Digitalization -the next lever to create value out of data

Armed with new technology and transformed business models, utilities can drive the change.
Published: Fri 06 Nov 2015

Today’s energy system is changing dramatically. The move from carbon based fuels to renewable energy, market deregulation, energy storage, decentralised generation, bidirectional power flow, growth in prosumer numbers and concern around environmental footprints are some of the main drivers of this change.

New technologies and business models

To transform these complexities into opportunities, the electricity grid must change, explains Thomas Zimmermann, CEO Digital Grid, Siemens, who presented at European Utility Week. He adds, “As a technology provider and driver of OT/IT conversion, Siemens aims to help their customers manage this change effectively so that they can create new revenue streams and engage better with their customers. IT and automation technologies play a major role when it comes to managing these complexities.”

While new technology is an enabler of change, it is also important to create business models that support the necessary transformation.

“As a leader of the automation and electrification business, we see that digitalization is all about harnessing the value out of the increasing volume of grid data. We are of the opinion that automation is part of digitalization. An increased need for automation comes from more and more devices in the grid that increase complexity and create more data. Digitalization is the next lever to create value out of data.”

In order for utilities to really prosper in the future energy industry, they will need to be more customer centric and agile to cope with the challenge of creating new business models which will in turn create new revenue streams.

“Therefore data will play a key role in the future – comparable to other industries in the past like the telecommunications sector. The utilities will have to adapt their systems and technology.”

IT/OT to create end to end solutions

The traditional energy utility business is accustomed to long life cycles in the grid, as well as firmly established roles but with changing needs and new technologies.

Recognising the need to change the way utilities operate, Accenture and Siemens launched the joint venture OMNETRIC Group which combines the IT/OT spheres to create end to end solutions.  Omnetric combines Siemens’ leading energy technology product portfolio and domain expertise with Accenture’s systems integration, consulting and managed services capabilities.

The OMNETRIC Group enables an efficient and customized integration of IT systems for e.g. customer relationship management, analytics or enterprise resource planning and operational technologies like control centers, power quality data and smart metering. This provides for more transparent and integrated management of all appliances and applications.

The OMNETRIC Group brings together the best in information technology and operational technology capabilities from both companies to unlock the full benefits of smart grids. The group is dedicated to the global delivery of integrated information technology and operational technology solutions and services, helping utility companies to achieve greater grid reliability and efficiency.

Think European

Interconnectivity of devices, which according to Mr. Zimmermann is especially important, creates the flexibility to integrate new technologies which will come up over the next 5-10 years.

“Customers can’t afford to be locked into one technical solution. That’s why it’s important to build an open standard and open data model. Our customers ask us to expand our ecosystem. Open standards are necessary, as well as cybersecurity throughout the entire system.”

He adds that Europe needs more alignment when it comes to regulation. “We need to think European when it comes to solving issues around the region’s grid transformation.”

In conclusion, he recommends that utilities manage the change and prepare themselves for challenges that lay ahead. “Don’t be driven by the change - rather drive the change. In short: Be agile! EUW is an ideal place for customers, partners and key players in the industry to meet in one place and discuss how to benefit best and quickest from these challenges.”