Envisioning the platform-based utility ecosystems of tomorrow

Posted on: June 20, 2019 by Andrea Rossi

Platform-based ecosystems are predicted to account for 30% of all global revenues by 2025. For the energy industry, platform-based ecosystems are critical to digitalization and the basis for a new change of paradigm. What does this mean for traditional E&U players?

Breaking siloes to build services

Companies across all verticals have traditionally worked in siloes. But an insular perspective is at odds with today’s transformational business models, which rely on ecosystems. Here, diverse stakeholders work together to provision novel services.

At the heart of the ecosystem lies the digital platform, providing the interoperability that eases the participation of diverse stakeholders. For energy, these may include distribution system operators (DSOs for both renewables and traditional energy sources), electro-mobility providers, power providers, energy service companies and customers, among others — also water utilities, energy and electricity utilities and gas utilities.

In time, even more actors will participate, including businesses outside of the energy industry. Energy data then increases in value, with third parties exploiting it to create new services.

These third-party services will rely on open environments: open APIs and common standards. Where physical meets digital, well-known standards will need to be adopted by both equipment manufacturers and people working in the digital domain.

A multitude of new services

Competition is building among utilities collaborating in platform-based ecosystems. Some are already utilizing ecosystems to gain ideas or new contacts so they can extend their services. I’d like to share some concrete examples. My first is an energy island project we are working on in a region of Austria. Here a community of 400,000 people chose to disconnect from the national electricity network and instead adopt self-sustainable energy solutions. The ecosystem allows this new kind of community to leverage the expertise of traditional utilities through services that include energy solution optimization strategies and tools, for instance.

We’re also participating in several platform ecosystem projects funded by the European Commission:

  • inteGRIDy aims to facilitate the optimal and dynamic operation of the distribution grid by coordinating distributed energy resources, virtual power plants and innovative collaborative storage schemes within an energy system with an increasing share of renewable energy.
  • SHAR-Q aims to optimize storage capacities for the small energy sites by encouraging collaboration between peer-to-peer interoperability networks that connect neighboring RES and storage ecosystems, enabling them to share their storage capacities.
  • MERLON aims to enable novel business models, including allowing local energy communities to introduce local flexibility markets and paving the way for Microgrid-as-a-Service models.

My last is a service that helps prosumers decide when to consume or store the energy they’re producing, and when to buy energy from or sell energy to the network. For this, the service provider considers energy prices along with best practices for the prosumer to operate their equipment.

Dilemmas facing platform-based ecosystems

While these new platform-based ecosystems bring new opportunities, they also bring new concerns. To succeed, these must be addressed; otherwise, utilities will be reluctant to adopt them. Let’s look at some of those dilemmas.

Firstly, platform-based ecosystems must offer utilities trust in an environment out of their control. With OT/IT connecting everything, platforms – in addition to providing a lot of information – could gain access to assets that were not accessible before. This must include addressing cybersecurity threats and risks.

Then there is information privacy. Some of the data the ecosystem is collecting could be sensitive and affected by privacy regulations. The data platform must demonstrate that it can deal with this kind of data. Additionally, people need to understand what they are going to get in return for sharing their data.

The final dilemma is about building enough trust to expand the ecosystem, facilitating third-party access to parts of the data that utilities are generating. Building sufficient trust is critical to utilities being able to offer more services and, in doing so, increase the value of their data.

The future lies in platform-based ecosystems

I’ve explored how collaboration among different energy utilities will be critical to their future success. While there are currently utility silos, collaboration among those utilities is key for making them sustainable and ensuring proper energy delivery across diverse energy vectors. The digital platform lies at the very heart of the solution as a connection point for development.

Read our latest Journey 2022 ‘Resolving Digital Dilemmas’ report, researched and written by the Atos Scientific Community. In it, you will discover more about how platform-based ecosystems are key to resolving E&U’s emerging Digital Dilemmas.

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About Andrea Rossi
Head of Energy & Transport Market
Andrea Rossi is head of the energy sector for Atos Research and Innovation, and is the coordinator of the inteGRIDy project. Madrid-based Andrea is particularly interested in the implications of the Internet-of-Things on the energy and transport sectors. Andrea joined Atos from Phillips in 2007. His first degree was in Organizational and Behavioral Science, which he gained in Bologna, Europe’s oldest university, where he also gained his MBA.