Digital world energy: disruptive developments call for disruptive thinking

The Digital World Energy Platform presents a first research paper / Cross-sectoral approaches and added value for customers must be the main focus

In a position paper, the cross-sectoral economic initiative, ‘Digital World Energy Platform’, calls on politicians and business leaders to make better use of the energy transition and opportunities for digitalisation in Germany, and to conduct a more intensive debate on the issue. The paper states that it is vital that businesses cooperate across sectors, make the customer the main focus and develop suitable business models. As far as policy is concerned, it is important to develop a clearer understanding of changes in the world’s energy, and to ensure that there is the necessary scope for innovation. The platform comprises more than 25 businesses and associations from various branches of energy and network management, and suppliers specialising in metrology, buildings, mobility and IT. It was initiated by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena), German Energy Agency.

“The future of the world’s energy is digital, and it involves the most diverse sectors. As in other industries, digitalisation of the world’s energy will be accompanied by disruptive developments that will have the potential to change today’s energy transition picture completely. Anyone wanting to shape this process will have to join forces and operate within unfamiliar networks,” said Andreas Kuhlmann, dena’s Chief Executive, on presenting the research paper at the Handelsblatt Annual Conference, ‘Digital Energy Industry 2016’ in Berlin. “We can already see that the energy industry is just one of many sectors wanting to contribute to the success of the energy transition. Without cooperation between innovative companies from different sectors, there can be no constructive way of adapting to the rapidly changing conditions.

Germany has one of the most multifaceted energy supply systems in the world. Digitalisation and rapidly increasing decentralisation provide the breeding ground for a multitude of new companies and innovative business models. From this, entirely new prospects for a successful energy transition could develop, the potential of which we can hardly begin to estimate today. If businesses, with the aid of digitalisation, renew their focus on the needs of the customer, they will be able to make good use of the process of change.

Whether these ideas and business models will be successful will also depend on regulatory and political conditions. Disruptive developments require a certain willingness on the part of politicians to also think disruptively. As yet, that is certainly not the case to any adequate extent, but it is the only way that the potential for innovation can be recognised and the benefits realised. The current political and regulatory conditions appear to be more suited to the first phase of energy transition. Whatever we are faced with in the future, new approaches will be needed.”

New challenges for industry and policy

According to the research paper, besides having an understanding of the potential that digitalisation offers for change, two things will be more important than anything else for businesses operating in the world of energy and wanting to succeed in digitalisation: a high level of willingness to innovate, and a strong focus on the changing needs of the customer. A level of methodological proficiency which will enable a more in-depth analysis and evaluation of data will also be required. In order to develop this, the platform recommends greater efforts in research and in the training and further training of specialist staff.
On the policy side, the platform expects regulatory conditions that will enable the dynamic development of digital structures and business models for a multifaceted, widely networked, flexible and secure energy system. To strengthen market forces, competitive conditions will be required which will encourage innovation and will be dependable for established and new businesses, even going beyond previous industry boundaries.

With the right ideas on digital world energy, Germany can turn the new energy transition phase into a successful economic policy, and thereby continue to be a driving force in global energy transition,” said Kuhlmann. “It’s a matter of combining the world’s many energy components efficiently and coordinating them flexibly. Germany provides excellent conditions for this: engineering know-how, a highly developed industrial landscape, an already existing digitalised infrastructure, and a clear political commitment to the great social project that is energy transition. The Digital World Energy Platform brings all of the major players together. Together we can identify opportunities and areas of activity and draw up recommendations for policy and the economy. Naturally, it’s open to additional members.”

About the Digital World Energy Platform

The Digital World Energy Platform is addressing the challenges of digitalisation and developing strategies for action. To this end, it is networking participants in the energy industry and associated sectors, such as mobility, heating, building automation, information technology, logistics and finance. The platform is being managed by dena, along with the following project partners: 50Hertz Transmission; Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft, BDEW (German Association of Energy and Water Industries); Digital Energy Solutions; enercity der Stadtwerke Hannover (Hanover’s enercity council services); Fichtner Consulting; Haselhorst Associates; Huawei Technologie Deutschland; ista Deutschland; Joschka Fischer & Company; Kisters; Landis+Gyr; m3 management consulting; P3 Group; RWE; SAG Group; SAP SE Walldorf; Siemens AG; Stromnetz Berlin (Berlin’s electricity grid); TenneT TSO; Thüga; Trianel; Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau, VDMA (German Engineering Association); Verband kommunaler Unternehmen, VKU (Association of Municipal Corporations); Viessmann Werke (Viessmann Works); and Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektronikindustrie, ZVEI (Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association). Acting as advisers are Prof. Marc Oliver Bettzüge of the Institute of Energy Management at the University of Cologne, Dr. Christian Growitsch of the University of Hamburg, Prof. Andreas Löschel of the University of Münster, und Ewald Woste.

For further information on the Digital World Energy Platform go to

Grundsatzpapier der Plattform Digitale Energiewelt.

Grundsatzpapier der Plattform Digitale Energiewelt.

Mit diesem Grundsatzpapier möchte die Plattform Digitale Energiewelt der Politik, Markt- und Fachakteuren als auch der Öffentlichkeit die besonderen Chancen der Digitalisierung in der Energiewelt verdeutlichen.