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INTERVIEW Interview with Maikel van Verseveld, OMNETRIC Group Metering and Smart Energy International recently had the opportunity to speak to Maikel van Verseveld, CEO of OMNETRIC Group, about the company and the trends it is seeing develop in the utility space. “The future lies in the digitisation of the electric grid and the benefits that can be derived from this move” is one of the first statements Maikel van Verseveld makes. He believes that Europe will need to have sufficient flexibility and contingency built into the grid in order to avoid blackouts and escalating grid challenges. He also believes that technology must be implemented to support a business case and deal with a current challenge, avoiding a ‘technology for technology’s sake’ situation. However, because technology is also changing the way utilities operate, van Verseveld is a firm believer that utility business models are going to need to change to adapt to this increasingly technologically driven environment. “Business models must evolve; otherwise you will quite simply go out of business,” he states. OMNETRIC Group brings together the unique abilities of Siemens with its products and operations technology knowledge, and Accenture which understands business processes, information technology and the digitisation of both. By way of example van Verseveld mentions Dutch company Van der Bron (which means ‘from the source’), a distribution company which is leveraging infrastructure sharing over a certain distance to directly procure and sell electricity between consumers and producers, effectively cutting out the middleman. With no traditional utility involved in the transactions, customers are seeing a 50% decrease in tariffs and generators are experiencing a 50% improvement in the prices they are 34 commanding. Van der Bron currently has 25 000 customers, but this number is growing significantly on a monthly basis. This, van Verseveld believes, is a prime example of how digitisation upsets market models. More importantly, this is being done with minimal investment in infrastructure and is being managed through a liberalised demand and supply market place and a good meter data management system. This is the space in which OMNETRIC Group wants to operate. In Germany they are helping a generation company implement a virtual power plant, as the utility in question has invested extensively in coal and other generation technologies, but needs to have another power generation facility which is renewable energy focussed. In this case Siemens software was implemented in the cloud and connected the generation company to the transmission companies in order to answer ancillary service demand coming out of the TSOs. This now means that the generation company can trade over 400MW of renewable energy power on flexibility markets, where often the pricing structure is unsuitable or unsustainable for coal or other types of traditional power stations. Says van Verseveld: “This is the way you are able to bring business needs and technology together.” As customers’ needs change van Verseveld sees an opportunity to operate in the increasingly convergent IT/OT sectors. “As customers evolve, they don’t just want technology – they want solutions,” says van Verseveld. “This is what OMNETRIC Group can bring to the table.” Changing world The utility industry is going to be seeing some interesting trends over the coming years and these will be driven by some of the following: • Disintermediation or transactive energy markets, which will be far more transaction-driven than they currently are. Jeff St. John, in his post, ‘A how-to guide for transactive energy’, comments that transactive energy is “an internet-enabled free market, where customer devices and grid systems can barter over the proper way to solve their mutual problems and settle on the proper price for their services, in close to real time.” i Van Verseveld believes that relationships between suppliers and consumers will be short lived, although he believes back- up capacity contracts will be the longest contractual relationship in this space going forward. “Generation capacity will enable you to have contracts with whomever you wish. Consumers and/or utilities won’t be bound by multi-year contracts,” he explains. He believes consumers will drive the tipping point for this market, but that distributors will be the initial drivers, especially those which run highly sophisticated networks -- and highlights San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) as actively and enthusiastically pursuing this kind of model. • Next generation smart metering: smart metering as a concept has been employed in some markets for almost 10 years. In California and New York, smart metering is being taken to the next level with programmes which enable consumers METERING INTERNATIONAL ISSUE – 3 | 2015