The smart energy industry is rapidly moving forward and the ecosystem in which we view energy usage will grow exponentially following the adoption of IoT, smart city, EV and renewable energy technologies at national levels and on a global scale. In the face of climate change, CO2 emissions targets and the legislation implemented to ensure these are met, the smart energy market is set for a year of change.
We spoke with Kirill Rechter, CEO of LogNet Billing and a leading international energy management and billing expert, about what we can expect in the year to come.
“Smart energy service providers have to deal with huge amounts of heterogeneous transactions and going forward using big data, machine learning and AI will be applicable and even necessary. To be competitive and sustain growth, a utility will need to create, price and deliver multiple energy services,” explained Rechter.
Energy management and an increased demand for insight into their various types of consumer energy usage patterns are expected from utilities looking to optimise capacity and offer new added value services, such as energy storage. “The traditional leaders in energy management, namely the manufacturing, industrial and commercial sectors are also expected to demand more insight into usage as new standards and reporting requirements in pursuit of global climate change legislation are expected,” said Rechter. “Aligning data and operations to seamlessly work together is the key for a utility company to successfully implement its business strategies.
“The trend in recent years towards a cleaner grid pushed utilities to announce large investments in renewable energy and the spending on renewables is expected to surge in 2019.”
Given the increased awareness of energy efficiency and the adoption of smart metering and smart home technologies, the consumer market is also expected to more actively manage consumption. “With easy access to their usage data, consumers can better manage their own energy consumption and costs,” Rechter explains.
Legislation deadlines in countries like the UK, United States and various European countries, aligned with global climate change and emissions targets, are going to be top of mind for companies looking to implement best practice in the face of ESES Phase 2, SECR and other initiatives. This legislation is a major driving force in utility modernisation and bodes well for the sector.
Rechter commented, “Green and efficient energy will open opportunities for new advanced business models, like peer-to-peer (P2P).”
A more diversified grid
Grid resilience and efficiencies are expected to be areas of increasing focus for utilities in the generation, transmission and distribution spaces, as co-generation and prosumer activity increase.
This will mean a more diverse grid with multiple sources of generation injected into an already busy system. Utilities are expected to look for new sources of insight and efficiency in terms of data management and will need to provide more sophisticated billing and service offerings in line with the shifting demands of customers.
“In the UK for example,” said Rechter, “energy providers are looking to adapt ‘pay-as-you-go’ business models with transparent billing and flexible payment options. High-end customer service helps this type of business to succeed.”
There is a trend in the market for taking advantage of the falling costs of renewable technology. This is being driven by powerful disruption from new technologies connected via the smart grid, such as peer-to-peer smart contracts between parties to gain energy tokens, self-managing their demand without need for long distance energy distribution, or actively using the EV ecosystem – charging at home, paying with energy tokens and providing non-traditional distributed energy storage.
EV adoption and integration have risen as improvements in technology have dramatically expanded the EV market. Utilities are not only looking for new ways to increase electricity sales. Energy storage is recognised as a critical asset for a 21st-century grid. Utilities can start using non-traditional technologies to solve distribution problems. The regulation and infrastructure in place are still catching up on these challenges. “Speakers at the recent EUW18 event noted this and stated that there is currently no standard yet; initiatives to create such standards are only just getting started. Those energy suppliers that provide a platform for this new market will gain momentum,” said Rechter.
As smart energy initiatives rollout in both public and private sectors in the years ahead, cybersecurity will remain one of the highest priorities for utilities and the smart energy market. Recent attacks at national levels in both the United States and Europe have driven home the urgency and importance of critical infrastructure and communications protection. The growing familiarity has increasingly brought both grid management and cybersecurity awareness and conversations to management levels in all industries. Explained Ilan Barda, CEO of global cybersecurity experts Radiflow. “More and more utilities providers and critical infrastructure operators understand the cyber-risks that are introduced as part of their digital transformation projects and efforts.
“Governments have certainly recognised these risks and are pushing regulations and mandates, such as NERP CIP and the EU NIS Directives. As cybersecurity is a new area for the operations teams, there is still a gap in the availability of clear and simple implementation guidelines for key aspects, such as identity management, network segregation, vulnerability monitoring and more.”
Barda continued, “Our recommendation is to always start with a risk assessment process that will map your assets and their vulnerabilities and analyse the impact of each on your industrial processes. This will provide you with important insights for defining and implementing best practices moving forward.”