Game Changers in the energy system

Energy Efficiency

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05 April 2017

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Jürgen Ritzek

"Important changes in the provision and consumption of electricity services are now underway, driven to a significant degree by a confluence of factors affecting the distribution side of power systems. A variety of emerging distributed technologies — including flexible demand, distributed generation, energy storage, and advanced power electronics and control devices — are creating new options for the provision and consumption of electricity services. At the same time, information and communications technologies are rapidly decreasing in cost and becoming ubiquitous, enabling more flexible and efficient consumption of electricity, improved visibility of network use, and enhanced control of power systems." 

This was the starting point for the Utility of the Future study, conducted by the MITEI, the MIT Energy Initiative.

In a rather similar way, but with a broader scope focussing on the entire energy system, the World Economic Forum together with McKinsey recently published a whitepaper about the emerging themes reshaping the energy landscape.

Or in more catchy words - the game changers in the energy system.

WEF and McKinsey do see the "global energy ecosystem in the midst of a transformation at a scale and pace perhaps unseen in a century, buffeted by discontinuities in every direction." To identify and assess the implicatons of potential game changers, they followed a guiding framework looking at deep global trends to identify potential game changers and to assess their potential impact on business, governments and societies, see Figure 1 below.

You might not be surprised of the outcome in regards to the game changers. WEF and McKinsey identified three:

  1. Advanced energy acceleration
  2. Mobility revolution
  3. Energy system fragmentation

The most relevant part of the whitepaper comes likely at the end - the resulting questions for business, governments and households!

If you think of the old days in energy business where the business environment was stable and decisions were done with a planning horizon of 30-50 years - you probably get a feeling of the change in front of us. And the enormeous cultural change it requires in the old industries to catch up with this totally new environment. Just think of the following - what is the value of an experience gained in a totally different (old) world?

As always, with the future being uncertain, it is most important to ask the right questions. And this is recognised in the paper. Obviously on a starting point level, but well reflecting on the challenges ahead.

As an example, here are a few questions from the whitepaper for business.

Questions for incumbent businesses

  • Where will certain industries begin to collide and converge with others in the energy system?
  • How do businesses build real optionality into their strategies to navigate a highly uncertain future?
  • How do businesses harness core competencies to pivot into new or changing sectors?
  • How radically do businesses need to reorganize or revamp their organizational capabilities?
  • How can businesses use M&A or R&D dollars to gain a foothold in new, unfamiliar, but potentiallybreakthrough sectors?

Questions for new entrants

  • How do new entrants tap into new sources of capital to ensure their businesses reach “escape velocity”?
  • How do new entrants find a competitive foothold in an increasingly integrated system?
  • How do new entrants achieve “localization at scale”?

For more information you can download the entire whitepaper from the WEF website via https://www.weforum.org/whitepapers/game-changers-in-the-energy-system-emerging-themes-reshaping-the-energy-landscape/

Related case studies, articles

  1. Smart Mobility in Smart City, interaction between FEV, transport and energy infrastructure (smart grid)
  2. Elektromobilität, Optionen für Deutschlands Automobilindustrie
  3. Behind-the-meter Energy Storage Systems, applications and business models

About the Author

Juergen Ritzek is co-founder and Business Director of EEIP