It would be difficult to think of an industry currently facing as fundamental an upheaval as the one occupied by energy utility companies, grid operators, and related service providers. The systems that provide our energy require expansion to accommodate the increasing production of renewable sources; our generation of wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy will increase significantly by the year 2020. The necessary restructuring will mainly affect high-voltage power lines, converter stations, and medium-voltage power grids.
E-World, the energy and water utilities industry’s leading convention, recently took place for the 11th time in Essen, Germany. Attendance is expected to have grown again this year to around 20,000 visitors, all of whom had the chance to learn about the offerings of 554 total exhibitors from 20 different countries.
The discussions held at the event clearly indicated that more and more electric means of transportation will enter the market. Customers are warming to the idea of scooters and bicycles with electric motors and electric cars with ranges of nearly 100 miles.
Read on: Smart homes
Smart grids, smart meters, smart homes
By 2050, around 30% of the energy we produce will come from the sun. While photovoltaic facilities can feed energy into the grid when the sun shines, production and consumption need to remain in constant balance – even at night and on rainy days. To avoid shortfalls in supply, providers adjust their production and maintain energy reserves.
Wind power presents a similar situation. Particularly stormy days on the northern coast of Germany, for example, generate up to 10,000 megawatts of electricity, pushing the local energy grid to its limits.
The German federal government’s energy plan calls for the share of energy the country produces from renewable sources to increase to 35% by the year 2020, to 50% by 2030, and all the way to 65% by 2040.
And that’s not all: In addition to the smart grids currently in development, smart meters will require widespread installation. This, however, only makes sense if all of the applicable furnishings of houses and apartments – lights, heating, air circulation, windows and blinds, doors – are intelligently interconnected.
This is precisely why the smart home concept has not yet attained any level of prevalence: Only the complete integration of the energy industry – including local utility companies, energy grids, and consumers – will result in an intelligent ecosystem capable of maintaining an ideal balance of production and consumption.
Electric cars capable of 60 miles on a standard battery
Electric cars of the future will also need to interface – along with their charging technology – with smart grids and smart homes. Otherwise, options such as using energy produced by an off-grid solar installation on the roof of a building to recharge a car’s battery will not be available. At E-World, the small company mia electric showed off a microbus just 2.84 meters in length – barely larger than a current Smart car. Its concept, conceived of by former Volkswagen design director Murat Günak, features electric sliding doors that will enable drivers to exit the vehicle even in the tightest parking conditions.
mia electric is targeting car fleet operators that see the future of mobility in a mix of conventional and electric vehicles. According to the company, the microbus’s standard 8kWh battery gives it a maximum range of just over 60 miles and can fully recharge in 2.5 hours when connected to a normal power outlet. The mia electric microbus is intended to become the first affordable electric car in Germany and France when it hits the market in July 2011. Incidentally, the initial prototypes were not available in time for inclusion in SAP’s Future Fleet project.
Read on: Dynamic energy pricing
Dynamic energy pricing with movento
At movento’s E-World stand, we viewed a presentation of the company’s e-configurator concept. This software is designed for energy utility companies that want to offer their customers dynamic energy pricing. Users can operate the e-configurator as a standalone system or as an integrated tool from the familiar interface of SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM). It can be called up in a browser as a Web service and supports both the configuration of rates and the calculation of conventional prices. During the demonstration, we put together a dynamic, usage-based price rate for electricity based on different proportions of renewable energy.
Particularly in connection with a customer relationship management application like SAP CRM, movento’s e-configurator is sure to interest many energy utility companies that would benefit from actively applying existing data to tap into their customers’ full potential. As a number of industry insiders mentioned during the convention, Germany’s numerous municipal utility companies are especially likely to be running a CRM system as part of their IT, but are not taking advantage of the opportunity to analyze their data and offer tailored price rates.
Stay tuned for the second part of this article!