Theme energy: From optimising the energy production mix towards new services

VTT arranged the ‘Growth from the energy transition’ seminar on 13 September 2016, in Helsinki. During the event, we showcased VTT’s extensive know-how in the energy sector – the related research findings, scenarios and visions. Together with our partners, we also pondered the energy transition and growth prospects for Finland. In this blog series “Theme energy”, we take a closer look at the themes of the seminar. Vice President, Smart energy and transport solutions, Tuula Mäkinen starts the series with a summary.

Tuula_Mäkinen

To take advantage of the new business potential rising in the energy transition, we need to develop new, comprehensive services. Seeking a new optimal energy production mix while separately optimising energy use will not be enough. We are in a changing situation in which energy consumers can also serve as energy producers; we therefore need to take a holistic view of energy production and consumption. We also need to combine new technologies and business models much more rapidly.

Energy is becoming more about services, and revenue models are changing. Within energy systems, value is shifting from energy units to flexible resources.

Buildings will become a more active part of the energy system in the future. From the energy-saving perspective, we are moving towards optimal production of good indoor conditions and from sales by energy units towards the sale of comfort and living-condition services.

At VTT, work is under way on the development of new services, based on a novel approach to the optimisation of living conditions and energy consumption. For example, indoor living conditions and comfort can be improved and energy saved by combining predictive control based on weather data and energy prices with information on human comfort using the Human Thermal Model, developed by VTT.

Technology development has accelerated and we have seen a number of technology leaps. In recent years, the greatest advance in energy production technologies has been in reducing the production costs of solar and wind energy.

Finland is a world leader

Finland is at the forefront of many areas of energy technology. We are internationally strong in areas such as smart grids, combined heat and power production, district heating and cooling, and the development of integrated and hybrid solutions.

Finland’s digitalisation expertise provides outstanding opportunities for the creation and implementation of new services, since such services are closely linked to the transfer and use of data, and to mobile devices.

The energy transition offers new opportunities

New models of cooperation and the desire for renewal are needed in the current transition. New players have appeared in the energy sector. Sectoral boundaries are disappearing, which means that different sectors need to engage in cooperation, renewal and risk-taking. The start-up culture and new business models, such as crowdsourcing, are enabling experiments and the introduction of totally new services and products. Promoting a culture of experimentation is important.

The piloting and demonstration play an important part in the development of innovations and new technologies, and in accelerating their commercialisation. Piloting of individual technologies has given way to holistic and business model piloting. Piloting and demo projects are increasingly often about extensive ecosystem projects between several players. In support of growth and exports, it is important to have references for Finnish expertise.

A good example of the new approach would be the Living Lab Bus joint project, coordinated by VTT and launched in the Helsinki metropolitan area in early 2016, which is using Helsinki Region Transport’s Finnish-made electric buses as a practical R&D platform. The goal is to create a new type of everyday development environment for accelerating the product development of companies by means of agile experiments, in close cooperation with end-users and research institutions.

In the future, the role of consumers will grow, while their needs and opportunities to influence will be emphasised. We need to understand what kinds of services and products consumers want and need, and we should encourage them to experiment and participate in the related development.

In Finland we have excellent opportunities to grow into an international piloting platform and a forerunner market for new energy systems and new solutions, and thereby enhance export opportunities of Finnish industry in global competition. We have already seen good progress achieved for example by utilising public procurement.

Tuula Mäkinen
Vice President, Smart energy and transport solutions

Tuula.makinen (a) vtt.fi, +358 50 301 4661

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