Renewable energy is booming. Last year, for example, around 25 percent more solar roof panels were installed in Germany compared to the previous year, according to an estimate by the German Solar Industry Association. Homeowners in particular have been opting for this technology. For utilities this means: Traditional customers are increasingly becoming active market players – and companies need new business models that break away from the conventional grid business. What is the role of the utilities’ IT systems in this context?
The next few years are going to be an interesting time for solar power: On the one hand, the number of systems installed on private roofs, in commerce and industry, as well as in agriculture, is likely to increase rapidly. On the other hand, the legal situation is changing: The older PV systems may, depending on the European country, lose their eligibility for the legally guaranteed subsidy. Operators will continue to have various alternatives to market their systems – for example, making the electricity generated available to the local grid operator (as before). However, the remuneration is lower and is based on the trading price of electricity. Alternatively, you can sell your electricity directly to electricity markets (direct marketing) or use as much of it as possible yourself and feed only surplus into the grid. In short: It’s complicated.
What does this mean for utilities? The first answer is obvious: Their range of products and services must (continue to) change. There is a trend towards customized bundles – for example, comprising a PV system, battery, feed-in, marketing and residual power supply. This approach represents a major market opportunity for many utilities because they have the technical expertise needed to install and operate the “photovoltaic bundles”. This is precisely what residential, commercial, and industrial customers cannot do without: Who would have the courage, once the subsidy has expired, to install a solar system on their roof or to market it without specialist support? Regional suppliers are particularly well placed to thrive in this environment because they are known and trusted locally.
Preparing the IT system for the “new world”
The utility’s IT system plays a strategic role in this context. It must facilitate much more flexible product creation and ensure automated billing processes – which is currently rarely the case. Instead, many use monolithic, rigid legacy systems that inhibit rapid product development. It can sometimes take months for a new product to be ready.
powercloud highlights the alternative:
New bundles can be created in a matter of hours using the commodity backend of the German Saas solution – which includes extensive product management.
- Users only need a few clicks to design, fully automatically, a billable product and publish it ad hoc on the market. The entire product management is reimagined and consistently follows the agile approach. For example, you can define a photovoltaic bundle without the need for developers or complex configurations. Nor do you need time-consuming IT projects to implement new functions and business models.
- All billing processes run automatically in the background. From completion to the self-service portal, even complex products can be billed in this way – for example, marketing surplus energy, storage solutions, wallbox, and conventional residual electricity tariffs. Regulatory changes are provided free of charge.
- A number of workforce management tools from other service providers are available “off the shelf” and can be easily integrated into the powercloud to run the complete service solution.
Linking product ranges
This leads to customized solutions, on which ever more large and small utilities, start-ups, energy cooperatives and communities are relying. SENEC, a subsidiary of EnBW, is pursuing an innovative approach to the sale and generation of renewable energy. They offer solar modules, home battery storage and wallboxes, which are integrated with the SENEC.Cloud. Specifically: If you generate more electricity than you need in the summer, you can feed the surplus into the SENEC.Cloud. In the less sunny winter months, you get it back. In this way, the customer is not exposed to rising electricity prices. The technological platform for the entire package is EnBW‘s new IT infrastructure, which is geared to customer-specific products. SENEC’s home storage solutions were taken into account during development. The various product ranges are growing ever closer together. In the future, customers will no longer have just one product. They could, for example, have an e-mobility solution and a solar energy installation with home storage – the link being made via powercloud.
A simple solution for a complex energy market
An interesting “solar example” is powercloud’s collaboration with sonnen GmbH, the global market leader that has already delivered more than 40,000 intelligent battery storage units for photovoltaic systems. This technology makes it possible to form decentralized energy communities, which offer their members the opportunity to self-generate, store, and share energy with other members. The sonnenCommunity thus also operates on the market as an energy provider and complies with all regulatory requirements of the German “Market processes for generating market locations (electricity)” (MPES). All billing is done via powercloud, and the system also includes an MPES implementation solution. The example of Q CELLS is similarly interesting. The company develops everything to generate solar power itself, but also offers various electricity tariffs for energy customers with Q.Energy. The solar specialists have been using powercloud’s billing processes since 2020. It only took 10 weeks to bring the system into live operation.
“Enabler” of new business models
All in all, powercloud is becoming the “enabler” for new business models at a growing number of utilities and energy providers, which will ultimately help deliver the energy transition and protect the climate. The “go-live” of an entire system can sometimes take place in just a few weeks. A standardized best-practice process with defined onboarding modules is used during implementation. In every partnership, the digitalization specialists draw on their extensive expertise in all aspects of platforms of the future and the associated business models.