From energy savings apps to the internet of things — digitalisation changes consumer behaviour, technologies and business models, and hence also has a fundamental impact on industry and society. For a long time, companies from a wide range of industries have asked themselves what digitalisation means for their market, and how they can adapt to changing basic parameters. Whether it is the modernisation of how customers are approached or their own process structures, new prospects for value creation thanks to enormous quantities of data, or quantum leaps in technology: it is all about recognising opportunities and new business segments and taking advantage of them. This not only applies for the energy industry, but in all areas where energy is used — in the industrial sector, in buildings, or in transportation.
New drivers invigorate the market
This is clearly evidenced by the growing number of start-ups and young companies which find niches with their digital know-how, or even reinvent entire markets. Often, the objective is not so much a business idea, but to develop an idea which is of great benefit to the user. Established players, above all major energy suppliers, well-known technology providers, or well-known housing associations, are attentively observing this development and searching for their own solutions. "Aggregation", the bundling of data or decentralised units in a manner appropriate for the market, has become the current buzzword in this context. But how can the data collected be used optimally? How can it be used to create value or earn money? And what is the disruptive potential of e.g. new software solutions or changed customer expectations?
For dena, digitalisation represents a key possibility for the successful design of the second phase of the energy transition. At the same time, this paradigm shift also offers the opportunity for an intelligent networking of infrastructure, of individual components, and players. Andreas Kuhlmann, dena’s Chief Executive, confirms this: “Making the most of the opportunities offered by digital solutions in the energy transition requires an active network of actors from many industries that extends far over the boundaries of these sectors."
The Digital Energy World Platform
And this is exactly where the Digital Energy World Platform comes in. dena intends to play a major role in shaping the new, digital energy world together with companies from the energy industry and adjacent sectors such as transportation, IT, and the building industry. Their shared goal is to ask the right questions and search for solutions. The topics examined include not only intelligent grids, smart homes, and Industry 4.0, but also e-mobility and trends such as the increasing individualisation of products and services.
The members of the platform, which was founded in early 2016 and includes major players such as Siemens, SAP, and Huawei, enjoy a range of benefits: Headed by dena, they engage in the cross-sectoral exchange of information on future developments and trends. At the same time, all companies position themselves as innovative players via the platform. Furthermore, they are also actively involved in the formulation of recommended courses of action.
Position paper drives debate
In an 18-page position paper, the 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. Furthermore, the position paper also specifies what is necessary for successful digitalisation from the platform's perspective: genuine willingness to innovate and strong orientation towards customers' changing needs. Furthermore, advanced methodological skills for the in-depth analysis and evaluation of data are necessary. In order to develop these skills, the platform recommends greater investment in research and in the training and further qualification of specialist staff.
dena also wishes to initiate a cross-industry and cross-sectoral dialogue among the players, many of which are still new. As the “Agency for the applied energy transition", it sees the opportunity to collect new ideas and stimuli, to share experiences, and above all for participants to network. Hence, the use of social networks is a prudent choice.
Meetup group as energy transition laboratory
For start-ups in the energy sector, dena’s Chief Executive Andreas Kuhlmann founded the Berlin-based group "The energy market revolution. Be part of it" on “Meetup”, a social networking site, in August 2015. This "energy transition laboratory" takes an international approach, and the language of business is English. The group provides start-ups in the energy sector with a platform for exchanging new ideas and sharing experiences. It is aimed at anyone who would like to contribute to the success of the energy transition. After just a year, over 800 members had joined the group. On the agenda of the regular meetings, where Andreas Kuhlmann is also a moderator, are hot topics such as smart cities and virtual power stations, as well as innovative business ideas.
The aim of the group is to allow participants to network and build bridges — sometimes through unusual methods. For example, in spring 2016, 30 representatives of young Berlin-based companies got on a start-up bus chartered by dena. The plan was a joint visit to the E-world energy expo in Essen. New collaborations and networks were established not only at the expo grounds in Essen, but also during the journey there and back on the bus.
Digitalisation in the real world
dena is examining what digitalisation means in the real world with the pilot project Saving Money through Clever Heating in conjunction with ista, an energy service provider, the German Tenants’ Association, and the Federal Ministry of Construction. This project aims to determine how heat consumption in rental housing can be optimised through more transparency. Tenants involved in the project can view their heating energy consumption at any time via a web portal, allowing them to better manage it. This is because heating bills, which are sent to every tenant's household once each year, provide very little useful information in this regard. In this case, digital technology can help to create transparency, which in turn can lead to the optimised use of energy for heating.
Shifting gears for the future
Digitalisation offers both new and established companies the opportunity to rethink energy and overcome old limits. "We need a change of perspective — away from backward-looking problem debates, and towards a new, fresh view which allows us to recognise and utilise the potential of the energy transition", summarises Andreas Kuhlmann. This expansion of perspective also includes viewing the energy supply holistically: as the interaction of electricity and heat, of buildings, centralised and decentralised power plants, production facilities, and transportation.