Interview with Alexander Pippert, Head of Innovation Center Smart Home, E.ON

By Anthony Pohl, Conference Manager, Smart Homes 2011

What opportunities will smart home deployment open up for E.ON?

The “smart home” concept, including the development of new demand side management and virtual power plant products for the mass market, are exciting opportunities for utilities. Additionally, a whole range of new services will create differentiating factors from competitors – an important factor in customer retention.

What needs to change for the smart home to see mass customization?

There are still significant barriers to overcome. From a customer perspective, installation costs need to decrease and access to a full scale smart home ecosystem to be simplified. Finally, we need communication standards that are accepted by all parties.

Why have smart homes not taken off?

Until recently the underlying technology was not broadly available (wireless communication of smart home systems along with smart phones and tablets). These technologies have changed the way we live. Smart home solutions are a natural extension and complement to these ICT advancements. Ongoing changes to our lifestyles, triggered by working patterns and these ICT breakthroughs, have led to a high demand for data accessibility and transparency via mobile devices. Thus, the consumer only now is prepared to consider remote home control and other mobile facilitated services.
 
From a utility perspective, there was never a major pressure, e.g. to reimburse the cost of the smart meter. So utilities so far were not sufficiently pursuing innovative ways to leverage this deployed infrastructure and offer new services.

What is the value of smart homes for integrated utilities?

Especially large utilities need to adapt to changing electricity market paradigms. Customers’ increased demand for decentralized energy and energy efficiency is to be met by innovative products. Areas of potential gains might be new services (like energy consulting), avoided grid extensions, customer retention or more efficient utilization of large power plants. However, most of these effects are long term, rather than short term one, and will materialize only in case the smart home idea really takes off.

How can smart homes be monetized for E.ON?

The areas described above are the main value pools for utilities. This is true especially for E.ON, as it has a customer base big enough to actually create portfolio effects, although, a portfolio is only the result of convincing every single customer with attractive products. This will be our challenge for the years to come.