Interview with Gabriele Riedmann De Trinidad, head of the Energy business sector, Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom: "Information technology and processing will play a decisive role in tomorrow's energy industry"
Published: Wed 17 Oct 2012

What do you see as the biggest challenges in the utility industry right now?

The energy transition is perhaps the most significant paradigm shift since the industrial revolution – customers are becoming business partners. Instead of dealing with a few central power plants, many decentralized energy producers – who are not centrally managed or coordinated – will be impacting the market.

If the energy sector continues metering in 15-minute intervals, we will have 35,000 data sets per customer each year, whereas today we have only one data set per customer. Companies that have traditionally generated and distributed energy will evolve into power distribution enterprises that require huge volumes of data. Thus, information technology and processing will play a decisive role in the energy industry.

What projects that Deutsche Telekom is working on are you most excited about currently?

If the electronic meters in every home and business in Germany record energy data every 15 minutes, 200 million data sets are produced per hour, and that translates into 1.75 billion per year. What kind of IT architecture will be able to handle this massive flood of data? We recently came up with the answer to that question: Germany has passed the stress test for 50 million energy meters. We simulated the energy infrastructure of the future, based on 15-minute meter readings, in our largest data center in Munich. All of the data was processed smoothly. And at the same time, customer care is still able to handle the request of a single customer in real time to answer and access ad-hoc data from the current consumption accessing the same data base.

What is the most exciting aspect of big data – and the most scary?

Utility companies in Germany plan their power plants on the basis of the so-called standard load profile. This is based on information gathered from household surveys conducted in the mid-1980s. Today, however, smart metering gives utilities the most precise picture of energy flows ever. But this means that utility companies must be able to process unbelievably huge amounts of data while ensuring data privacy at the same time. Household energy consumption data is definitely classified as personal data.

What makes Deutsche Telekom the right partner in data privacy?

For decades Telekom has been processing and safeguarding personal data – this goes back to the days of fixed line telephony and has kept pace with the development of mobile communications. Data protection is a top priority at Telekom, and it is an element of product and solution development from the very start. Since 2008 we have continually worked on a data privacy concept for smart metering – the specifics are described in a 56-page manual. For example, the guidelines state that energy data may only be communicated in encrypted form, with a signature and in safeguarded network segments only. You will probably also find these and similar requirements in the official German Protection Profile. Informational self determination is highly valued and regarded in German law. This has an impact on many areas.

What is “Cloud made in Germany” about?

Telekom offers customer processes for utility companies in the form of cloud computing. This enables us to provide data processing ranging from meter data management to customer invoicing for less than €10 per metering point. And we apply our stringent data protection laws and regulations. Access to the personal data of third parties is only possible via court order. Germany is stricter than many other countries when it comes to data privacy.

What will be your message to the Metering Europe delegates?

The energy shift involves challenges and opportunities. Those who recognize the opportunities will be in a position to offer customers innovative services while generating business and value.