Transforming Transformers: Building the future of data-driven energy

The transformative power of the internet cannot be denied. We’ve seen it in virtually every sector and energy is no different - in a decentralised, digitised and connected future, energy will be abundant, and energy will be managed via the Internet of Things and corresponding big data processing systems. The seamless, secure flow of energy-related data is vital, and data-driven systems will form the backbone of the energy company of the future. However, the journey there will not be an easy one. This is why Intertrust Technologies and the innogy Innovation Hub co-hosted Transforming Transformers; the world’s first thought leadership conference on the confluence of energy and internet technologies. At the conference, industry leaders discussed the challenges and opportunities in building the future of data-driven energy.

More than 200 guests gathered in Düsseldorf to hear thought-provoking discussions about the convergence of the Internet of Things, big data and energy.

Intertrust CEO Talal Shamoon and Thomas Birr, CEO of the innogy Innovation Hub and SVP, Innovation & Business Transformation, innogy SE, set the scene for the day with engaging keynote speeches. Talal spoke of how the Internet of Things and Distributed Big Data systems will revolutionise energy management and generation, how energy companies could harness these technologies to transform themselves, and the threats to the existing business models via new entrants.

Talal Shamoon

He pointed to modular secure data platforms and superior analytics and machine learning as the next generation driver of high margin business models. Thomas described energy transformation as the greatest challenge, opportunity and project on the planet.

“We believe that the future of energy sits at the convergence of people and technologies. The energy systems of the future will simply become too complex to be organised and controlled by human brains.”

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Thomas Birr, SVP, Innovation & Business Transformation, innogy SE and CEO of the innogy Innovation Hub

Over the course of the day, guests were treated to a 360-degree perspective on the future of data-driven energy; from the CEOs of major global utilities to the entrepreneurs who are creating disruptive technologies, to their investors. Other panels examined the regulatory and privacy hurdles that new entrants and utilities will face in this world, and how data driven energy will transform and advance renewables. Below is a summary of some of the key takeaways:

The CEOs: The future of digital and data for energy and mobility

Moderated by Stephen Comello, Research Director, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the first panel featured CEO of leading Australian utility Origin Energy Ltd. Frank Calabria, E.ON SE CEO Johannes Teyssen and Intertrust CEO Talal Shamoon. The panellists agreed that energy companies need to be at the forefront of digitisation, and that making the right partners will be a crucial component of this.

“Energy underpins the way people live, settle, work. It is the one enabler of everything. However, if energy companies don’t evolve and give our customers greater control over how they consume energy and the ability to use it more efficiently, we risk being displaced. The first step is understanding our customer’s needs and then working with partners on a solution.”

Origin Energy CEO Frank Calabria

Making partnerships successful requires a multi-dimensional – rather than a one-size-fits-all – approach, the panel heard. Aside from understanding the business model of partners, energy companies must be ready to adapt to their speed and mobility. In short, agility will be key.

The CEOS

Investment Panel: Funding the future of energy

Moderated by innogy New Ventures LLC Managing Director Florian Kolb, Thomas Birr, Cameron Briggs, GM, Future Energy at Origin Energy, Heriberto Diarte, SVP of Corporate Ventures and External Innovations at Schneider Electric SE talked about the symbiotic nature of their relationships with start-ups. There is a fine balance to making sure start-ups are sufficiently nimble and sufficiently capitalised to last and well matched to the strategic agendas of their corporate investors, panellists agreed.

Investment panel

“The real method to the madness is making sure the strategic impact is understood.”

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Cameron Briggs, GM, Future Energy at Origin Energy Ltd.

Industry Panel: The unlikely entrepreneurs

Moderated by Talal Shamoon, Akselos SA CEO Thomas Leurent, DigiKoo Managing Director Peter Mathis, AutoGrid Systems, Inc. CEO Amit Narayan and SORACOM, Inc. Americas COO Tack Tamagawa shared insights on attracting the best talent in the energy industry. The greatest innovators often come from the most unlikely places. One proven way of attracting them: highlighting the opportunity to transform an industry – and be at the bedrock of that transformation, Amit noted.

Industry panel

Data and renewable energy panel

Moderated by Rainer Sternfeld, GM, Trusted Data Platforms, Intertrust, Thomas Leurent, Tony Lucas, Ingo Alphéus, CEO of Belectric Solar & Battery GmbH and Christoph Mertens, CEO, Summit Renewable Power Europe discussed challenges in exchanging data in efforts to decarbonise the energy mix. If the industry is to fully harness the power of data, analytics and forecasting must first be improved, panellists agreed. This needs to be a top priority as whether analytics are outsourced to third parties or not, the entire industry is held to account when a data breach occurs – whatever the weakest link.

Data & renewables panel

Data and privacy panel

On the final panel, moderated by Tomas Sander, Data Protection Officer, Intertrust, Doris Gemeinhardt-Brenk, Head of Digitisation and Interconnectivity, Federal Network Agency, German Government; Juan Bernabé Moreno, Global Head of Advanced Analytics, AI & Data Lab, E.ON SE; and Jens Strüker, Managing Director, Institute of Energy Economics, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences discussed balancing privacy in data driven applications. Doris noted the challenge of creating data protection on one side and allowing innovation on the other. She also highlighted data as a key factor of competition and value-added growth.

data & privacy

“Data can both create and impede competition. It is non-rivalrous, but excludable.”

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Doris Gemeinhardt-Brenk, Head of Digitisation and Interconnectivity, Federal Network Agency, German Government

Insights on Renewable Energy and Utility Business Models

Tony Lucas, Executive GM, Future Energy & Business Development, Origin Energy, was the last man standing during the South Australian blackout of 2016 when one of the worst storms to hit the region knocked out 22 high-voltage power pylons. In a keynote speech, he discussed the importance of renewables in the energy system of the future. He envisions a system with highly variable renewables working across millions of devices.

“Renewables create variability, not instability. What we need is to have the right data, data standards and interoperability.”

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Tony Lucas, Executive GM, Future Energy & Business Development

A perspective on data-driven energy business models in Japan was presented during the keynote from Tomomichi Seki, CTO and CIO of Tepco, Japan’s largest utility. The vision and strategy presented by Seki-san is very similar to the approaches innogy is implementing around data-driven business models.

Seki

The common thread running through the day was that of energy as the solution, not the problem to many of the world’s problems and that data is a key enabler of that solution. Renewables and decentralised energy are challenging existing utility business models and data is in demand as new source of power, growing in importance along the entire value chain of the energy industry. The industry, which has historically been linked to the climate crisis, is truly transforming and well on its way to delivering a carbon-free future.