Swisscom Energy Solutions received the European Utility Week Energy Management Award for its 'tiko' solution, which provides insight and control of consumers’ electrical devices to optimise self-consumption, while saving energy and contributing to the promotion of renewable energies.
Swisscom Energy Solutions’ tiko, a joint venture between Swisscom and Repower AG, provides a simple and effective response to such fluctuations. tiko links up the heating systems of residential customers to the smart storage network. It also provides Swissgrid, an independent transmission system operator, with balancing energy. With over 4,500 people taking part, the tiko smart storage network is the first active smart grid in the Swiss market.
In an interview with Metering & Smart Energy International, Frédéric Gastaldo, co-founder and CEO at Swisscom Energy Solutions expands on the benefits of the company's tiko solution for energy consumers, the biggest challenges facing the utilities sector and his three predictions for the energy sector in 2017.
What is tiko and what benefit does it deliver to its users?
FG: tiko, the product from Swisscom Energy Solutions AG, is the first solution worldwide to provide energy efficiency and additional services to end users while delivering the full spectrum of services to energy suppliers and grids – up to the fastest one: fast frequency response with a reaction time of less than 1 second using residential prosumers’ devices.
On the prosumer side, devices optimised by the tiko platform are all electrical loads such as air conditioning, heating systems, PV equipment and batteries. For all devices, the platform offers services such as consumption and/or production visualisation, independently from the device brand, generation and state thanks to additional devices connecting them to the platform. Additionally, we offer them a energy system delivering a strong value proposition specific to the type of device and the needs of its owners: heating energy savings for heating systems, self-consumption optimisation for PV and batteries owners.
Through the aggregation of small loads, tiko delivers services to the energy industry, including the most demanding one: primary control also known as fast frequency response.
We are encouraging customer’s energy efficiency thanks to our platform generating revenue through ancillary services – revenue that can be shared between customer and suppliers – and helping our partners generate new profitable business models. Swisscom Energy Solutions AG’s last innovation to date is the technology enabling the world’s first energy flat rate for prosumers: sonnenFlat, by the German battery supplier sonnen.
Today more than 60MW are connected to the tiko network, which represents more than 250 million switches in real-time, and customers have saved more than 1.1GWh of electricity, a number that will grow exponentially fast within the next 6 months thanks to the company’s international growth. Indeed, we target to save 165,000 tons Co2 by 2020.
What personal learning have you taken away from being part of this project?
FG: Swisscom Energy Solutions AG is the 4th startup I create, but the first one in the energy sector as all 3 previous startups in the telecommunications and internet sectors, so leading a in this market is new for me.
Obviously, one first learning was that some time scales are similar to other sectors – a B2B customer takes more than a year on average to reach the decision to move forward. However, in the energy industry, the pressure to innovate in much lower than it can be in those other 2 sectors I am familiar with – so I’m learning patience.
I take great pride in tiko’s success and fast growth: fast to innovate, using expertise drawn from both the telecommunication and energy sectors, only 6 months were necessary for us to develop a first version of software and hardware to connect the first residential customers’ heating systems. Since then, and thus in the past 4 years, continuous innovation was led to develop new solutions. The market potential is huge for OTT services, and tiko’s growth, with several millions of compatible devices worldwide, is encouraged by utilities and/or devices manufacturers needing to exploit their potential to succeed in this new era.
Winning the Energy Management Award at the European Utility week and welcoming the interest from visitors was an additional recognition of our teams’ excellent work, something I take profound pleasure witnessing and sharing with them.
What strength and unique perspective did you bring to the team?
FG: As mentioned, this is my 4th start up, and I had my share of successes and failures with the previous companies I created. I bring to tiko this experience, and ultimately the entire list of mistakes I made in the past, making sure we won’t make them again. This is a fairly long list!
Swisscom Energy Solutions AG is a very international company, with 12 nationalities being represented among our 30 employees, and we make it a strength to develop our business, addressing each partner in his mother tongue, and sharing a common business culture. Being French myself, from Italian and Spanish origins, and having newly acquired the Swiss nationality, I contribute to this international melting pot.
How was IT/OT integration managed? (if appropriate)
[quote] FG: Our technology strategy has been to assemble existing technologies (such as PLC, 3G, internet …) and reinforce them to make them more reliable and secure in order to deliver innovative Grid Services. From a customer point of view, we integrated encrypted, secure technologies to guarantee a full protection of customers’ data and privacy, compliant with the very high standards of our parent company Swisscom AG. All data is safely stored on our servers in Switzerland. Still with customers’ best interest in mind, special care was taken to deliver an easy and seamless integration of our system into residential customers’ ones: we guarantee that our system does not impact customer’s WiFi/internet speed, does not create PLC interferences, etc. Overall, our expertise in mixing existing and tailor-made, improved-technologies with 100% in-house designed software, hardware and systems enable us to create real-time sub metering for a few hundred euros, which represent a real market disruption.
Our solution offers open APIS which makes it easy to embed in our partner’s existing technology and IT systems.
What do you see the biggest challenge being for the utility sector going forward?
FG: Speaking more specifically about electricity utilities, the industry’s situation is quite unique because it’s confronted by two main trends, contradicting each other – which is new, even for me. Energy efficiency and decentralization of production appear as trends which are unravelling the sector and are perceived as dangerous threats by many players. At the same time, as the world moves in the direction of cleaner energy, electricity will replace fossile energies and fuel in heating and transport, substituting a huge part (about two third) of the global energy consumption, which is a real business opportunity.
With those two trends in mind, I believe that the future is bright and that, despite probable phases of adjustment, the world will ultimately be electrified, and even with huge efficiency gains, it will remain a growing industry.
In conclusion, we can only be certain of one thing: tomorrow will not look like yesterday, and that’s very exciting.
What are your top 3 predictions for the sector for 2017?
- First, I believe that 2017 will see the emergence of disruptive business models, such as the flat rate offers currently appearing in a number of countries.
- Secondly, 2017 will be the year for utilities to strongly develop services, and their associated interfaces, becoming their clients’ energy companion, and reinforcing customer engagement.
- Finally, (also a wish) - I believe that the industry will learn tiko’s name, seeing us as an enabler to reach those predictions.