Also in the future, we want to develop in this regard and offer consultancy services and technology services to industrial customers, and small and medium-sized businesses, as well as to households. The goal is a mutually profitable situation in which the customer makes his consumption effective through the services which we aim to provide him with.
SSE supplies energy to 700,000 customers and is part of the Electricité de France (EDF) group, one of the most important energy companies in Europe.
8. Apr 2013 at 0:00