The time has passed when electricity was only provided to a consumer by their local utility. Today, prosumers and micro-businesses are creating their own electricity, and are looking to sell or trade the energy they produce back to the grid.
A prosumer is defined as someone who is both a consumer and a provider. For example, it could be a person or a business generating power using their own solar panels. This is not just happening in desert areas with maximum exposure to sunshine.
A recent article in Politico Magazine describes families in Brooklyn who have solar panels and who are selling their excess solar energy to the neighbors across the street. Think about how cool that is – going green and making money off it…
Supporting such an e-Energy marketplace requires complex algorithms to assess how much energy each prosumer produces and can trade. Using smart grid metering, consumers can see their excess capacity and trade it with others on the grid. It will then require the utility companies to extend their support in billing and customer care like never before. They will be forced to offer solutions with the understanding that this support will open up new business opportunities – albeit also competition.
To profit from this new market, prosumers need a marketplace that will serve their interests and provide them the greatest number of opportunities with the least amount of effort. This marketplace would require a cutting edge cloud-based billing and Customer Information System (CIS) delivered in a software-as-a-service model where consumers, prosumers, distributors and manufactures would go to buy and sell energy and more. It would also have the inherent ability to include settlements between different energy providers and strong predictive analytics to optimize investments in production capabilities. And to top it off, a smart CIS would require very little customization when it comes to on-boarding and on-going support.
Cloud-based CIS platform deployments are expected to reach 80% of CIS deployments in some regions over the next few years, as companies exhaust the lifecycles of their legacy systems and have written off those investments. These moves are propelled by the need to minimize costs in areas such as maintenance, and fit into today’s utilities’ strategy of being more cost-oriented and streamlined with their business processes and offerings.
Moreover, the cloud enables the utility companies to save on their IT budgets. For smaller utilities, the IT investment budget is typically very limited. They can’t afford the more expensive on-premises software from large vendors such as Oracle and SAP, and the internal IT resources to subsequently manage and maintain this software in-house would present an additional cost factor. Using SaaS models or sharing infrastructure on multi-tenant platforms offers a business model that is usually more suitable for them.
Decentralizing the generation of electricity, increasing competition, encouraging consumers to become prosumers and customer demand for a digital experience will lead to more efficient electricity production and increase the use of renewable energy, as well as shift the customer to being the center of attention much like in the telco industry. Most will agree that this is a healthy solution for our planet. To get there, though, the e-energy market requires a cloud-based billing and CIS solution, especially for sunny days.
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