To be Austria’s leading energy provider, Wien Energie knows it has to elaborate on its service offerings since the role of energy supplier alone is no longer sufficient. This is according to Lorena Skiljan, Head of the Market Management Department at Wien Energie, who will be chairing and presenting at European Utility Week. She adds that today, utilities have to evolve from being an energy supplier to a service provider.
She explains: “Utilities have to provide customers with more than just energy. They have to start offering customers lifestyle services such as smart living and smart solutions in order to support their wide range of needs.”
Utility offers support to prosumers
In response to customers’ changing energy needs, the company has recently established a new department which is focused on the provision of lifestyle services. The main objective of the department is to offer support to customers who are aiming to becoming prosumers. Customers will have access to a variety of products and services that will help them manage their energy production from different sources such as solar more efficiently.
“We want to connect our customer’s assets via smart home technology to our telecommunication services so they can conveniently manage their energy via smartphone or tablets. We want to help customers get the most out of their smart energy technology investments.”
Vienna Model and citizen plants
All of these new and innovative offerings are part of Wien Energie’s Vienna Model. The Model’s key aspects include the production of electricity and heating together in a process known as cogeneration, harnessing energy from waste incineration, using renewable energy sources and providing comprehensive energy advice on improving efficiency.
Due to the current conditions dominating the market, decentralized forms of production are becoming more and more important and it is crucial for companies to make the most of available opportunities in the market, says Ms Skiljan.
In response to these market trends, Wien Energie developed and set up citizen solar power plants. The idea was to sell solar panels to those citizens unable to install them due to their lack of rooftop space. Wien Energie plans and builds the solar power plant facilities and customers are able to purchase up to ten panels each. Wien Energie leases this share or panel back from the customers and the customers receive an annual payment. The business model turned out to be very successful. There are currently twenty solar plants and panels sell out within minutes of being put on the shelf.
The same model has been created with wind parks – there are currently two of them and modules also sell out within minutes of being advertised. (Today 110,000 households are being supplied with wind power electricity.)
By conducting all these investment activities, Wien Energie aims to increase the amount of electricity produced from renewable energy sources to 50%.
Overcome challenges by embracing change
According to Lorena Skiljan, there is a move away from conventional energy production to a decentralized form of production and it’s up to the companies to embrace the change in the industry and create innovative models around it.
Wien Energie together with the Wiener Stadtwerke, Vienna’s municipal utility, is also offering innovative mobility concepts like e-mobilty. Wiener Stadtwerke’s research project ‘e-mobility in demand’ has been running in conjunction with the Vienna Model region since July 2011.
The aim of the project is the gradual shift to an integrated comprehensive traffic system in which e-mobility and e-car sharing complements public transport in a meaningful way. Wien Energie is responsible for building and running the charging stations.
The biggest challenge for the energy industry is its traditional outlook, explains Ms Skiljan. She adds, “There has to be new thinking and we have to provide new services which enable energy efficiency. Customers are keen on participating and they want to be involved in the journey towards reducing emissions.”
Wien Energie is responsible for ensuring the reliable supply of electricity, natural gas and heating to around two million people in Vienna, 230,000 businesses and industrial facilities, as well as 4,500 farms in the Greater Vienna metropolitan area.
The associated portfolio of services ranges from the production of energy and recycling waste to providing energy advice, helping to improve energy efficiency and various energy services, as well as facility management and telecommunications.