Fonger Ypma, head of the Smart Energy Lab at Eneco Smart Energy, discusses how the Internet of Things has the capacity to change the energy sector.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you get involved with IoT and what is your background?
I got involved in IoT after we launched our smart thermostat and energy insight device, Toon, in the Netherlands. When this became a great success, I was responsible for further developing a smart home strategy around this platform. I have also founded a data science team within Eneco, and we have been looking at many practical data science applications built on IoT data.
Currently, I am responsible for our Smart Energy Lab, as part of our newly founded business unit, Eneco Smart Energy. Eneco is committed to 100 percent sustainable energy for everyone, and our business unit specifically focuses on innovation and venturing in IoT-driven businesses that can help accelerate the energy transition.
How is Toon enabling Eneco to transition to a service provider? What has been the biggest challenge in deploying this new service?
Toon mainly acts as a platform in the home to have a more meaningful conversation with our customers. It allows us to give real-time insight into energy usage, benchmarking with peers, as well as giving advice on energy saving.
Customer satisfaction is very high, and this in turn leads to loyal customers. On this basis, we can build value-added services for Toon, from energy-related services such as insight in solar PV performance and remote boiler management, to non-energy-related services, such as home security and smoke detection. This allows us to transition into a service provider.
The biggest challenge in this is to transition from commodity provider to service provider, where we really have to zoom in on customer needs and tailor our solutions to them.
Which other IoT enabled smart projects are you looking into?
Our Smart Energy business unit basically sees IoT technology as a foundation for energy transition, whether it’s on the generation-side, the network-side or the supply-side. Our business unit is very customer-focused and is building new business applications around smart solutions and services behind the meter.
This is all enabled by IoT technology, within four business domains: smart home, smart buildings, e-mobility and smart cities For example, we founded a company called Jedlix, which is aimed at smart charging electric vehicles. Jedlix can connect directly with the car or the charging pole, and optimize the charging schedule, based on the availability of renewable energy, or on the wholesale power prices.
How are start-ups influencing the electric utility market?
Start-ups have a big influence on how the power sector is transitioning. Indeed, we see venturing and partnering with start-ups as essential in our own transformation towards being a service provider.
With a large customer base, marketing strength and good know-how of the power sector, we see that we also have a lot to offer to start-ups. This way we create a true ‘win-win’ situation.
You will be speaking at Internet of Energy, so what are you looking to achieve by attending the event?
I am very much looking forward to the event, and I am sure I will get a lot of inspiration by listening to the other speakers. Also, I always enjoy getting good feedback from others when giving a talk myself, and these kind of conferences could also open up opportunities for potential cooperation, which in my mind is crucial if we want to accelerate the energy transition.
Faced with ambitious decarbonization targets and dwindling profit margins, the energy industry must embrace the opportunities of emerging technologies in order to progress. From the 7-8 March 2017, the Internet of Energy event in Cologne, Germany will showcase early-adopter case studies and perspectives from new ‘disrupters’ to let energy retailers, TSOs and DSOs explore the business case for IoT.
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