Startups and Utilities: Powering-Up People, Saving Billions

The latest edition of Start Up Focus: Coffee Break with Game Changers is now live on the Voice America Network. Utilities are beginning to grasp the value of employing or partnering with those who think out of the box. It has become clear that the energy system of the future will be lost without innovation. Utilities are also pressured to improve customer engagement strategies that enable a higher level of interaction. Consumers demand fast, personalized, one-stop advice when it comes to reducing their energy consumption and environmental footprint. And start-ups can play a critical role in helping innovative technologies like AI, Internet of things (IoT), blockchain and more.

Our Host and Experts

Three startup experts joined host Bonnie D. Graham:

Dr. Christina “Tina” Wuerthner / Enersis Suisse: Dr. Weurthner joined Enersis Suisse AG as a shareholder in 2014 and on Oct 1st 2015 as Chief Financial and Strategy Officer. Dr. Wuerthner is a dedicated entrepreneur and enjoys the challenges of starting things from scratch and seeing them grow. Enersis provides visual energy analytics software that aids customers with smarter planning tools and improving internal processes using big data.

Ian Nazzari / Huru Systems: Mr. Nazzari is CEO of Huru Systems, which has created and patented a next generation supply chain platform to help utilities with more complex issues including physical assets in the organization. Huru Systems’ supply chain platform allows visibility of an asset from birth throughout the product’s entire lifecycle.

Dave Katona / SAP Startup Focus: Mr. Katona works with startups at SAP helping as mentor and driving go-to-market efforts for the Americas and has been in the IT industry for over 20 years. As Director of Market Enablement at Startup Focus, Dave leads market engagement, mentoring and strategic go-to-market activities with his partners.

 

Transitions, Challenges and Change

The panel started with a discussion about the unique challenges and opportunities that face the utility sector. Ian believes the market maybe undervalued when emerging markets are included. Tina described the utility industry as used to a slower pace of change, with investment cycles of 20 years. Much of the sector is also protected by regulation or monopoly. However, utilities are feeling the pressure to change and innovate from both their customers and regulators who want more transparency and visualization of their consumption. Ian agreed that the sector has its own daunting challenges, but meeting the demand is not only beneficial for consumers of utilities but to humanity as well. To survive the energy transition utilities are finding, as Tina stated, “The whole value chain is being reshuffled, and even as though their physical assets are losing value, they have new assets which is data.” Their business models are also changing as more liberalization of the industry continues.  Ian added, ”The whole paradigm of how energy is delivered will be completely different and become much more efficient and decentralized.” The panel agreed that much of this innovation is found in Europe, “particularly countries like Germany, are driving not only a digitalization, but a virtualization of utilities,” Dave pointed out.

 

Asset Management, Blockchain and End of the Monoliths

The theft of physical assets and energy are two of the biggest problems utilities face, particularly in Latin America, Asia, and other regions. Subcontractors, which utilities rely on, “can create a black hole for their assets” said Ian. There is not a solid link between the tracking, maintenance, and validation of those assets. It is not only a cash flow issue but also a security risk for the utility. Tina pointed out that much of the next generation of innovations cannot be implemented to their full potential without solid data; garbage-in/garbage-out is as true as ever. IoT can secure the supply chain. In addition, it can also generate the data needed for analytical engines that will usher in smarter grids, micro grids, and consumer production of energy through solar panels for example. Ian sees blockchain as a major shift for the industry as it has the potential to decentralize utilities and make everything more efficient. How we define what a utility is may change after this takes hold.

 

Crystal Ball Predictions

Tina foresees CO2 pricing and tracking as a priority for utilities, as some form of reporting and transparency are needed, for the Paris Accord targets.

Dave thinks in the US in particular, citizens will drive the behavior of utilities to adopt more innovations such as micro grids for renewables and reduction of usage.

Ian predicts big data, analytics and IoT will also lead to the introduction of AI into utilities, which has almost unlimited potential for gaining efficiencies and further disruption of the utility industry.

Listen to the replay to learn more about Startups and Utilities: Powering-Up People, Saving Billions.