Orchestrating distributed energy resources with technology

07 September 2023 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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The global energy ecosystem has been changing rapidly with consumers adopting more sustainable practices in their energy consumption. While financial benefits are a key motivation to drive this movement, it has been more and more coupled with a conscious need to correct the human impact on climate change.

The shift to renewable energy is being felt quite strongly in the Australian market. Australia, for example, has the highest solar usage in the world with 30 per cent of homes utilising a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panel.

However, the increased use of renewable energy units like solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, battery, and storage technologies. brings with it a fair share of complexities for energy providers.

Orchestrating distributed energy resources with technology

Renewable energy units are commonly referred to as distributed energy resources (DER); these are small units that generate energy, accessible by consumers and located on the other side of the meter. Traditional grids and networks were never built to be able to see, interact or report on distributed energy resources.

This presents a significant challenge for energy providers as they need to determine how to achieve clear visibility over what customers are producing, using, and selling back to the grid. So how can energy companies optimise distributed energy resources to drive a positive impact on the business across supply chains, customer intimacy, and network resiliency?

Preparing for a renewable future

Globally, we are reaching a turning point in the operation of utilities, especially with the shift in the energy sector toward renewable resources. In Australia, we’re in a particularly good spot to leverage this since we already have an immensely climate-conscious consumer base.

One research has shown that one in two Australian consumers are actively seeking greener products and services with 73% doing so due to concerns around climate change. This signals a huge opportunity for energy providers in Australia.

Alongside adopting more sustainable practices and driving more energy efficient processes, energy companies also have the responsibility to incentivise and support consumers in their individual sustainability journeys. In particular, this can be achieved by raising awareness around alternative energy sources and enabling the adoption of digital tools to optimise energy consumption. This is where technology can step in.

Rise of the ‘prosumer’

With a climate-conscious population, Australia is seeing the emergence of the ‘prosumer.’ From the energy sector’s point of view, a prosumer is essentially an active consumer who remains connected to the central grid while also producing and storing energy in their own way – typically with photovoltaic solar panels and EV batteries.

Prosumers are leading the charge towards DER models and demanding more from their energy service providers: more control over services, improved self-sufficiency, and transparency.

While addressing the needs of prosumers can pose several challenges, it presents an invaluable opportunity to energy providers to leverage DERs to improve their operational efficiency, and better serve their customers. While the demand for transparency and sustainability increases, providers can enhance current offerings through vertical integration with technology and educational support. The key here is to have better visibility, achieved through a data-driven smart business model.

Helping end-consumers with data and insights

More DER may also mean more customer profile information coming from different data sources integrated into the power grid. Therefore, energy companies need to adopt smart utility infrastructures to help manage the volume of data.

For example, SAP Utilities Core leverages data analytics to interpret the DER network, giving energy companies more visibility over how prosumers are using and managing their energy consumption. It provides a centralised intelligence platform that orchestrates the data and gives actionable insights to consumers.

With access to data insights such as these, prosumers feel more confident and better equipped to continue managing their consumption and track their impact on the environment.

A collective ambition

It has become increasingly clear that we’re heading into a more connected and sustainable future. I envision a future where the energy ecosystem is at the forefront of this transition with energy providers, consumers, and technology providers working collectively to optimise energy consumption. With consumer behaviour changing every day, energy providers need to be prepared to adapt.