Elster Group – Positioned for the future – An interview with Simon Beresford-Wylie, CEO of Elster Group


In November, Simon Beresford-Wylie became the new CEO of Elster Group and Smart Energy International had an opportunity to gain his perspective on his new position, the company and the energy industry.

Smart Energy International: What is Elster Group?

Simon Beresford-Wylie: Elster Group is a global leader in advanced metering infrastructure, integrated metering and utilisation solutions for the gas, electricity and water industries. Elster’s systems and solutions reflect more than 170 years of knowledge and experience in measuring precious energy resources.

Elster provides solutions and advanced technologies to help utilities more easily, efficiently and reliably obtain and use advanced metering intelligence to implement energy conservation measures, improve customer service, enhance operational efficiency and increase customer benefits. Elster’s AMI solutions enable utilities to cost effectively deliver, manage and conserve gas, electricity and water.

Elster has delivered more than 6 million devices worldwide with more than 60 smart systems located in North America, Europe, Central America, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean. Elster has more than 7,000 staff and operations in 38 countries.

MI: Describe your experience prior to joining Elster.

SBW: Prior to joining Elster, I was in the telecommunications industry for 27 years. Most recently I was CEO of Nokia Siemens Networks, which I led from its inception in 2007, and I served as a member of the Nokia Group Executive Board.

My experience leading and transforming a global technology company that integrated hardware, software and professional services to deliver customer solutions is very relevant for Elster, particularly as the company enters a period of sustained growth driven by the transition to smart grid technology.

From 1998 to 2007, I held a variety of senior leadership positions with Nokia in Asia-Pacific and Europe. From 1995 to 1998, I served as CEO of Indian mobile network operator Modi Telstra, and prior to this was an executive with Australia’s Telstra Corp. I hold a degree from the Australian National University, and am a graduate of the Executive Development Program of Stanford University/National University of Singapore.

MI: What attracted you to Elster and the smart metering and smart solutions space?

SBW: There are important parallels between the telecommunications space and the smart grid space. Advanced communications technologies sit very much at the centre of smart grid networks. Similarities include networks that incorporate next generation subscriber data management capabilities, unified charging/billing platforms, advanced operational support systems and end-to-end solution design, deployment and management. Elster has a long track record of developing and providing end-toend advanced metering/grid solutions to its customers.

Already today, Elster has one of the largest installed bases (3.5 million) of smart meters in the world, in large measure due to its state-of-the-art solutions which integrate precise, reliable metering with dynamic communications functionality. Smart grid and telecommunications technology is constantly progressing and evolving and I believe that adding my experience from the telecommunications space will keep Elster ahead of the change and position the company for continued innovation.

MI: How is Elster Group positioned to respond to some of the industry’s challenges and competitive pressures?

SBW: The smart grid space is poised for a period of significant and sustained growth and Elster is very well positioned in many segments. Indeed, Elster has a superb, and possibly unique, set of assets and capabilities, including a global presence (almost 40 countries) and scale, one of the world’s largest combined installed bases of electricity, gas and water meters, great people and a long history of developing and providing innovative, trusted solutions to its customers.

In a competitive marketplace like ours, we believe that superior products, customer focus and continued innovation lead to success and we will be fighting hard to introduce new customers to our integrated solutions while continuing to provide outstanding support to our existing customers.

MI:How does the smart grid factor into all of this?

SBW: Electric utilities worldwide are integrating smart grid technology into their transmission and distribution systems, utilising integrated smart metering solutions like those provided by Elster to:

  • Reduce the loss of electricity as it moves from the generating plant to homes and businesses; the reduction of delivery losses can have a direct environmental and economic impact by increasing efficiency and reducing carbon emissions;
  • Assist utilities in better locating the area of an outage before dispatching crews, reducing outage time for customers; and
  • Improve monitoring and control capabilities of the system while enhancing proven grid reliability.

MI: Where do you see the company in the next 10 years and what are your growth plans for the company?

SBW: Our rich heritage provides a deep and important foundation for future growth and prosperity. Many of our customer relationships have been built over many years or decades, which is extremely important when customers look for advice on significant technology shifts and investments.

With new stimulus funding from the US government and European initiatives supporting smart grid expansion, we expect Elster’s longstanding track record of quality, reliability and pioneering innovation of integrated solutions will position the company very well for continued growth.

I plan to invest substantial time with our customers, management and employees so we can continue to optimally position Elster for the customer and product growth resulting from the transition to smart grid technologies.

MI: What impact do you think the new stimulus funding from the US government will have on Elster?

SBW: Many of the grants have been awarded to support the implementation of smart metering systems. Smart metering systems allow utilities to improve operational efficiencies, enable energy conservation programmes and automate distribution system monitoring and management.

The new stimulus funding from the US government will also introduce significant additional scrutiny from regulators seeking to insure effective use of taxpayer funds. We understand the smart grid is a major investment for utilities that need complete confidence in the products and solutions they select. Elster’s smart metering systems and solutions are among the most advanced, accurate and reliable on the market with more than 3.5 million devices online at more than 60 systems across the world. Our systems are manufactured in the United States and meet or exceed the requirements of the ARRA for performance, standards and IP. We stand ready to lend our 170-year heritage of accuracy, reliability and innovation to support these exciting new smart grid initiatives.

MI: What differentiates Elster Group from its competitors?

SBW: Elster provides accurate, reliable solutions and advanced technologies to help utilities more easily, efficiently and reliably obtain and use advanced metering intelligence to improve customer service, enhance operational efficiency, and increase revenues. The company builds on a 170-year history, a world class management team, skilled and dedicated employees and innovative new technologies to set us apart as a world leader across the electric, gas and water industries.