Mas2tering sat down with Jason Simpson, Co-Founder of Mobile Energy Association, at the first project workshop in Venice in order to discuss the next generation of EU smart grid products and services. MEA is a successful Monaco-based group of thought leaders facilitating discussions between stakeholders in the utilities and communications sectors. Here is a brief excerpt of our insightful conversation, more info can be found about Jason and MEA on (MEA LinkedIn).
Mas2tering Q1: Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to answer our first questions and thanks for being one of mas2tering’s Value-Driven Advisors. Firstly, what do you think are the main reasons for the difference in attitude between Utilities, Telecoms, grid operators, and other potential smart grid service providers?
Jason A1: I think it’s a question of timing rather than different attitudes. Telecoms experienced many of the same changes and challenges that the Utilities sector is facing some twenty years ago and have learnt many lessons from that experience. Telcos thought that they would be secure because of their infrastructure investments and customer history but it didn’t take very long for Over The Top players to disprove those assumptions. Utilities will need to make uncomfortable investment decisions now such as in the smart grid in order to protect their future by leading the way on customer centric services, network and cost optimisation, and improved transparency. If they don’t, then either someone else will and/or their reputation and brand will be irrecoverably damaged.
Mas2tering Q2: One of our research focuses deals with HAN, can you please discuss a bit about the business challenges related to last-mile connectivity and LV grids?
Jason A2: One of the biggest barriers to the provision of joint services between telecoms, utilities and grid operators in the last mile is the lack of co-ordinated industry led standards and I emphasise co-ordinated and industry-led. In mobile telecoms they were lucky enough to have the GSM Association, TMForum, ITU and other global organisations which took a lead role in this respect and made life easier for operators, vendors, regulators and thereby customers. The HAN and especially the Gateway is at the heart of a customer centric Energy 3.0 revolution. It is where utilities and grid operators will win or lose the battle for the customer and that is well understood but the approach should be in partnership with telecoms operators rather than in competition. Utilities and Telcos working hand in hand have a chance to create their own destiny even in front of fierce competition from new technology companies that don’t have the same legacy constraints and have an intuitive understanding of what customers want and how to provide it.
Mas2tering Q3: We’ve talked about customer centric solutions – are there any specific areas that you think Utilities and Telcos can work on together that are perhaps being missed at the moment?
Jason A3: Yes, Pay As You Go or pre-pay solutions. This is an area where mobile operators have deep experience and it is inevitable that utility services will move in this direction. Across Europe over 50% of mobile customers are on a PAYG package whereas in utilities this is less than 1%, the exception being the UK at around 13%. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, utilities should look to mobile operators to help them deliver PAYG solutions that are customer friendly and already tried and tested at scale. The MEA is actively supporting a new initiative, Mobile4Energy, which is developing a mobile-enabled PAYG solution in parallel to low cost connected meters. This type of innovation is a game changer in terms of customer satisfaction and industry economics but only the boldest utilities will embrace this step towards the future.