Last week Seth & Dunn co-facilitated the Hack Utilities event at Brussels, a 2-day innovation event for the utilities sector organised by Hack Belgium Labs. During these two days they guided the participants from brainstorm to team formation, business model validation and finally pitching their ideas.
There’s no doubt about it: disruption is in the air for Belgium’s energy market. When it comes to utilities, our country is facing numerous challenges in different areas, including technological, topological, regulatory and sociological changes. At the same time, we have been struggling with persistent paradoxes for quite some time now. Consider, for example, the almost exponential growth of alternative energy sources, while Europe is confronted with energy overcapacity. The debate concerning a nuclear power phase-out, too, is far from over, and our idea to rely more on gas-fired power stations is in no way consistent with the increasing pressure Belgium is under to drastically reduce its CO2 emissions.
Why roll out Smart Meters in Brussels?
Being the distribution grid operator for all 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region, Sibelga considers it one of its main objectives to provide its customers with a balanced network and a guaranteed electricity supply.
The energy sector has faced a major transformation in recent years. The liberalization of the energy sector ensured that energy supply was no longer possible in the traditional “push strategy.” The customer became the center of attention, as customer churn became a common concept within the sector. From now on, an individual could actively choose an energy supplier, something that was impossible before. In their choice, customers were initially often led by favorable pricing. In a later phase, green energy made its appearance and became a decision factor just as valuable as price. In order to tackle these changes, suppliers started recruiting complementary profiles in other sectors that experienced a similar transformation. These recruits came mostly from the financial and telecom world to embrace a more customer centric approach within the organizations.
In July 2018, Flemish distribution grid operators Eandis and Infrax joined forces, merging into a new company called Fluvius. Its main purpose? To distribute electricity and gas to individuals, companies and local administrations, as well as provide them with other public facilities such as heat networks and telecom. In addition, Fluvius acts as a social and fall-back supplier and supports local and regional authorities in their sustainability and rational energy & water use policies through awareness campaigns and incentives including energy grants and green power certificates. The 2018 merger is expected to save 110 million euros each year, meaning that consumers will see their gas and electricity bills drop by about 36 euros.