Festival Of Lights 2012

IBM is looking to capture a share of Europe’s growing “smart” electricity market.

IBM has inked a deal with the metering division of EOn, Germany’s largest utility, to deliver a data and analytics platform, the Intelligent Energy Service Enablement Platform, for Smart Grid customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with plans to expand offerings to E.On customers throughout the EU, and ultimately worldwide.

IBM’s platform will allow E.On Metering to access smart meter data to stored in a private cloud – meaning that it is not shared with other utilities – to provide consumers with a means to both understand and manage their energy use. Expected knock-on benefits include reduced consumption, as well as easing the integration of renewables into the grid.

The German market is an attractive one for providers of advanced energy technologies, according to Michael Valocchi, Vice-President/Partner Global Energy and Utilities Leader, IBM Global Business Services. “The German market has been very innovative from an energy perspective. They’ve done things early in the game with distributed generation and programs aiming to create ‘smart’ cities,” Valocchi said. “It continues to evolve.”

While there are no state incentives to drive the expanded deployment of Smart Meters, the German government has been actively involved in efforts to educate consumers about ways to reduce energy, or to obtain it from non-fossil fuel sources. “Germany has a had a large program for deployment of distributed generation resources, including hundreds of thousands of solar roof top panels and other renewables,” Valocchi said.

Integrating renewables into the electricity grid is a challenge common to all markets seeing growth in distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels. Better access to energy use data can help to manage the difficulties associated with intermittent power sources.

“The data and information and we can obtain from the meter can help us better use renewables and other distributed resources,” said Valocchi. “Once I know usage at a granular level, I have data to compare when my renewables are working, and when I’m actually using the energy. That could also help me to decide what distributed generation resource I would want in my home.”

The Smart Meter deployment IBM and E.On are undertaking is not a blanket roll-out to all E.On customers and clients (such as municipalities), which account for somewhere in the range of 30-40% of the German market. Its success relies on its ability to appeal to end-users. “It’s a consumer-based decision,” Valocchi said.

That means is must be both user-friendly and adaptable. “The data presentation can be done in any number of ways – whether it’s a website or an application for a mobile or other device – but flexibility of the presentation is critical,” Valocchi said. That flexibility must also apply to the data and analytics offered. “It’s scalable and flexible enough that we can add analytics that develop over time so that it can be more valuable to the consumer.”

The program is initially targeting Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But the aim is to broaden its reach to countries beyond Europe.