The Fourth Industrial Revolution means providing a personalised energy experience for the consumers, prosumers and utility companies. Consumers and prosumers want to see their impact on their bill, the grid and the environment - and they want to be accountable for their energy choices.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Energy Industry
Anders H. Lier | Enoro
The World Economic Forum report on electricity was just published and it mentions the fourth industrial revolution - which was also the theme of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this year. What do you consider the most important changes in the electricity market?
To look ahead, we need to look back. In the second industrial revolution, electricity made mass production possible. Today it is not production, but the state of our planet and consumer behaviour that are driving the changes in the electricity market. Electricity is no longer just a commodity. It is changing how we live, how we work and how we consume electricity. And these changes are reflected in the electricity market.
I would like to highlight three important changes. Firstly, consumers want to make responsible decisions and use electricity that is coming from renewable energy. At home this means transitioning from being a consumer to a prosumer; for example, someone with solar panels on their roof can use and produce renewable electricity. Businesses, such as Google, are building renewable energy plants or signing up to alliances like RE100 where they commit to using 100% renewable energy within a timeframe.
Secondly, consumers and prosumers alike want real-time information about their electricity consumption. This is not surprising given that our customers carry smart phones in their hands that give them access to real-time data 24/7. Knowing that there might be ways to be more efficient with your energy is very different from seeing a graph showing how 60 % of your consumption happens during peak consumption hours. This will change consumption behavior.
Thirdly, local and regional policies, such as the Energy Union, are working across markets to secure access to increased renewable and affordable electricity.
These trends boil down to the market power shifting to the consumer, who will now be free to choose the provider and the product that fits their values. They will be free to chose energy alternatives that are renewable and efficient – electricity choices will become a lifestyle.
How can technology help solve the challenges that we see ahead in the electricity market?
The main challenge is meeting increasing demand while reducing emissions. This is exactly what the Energy Union is trying to address. But this is not limited to Europe. Electricity is key to a dignified life for many people in developing nations. Electricity provides opportunity. If you have light, your child can read.
We need to provide electricity to people who are without. This means preparing the market for increased volumes of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. Tesla’s new batteries will help with the former - and our technology with the latter. By collecting and analysing big data effectively, you can increase energy efficiency considerably. And this is one of the services that our Utilytics solution provides our clients with.
The Nordics are known as a birthplace for innovative utility management solutions. How has your Nordic heritage affected your market competitiveness?
I read an excellent article in the Nation this weekend which resonated. It said that "the Nordic model starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy, because you can’t have one without the other." Equal access to electricity and opportunity is the foundation of our collaborative model. The market is too complex, and represents too many different interests for one group of stakeholders to change the whole system. Our competitive advantage is how we work together with others, as well as how our systems integrate with existing set up to give the best solution for the customer.
Through close cooperation in an advanced energy market we have discovered new ideas that will change the way utilities compete and support customers.
Could you tell me more about the role of big data in the electricity industry?
The energy market is intensely competitive and a more diverse group of emission conscious consumers demand more choice and information. Big data can be very effective in meeting this demand if you get a lot of data points that are analyzed and presented understandably. To help utilities manage big data, Enoro launched Utilytics in November. Utilytics is a new analytics solution that uses machine learning and advanced real-time statistical analysis to create insights from energy consumer behaviour. It will increase the competitive edge of energy utilities.
We have also seen that big data is no pie in the sky. Recent tests show that Enoro’s cloud-based GENERIS Energy Data Management platform can serve any energy utility with a record number of up to 20 million smart meters. The tests were run with IBM’s SoftLayer data center. Performing meter data import and other core processes within a regular business day for 20 million smart meters in a cost-effective cloud environment increases GENERIS users’ competitiveness in the energy market. For utilities, this means increased cost-efficiency, increased competitive advantage and an opportunity to focus on serving their customers in the best possible way.
How is the growing abundance of alternative energy sources of electricity affecting the future of the industry and the grid?
The growing abundance of alternative energy is vital to us and future generations. Utility companies will have to adapt to prosumers, to increased renewable energy on the grid, prosumers and increased demand for energy efficiency. But without access to big data, analysis and presentation of the results - nobody will be able to change. Therefore the abundance of alternative energy sources require high quality meter data, big data analysis and customer insight available in real-time.
What does the future electricity market look like?
We will see more renewable energy on the grid, policies changing, and the public and private sector working closer together. For us who are providers of software solutions for utility companies, the Fourth Industrial Revolution means providing a personalised energy experience for the consumers, prosumers and utility companies. Consumers and prosumers want to see their impact on their bill, the grid and the environment - and they want to be accountable for their energy choices.
How does the industry have to change to embrace the customers’ expectations?
The conservative, engineer-driven approach, where the customer is simply a data point, has to change in order to meet new expectations. How you use electricity is a lifestyle and consumers are now also prosumers. To stay competitive, the industry has to adapt new innovations in big data management and continuously stay ahead of the game. And with new players on the field, the game is changing quickly.
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