#FACES: Talking tech with CTO, Peter Broekroelofs
in the field of digital innovation and product/software development.
When not creating novel B2B2C market propositions for an entrepreneurial
and sustainable purpose, Peter throws himself into his passion; triathlon.
Your past experiences involve smart mobility, mobile telecoms, e-commerce, media and finance. What draws you to the home energy management sector - a relatively new field of interest?
The energy transition is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Digital innovation plays a pivotal role in this industry transformation, so I am highly energized to contribute. The transition to a decarbonized world will be driven by energy from wind and solar in the form of electricity. This causes the demand for electricity in the energy mix to double in the next 30 years, while supply will fluctuate highly because of the weather. This challenge needs to be managed, mainly on the demand side. Therefore, home energy management is such an exciting field of innovation. It requires customer engagement, new business models for utilities and new applications of real-time energy measurements and data science. In that sense, this industry transformation has similarities with the tornado of innovation we have seen in the past 25 years in mobile communications.
Entrepreneurship, sustainability and purpose. How do you believe these 3 things bundle together at NET2GRID?
Since its foundation, NET2GRID has envisioned real-time energy management using smart meter data as essential for the transition towards renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions. It took NET2GRID 10 years to develop the necessary technology on this vision with just a few visionary customers and limited funding. Now an increasing number of customers are executing on the vision and the market has reached a tipping point. Holding on to the vision and sustainable purpose in a market that was not yet ready is a sign of strong entrepreneurship in my view.
Traditional utilities are big organizations, admittedly, not very prone to embrace change and technology. However, we see new digital entrants succeeding in adopting new business models. What are the factors that facilitate technological change in the utility sector?
Renewable energy production will lead to increasingly fluctuating prices on the energy exchange. One likely effect is that energy retailers will introduce flexible tariffs. This works as an incentive for consumers to use energy when it is readily available and not strain the grid unnecessarily. Similarly lowering the price for delivering solar-generated electricity back to the grid incentivizes self-use of self-generated electricity. Both price incentives bring investment in real-time energy management and local energy storage forward in time. Another opportunity for utilities to mitigate trade risks in a volatile market is forecasting energy demand and supply via data science solutions.
What are the biggest challenges and insecurities that a utility organization has when thinking about investing in technology and why?
In order to stay relevant utilities need to move up in the value chain. They are well-positioned as a trusted party to deliver capital-intensive solutions to the homes, like heat or solar electricity as a service. They can also jump in on the growing demand for home EV charging. However, building and offering these solutions require effort, funds and induce risks before receiving the reward. Where to start? Our advice to utilities would be to start with a simple energy profiling service based on meter data. Knowing the customer’s energy profile and engaging the customer with an energy insight app is the first step. Then the flywheel can start spinning towards advice and upsell energy-saving products. Migration to real-time meter data offers additional service possibilities like automatic energy optimization (e.g. Smart EV charging), special loyalty tariffs and dynamic pricing.
What will the future of home energy management technology look like?
Homes will be increasingly electrified, local energy production will grow and home energy storage will become more affordable. Eventually a large percentage of homes and communities will be carbon neutral and energy will be free. Until we get there however, real time energy management will be essential for energy insight, profiling, forecasting and automatic optimization of demand and local production.