Q&A Interview: Ernesto Ciorra, head of innovation and sustainability at ENEL, discusses what IoT steps ENEL has taken to date and its future plans in electric vehicles and smart cities.
Q: How is Enel embracing the opportunity of IoT?
A: Enel is among the first large players that have shifted to become a cloud-based company and develop new services for our end consumers. The digitalization of assets with IoT technologies is one of our main areas of investment, focusing on networks, renewable generation and conventional generation of power. We aim to digitize most of our assets by the end of 2019. For our retail customers, Enel has launched a smart home platform, named GoodLife in Italy and Nexo in Spain. These platforms deliver not only smart home automation, but a comprehensive list of new services to make lives easier.
Q: What can you tell us about how electric vehicles fit into this wider picture?
A: Enel launched the first commercial vehicle-to-grid (V2G) hub in Denmark in late August last year, which is now fully up and running. An additional revenue stream will be provided by using car batteries to provide balancing services to the grid. V2G, we believe, could entirely shift the paradigm of the energy business, putting customers at the centre and enabling reductions in vehicle total cost of ownership, for instance by reducing monthly leasing fees or providing free recharges.
Q: You’ve partnered with Nissan – how did you come to choose that company as your partner?
A: Nissan is among the most important car manufacturers, having sold the highest number of electric vehicles worldwide. Moreover, it has been a frontrunner in the field of V2G and shares Enel’s strong commitment to innovation. We signed the strategic partnership with Nissan at COP21 in Paris. V2G is the key pillar of this alliance, but the partnership could expand to other e-mobility collaborations. For example, we have jointly launched an EV bundle offer for taxi drivers. And in Italy, we’ve developed a bundle offer called e-GO, to facilitate the EV buying experience and boost market uptake of EVs.
Q: And how do you see the role of electric utilities changing as part of the wider trend towards IoT-enabled smart cities?
A: Enel is among the first large players that shifted to a cloud-based approach, with the aim of building an open-platform ecosystem with connectors to other systems. This helps to bring in other technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and interactions between different IoT services. This IT layer is what makes the concept of ‘smartness’ real. What we expect from future grid digitalization is an explosion in the number of connected, power-consuming devices and smart sensors in the power grid. This explosion, in turn, will dramatically change citizens’ perspectives, in terms of seeing themselves as active participants in the energy market and in terms of how experiencing how widespread connectivity supports new ‘shared-economy’ services. This approach extends to include commercial and industrial customers, institutions and cities at large, where asset digitalization, connections and data collection will provide new services to enhance quality of living in cities.
Q: How important will renewable energy be in future and how will it impact our cities and transport networks?
A: Energy systems will rely more and more on renewable generation, to the extent that renewables will reach ‘grid parity’. In some cases, it already has. That said, strategies for decarbonization have to be combined with renovation of the power system. Future cities will be ‘fully’ electric, and both public and private transportation will take an active role in power flow management, so that vehicles act as mobile electrical storage systems to allow the maximum hosting capacity for local, unpredictable renewable sources.
Q: Enel has said it wants to be a ‘veritable smart company’ – what does that mean and how is the company working to achieve its goal?
A: What we observe is an energy revolution, moving at speed as technology evolves, and a revolution in the behavior of customers, too. It is changing the business fundamentals of the power industry. Enel is naturally open to all forms of innovation happening in our industry and in other sectors. In the end, the potential of digital can be fully captured if transformation is embraced by all functions and incorporated into value chains and processes. So we see digitalization as an opportunity to become a veritable smart company through the redesign of business models, through changes to processes, culture and people, by using an end-to-end approach and keeping an open mind.
ENEL will be speaking about the ‘Uberization’ of the energy industry at the Internet of Energy conference in Cologne, Germany, 7-8 March 2017.
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.