“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This ancient African proverb sums up, quite accurately, the sentiment at the recently concluded European Utility Week (EUW) 2018. Among the event’s numerous sessions and conversations on the low carbon energy program, energy markets and digitalization, what stood out was an overarching call to ‘journey together’.
EUW18 attracted almost 13,000 visitors and 600 exhibitors from 100 countries and proved, once again, to be a reference point not just for the European utility sector, but the global energy industry as a whole. From a utilities industry standpoint, the “3-D” theme—decarbonized, distributed and digitized—served as the “golden thread” that tied together the various knowledge sharing tracks and sessions.
Here are my top 5 takeaways.
- Many new positive prospects for Europe
At EUW19, there was a palpable sense of optimism among market participants, including customers, driven by a number of industry actions and announcements. They ranged from the ongoing market-shaping dialogue between the DSOs and TSOs, to the much-awaited European Battery Alliance, to Bill Gates’ €100 million clean-energy fund, to the recently announced Smart Networks for Energy Transition vision 2050 (ETIP-SNET). There’s also a clear understanding that new entrants are challenging traditional boundaries and opening doors, encouraging active participation to address tomorrow’s energy needs.
- Ensuring system stability and grid security
Decarbonization and complementing infrastructure development along with the rapid proliferation of “prosumers” and EVs are creating a new renewable energy-focused power system. To ensure system stability, utilities need to acknowledge this new reality and take proactive steps to embrace clean, green and carbon-free options, instead of waiting for regulators to make it mandatory. Grid security is also top of mind and small groups of experts are already talking of the tremendous potential impact around feed-in management, congestion management and predictive analytics that will enable future load projections.
- Blockchain is enabling the “democratization” of energy
Customers are now at the center of the rapidly evolving energy market. A number of industry developments are emerging from their active participation and decarbonization initiatives, such as EVs, charging stations, rooftop solar PV panels, electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), and the distributed grid. In this new prosumer-led scenario, blockchain technology is poised to become the ‘coordinator’ or the ‘Internet of energy’ for the new energy mix and value-chain, driven by the overarching benefit of enabling a transparent pricing platform for the markets. In the Netherlands, for instance, CGI is working with energy company Eneco to build the prototype of a blockchain-based application for the trading of heat.
- EVs are becoming an industry-agnostic phenomenon
The utility industry is acknowledging that EV value chains are vast and there is recognition that utilities may not be best placed to serve every need. Partnership is critical for enabling the best access and developing robust value chains. In fact, some large utilities have already begun investing in EV charging companies to ensure a larger role in the expanding value chain. Utilities will become part of a larger collaborative EV ecosystem that includes OEMs, manufacturers, systems integrators, mobility specialists and regulators, among others, working together for a better and cleaner tomorrow.
- Digitalization moves from simplification to accelerating innovation
With growing digitalization, utilities are racing toward an interconnected world of new possibilities, while at the same time embracing a service-oriented model. Providing “energy as a service” and securing the supply of energy remain key for utilities. However, as digitalization advances, the goal post has moved from simplification to accelerating innovation to create and deliver enhanced value to customers. Digital twins, for example, built on the foundation of technologies such the Internet of Things, sensors, virtual reality and smart platforms, when combined with the right OT partners, will provide invaluable insight to minimize downtime and gauge the potential business impact of equipment failures.
Looking ahead, it’s clear to see that the European energy sector is opening up, with partnerships and emerging technologies becoming central to the new energy value chain. The call to “journey together” to manage the challenges of the energy transition resonates strongly with CGI’s collaborative approach to co-innovation with clients—an approach that sets us apart in the market. Take a look at our new Insights to Action report to see the innovative work we are doing with our utilities clients.