• Mirka Karra

3 value offerings for aware customers in the Nordics

A strong sense of community and increased environmental awareness in the Nordic countries has led to a growing new wave of consumers who are more aware of their energy usage and who produce and consume their own energy coming from renewable energy resources. Utilities have been traditionally servicing consumers who are merely on the receiving end of the grid. So, how can utilities develop attractive offerings for the more aware customers and prosumers in their customer base? Here are some ideas:

Solar performance monitoring

It is a common misconception that long winter days in the Nordic countries can negatively impact the generation of enough amounts of energy. At the same time, the Nordic countries experience extensive hours of sunlight during the summer which make up for the loss of energy production during the winter darker days. Also, mild temperatures have greater results in the generation of solar energy because of less energy leakage, which is usually the case in southern countries. Still, as solar energy cannot be stored during the summer and used in the long dark winter days, prosumers can sell excess electricity from solar panels during the summer period and then buy some extra electricity from the regular electricity grid during the winter season. Also, consuming energy when energy is abundant, results in reducing monthly expenses and financially leveling out annual costs.

To do that, the ability to recognize solar production from residential installations is essential. That ability, using merely smart meter data, is possible nowadays, without the need for extra hardware or software interfaces. An intelligent, non-intrusive, and even, inverter-agnostic service can be implemented to provide an overview of an installation’s solar production on a daily/monthly basis in a very cost-efficient way.

An interconnected home energy management system

For energy retailers, data coming from smart meters, which are already rolled out in masses in the Nordics, can be rich in information. Based on the analysis of this data, utilities can know which of their customers charge their electric vehicles (EVs) at home, have space heating on heat pumps or saunas.

As heat pumps, saunas and EV's are all running on large loads when customers are charging their EVs at home or heating their houses, the load in the house is increasing. In this case, the electricity consumption needs to be balanced out during the day to prevent fuse blows because of an overloaded capacity limit. With hectic daily schedules, homeowners need the flexibility and comfort to control their home energy status, fine-tune and monitor these energy-intensive devices to perform optimally. The challenge is that such management solutions usually follow home-invasive practices, or need extra components for the installation, which adds more pain and costs to the end-user.

Instead, modern, smart technologies can deliver active load balancing. Especially for EV owners, the option to monitor and schedule their EV’s charging without the need for hardware, and in an optimized way, for example, when their PV panel produces the greatest amount of energy is an extra benefit. NET2GRID can help energy retailers to offer an appealing and effective load balancing solution. Especially, for their customer segments owning EVs, we provide a simple solution to a complex problem; the capability to optimize smart charging around solar production at home to ensure that the system is running optimally and no solar energy is wasted.

Automated Demand Response incentives

Extensive smart meters rollout allows utility companies to utilize demand response strategies to reduce or shift energy consumption during peak hours of the day, a practice already appealing to prosumers in Nordic countries. They are offering contracts that include flexible tariff options to facilitate the shift to dynamic pricing but they can implement that extensively and consistently with the right mechanism in place. Having the ability to consume energy when the tariff is lower, would save money and create comfort for homeowners.

Such an automated demand response incentive which implemented a fixed hour of the day was given by enviaM, an energy retailer based in Germany. They called it ‘Happy Hour’, during which residential customers pay half the price for the electricity they consume. In a nutshell, a flexible tariff engine allocates the lower tariff to the disaggregated individual home appliances during the specific time of the day when the lower tariff occurs. Costs of consumption are calculated and presented through a user interface app, thereby allowing consumers to see the actual price being used and the money they have saved. The platform for price loading, disaggregation and calculation of energy consumption costs during the lower tariff period has been provided by NET2GRID.

The added value

All of the above services can offer the utilities customer’s extra comfort and they would allow them to save money, and be environmentally friendly. The most important part, however, is that utilities offering those innovative services would be able to shift their traditional operations into new, profitable ones, able to unlock new business models, bringing more value to their customers, and have the opportunity for upselling activities as well.