While many utilities choose to ignore the current energy transition, there are those that choose to reinvent their business models in order to not only survive, but flourish. These utilities have been labelled by Thierry Godart, Schneider Electric Utility President, as “smart utilities” since they view the transition as a type of rebirth and are responding to their customers’ needs by providing additional services. [Engerati-Energy Transition-A Rebirth for Utilities.]
Changing the business model
One such utility is Canada’s Oshawa Power and Utilities which has recently launched an innovative solar photovoltaic and energy management pilot project in the City of Oshawa. This is being carried out alongside Panasonic Eco Solutions and Tabuchi Electric Co. of Japan. [Engerati-Canadian Utility Puts Power Back into Consumers’ Hands.] Effectively, through this pilot, the utility’s aim is to enable its customers to generate, store and manage their own electricity.
But, where does this leave the utility if customers are generating and storing their own energy?
In an exclusive interview with Engerati, Atul Mahajan, the CEO of Oshawa Power and Utilities, explains that their pilot is being viewed as an operational model which can be deployed across various geographies. He briefly explains the business model behind this pilot: “We as a next-generation utility or an energy services company will offer customers, in various markets including off grid markets, a service where they will pay us a fee for energy. This will include a fee for resiliency services for grid back-up through an installed battery. All the investments will be made by us and the equipment will belong to us too. Basically, we offer customers an energy services contract based on the equipment we own.”
Taking the proactive route
While customers have not asked for self-generation, home management and home storage technologies and solutions, the utility decided to take the proactive route. According to Mahanjan, customers are not making these queries since most are not aware of the significant potential of the technology or the commercial model. “We have chosen to be proactive in understanding the various options on offer which will meet the needs of our customers.”
Customers are responding positively and are expressing much interest in the pilot so far, explains Mahanjan, “Once the pilot is up and running, we will be able to collect and gauge data to assess interest in the commercial model for which we will need to hire staff with the appropriate skills. Existing staff will be trained in order to handle the new technology and model.”
In conclusion, we asked Mahanjan what advice he would give to utilities that are not yet making the necessary changes to adapt to the energy transition and he had this to say: “I have three suggestions to all utilities: first, is to adapt and evolve and the other two are not important. Let the transition begin!”