In-depth reports on "Cooperation and innovation"

“Repower is dynamic and motivational, and as such provides us with energy in both the literal and figurative sense. It also implements decisions extremely quickly. Swisscom itself can take a leaf out of Repower's book.” Frédéric Gastaldo, CEO of Swisscom Energy Solutions AG (left), and Giovanni Jochum, Head of Trading & New Markets and member of the Executive Board of Repower.

Networked and connected

In-depth report on “Cooperation and innovation” – part 6

In future, growing importance will be attached to smart networking for energy systems. BeSmart is an innovative solution developed by Swisscom, which has brought Repower on board as a strong partner in the energy sector. It is energy efficiency made easy – showing why telecommunications and energy know-how go hand in hand.

Greater energy efficiency, storage options, security of supply, smart grid – these are only a few of the buzzwords that everyone is talking about in connection with the energy transition. To bring all these components together in a harmonious whole so as to contribute to the energy future, “intelligent system networking” is the order of the day. This is precisely the motive behind the cooperation between Swisscom and Repower. In early 2013 Repower acquired a 35 per cent stake in Swisscom subsidiary Swisscom Energy Solutions AG. The Olten-based start-up now employs 15 highly qualified staff. The aim of the partnership is to link individual customers' electrical heating systems such as heat pumps, night storage heaters and water boilers to form a virtual, intelligently-managed power plant. Intelligent management means that the interconnected systems can be coordinated to switch on or off at short notice in order to meet the growing demand for system services which can then be sold on to the national grid operator Swissgrid. The Federal Office for Energy (FOE) supports BeSmart as part of the so-called BFE flagship programme set up to promote energy solutions as role models for the energy future. The Canton of Graubünden also supports the flagship project and, in its role model function in the public sector, promotes its nationwide spread.

Giovanni Jochum, Head of Trading and New Markets at Repower and member of the Board of Directors of Swisscom Energy Solutions AG:

“Intelligent system networking will play a leading role in the energy transition. The required skills fit ideally in the cooperation between Swisscom and Repower.”

Adjusting consumption to intermittent generation

The approach adopted by Swisscom Energy Solutions AG focuses on demand-side management, i.e. dynamic and efficient management at the consumer end. The relationship between electricity supply and demand is reversed: rather than tailoring electricity generation to electricity demand, as has been the case up to now, consumption is adjusted to meet the available generation capacity. The resultant balancing capacity helps to keep the electricity grid stable even with the fluctuating feed-in from new renewable energies, and thus ensures security of supply. In addition to demand-side management, Repower also provides balancing capacities on the generation side from its hydroelectric power plants. In future, photovoltaic facilities could be integrated in the system for the same purpose (see interview right).

Offering proving popular

Following initial successes in south-eastern Switzerland, the innovative model is now offered throughout Switzerland. Since the commercial launch in the spring of 2013, more than 4,000 private customers have already signed up for BeSmart. Other interested customers can do so on Frédéric Gastaldo, CEO of Swisscom Energy Solutions AG, explains in the interview how customers can benefit from joining up and why Repower is an ideal partner for Swisscom.

Interview with Frédéric Gastaldo, CEO of Swisscom Energy Solutions AG

As a young company, Swisscom Energy Solutions AG has made a promising start. What potential do you see for the future?

In future the integration of new renewable energies in the grid will play a leading role. This calls for secondary balancing capacity which enables electricity consumption to be adjusted at short notice to the fluctuating volumes of electricity generated by renewables. BeSmart already provides this type of capacity. We believe this can be expanded in future so that not only heating systems but also photovoltaic systems can be connected to the system. This will help to improve the management of electricity from new renewables and will also allow us to expand our customer base. At the moment we are developing hardware and software with this in mind.

Customers who sign up for BeSmart make an important contribution to the energy transition. But how do they benefit from it?

Firstly, they get a free control system for their heating system. Without BeSmart a customer would need to spend around CHF 1,000, plus the costs of installation and connection to the grid. This type of system is advantageous for customers because they can use a Smartphone app to manage their consumption in real time and remotely. This increases control over their consumption and improves their home comfort. It also increases their sense of security, since they immediately receive an alert in the event of functional defects. And last but not least, BeSmart gives customers the opportunity to save on costs: by betting eco mode – for example while away on holiday – they can save on heating electricity and thus cut down on costs.

Why is Repower an ideal partner for Swisscom?

Repower is an excellent partner for us for many reasons. Firstly, while Swisscom has major know-how in the telecommunications and IT areas, it has little experience in the electricity sector. Repower's in-depth know-how in this field is an ideal fit as it brings the knowledge we lack to the cooperation. Secondly, with its hydroelectric power plants Repower can, if required, supplement the capacities of our virtual power plant. Besides these basic reasons, there are numerous “soft” factors at play: Repower is dynamic and motivational, and as such provides us with energy in both the literal and figurative sense. It also implements decisions extremely quickly. Swisscom can take a leaf out of Repower's book in this respect. In short: it is a constructive, enriching cooperation that has worked well from the outset.