The Future of Energy is in Energy Communities

Energy production and consumption are gradually changing from a centralized model that relies on a power plant generating and distributing regional power to a decentralized model that relies on renewable energy traded in energy communities — groups that share and trade renewable energy.

Public utility companies are scrambling to fit into this new, decentralized, digital-first model. Utilities are challenged by startups and companies such as IKEA and Tesla, which now also sell and maintain residential solar panels and create energy communities. It’s a brave new world for utilities, and we’re continuously seeing examples of their innovation, adaptation, and partnership formation that help them enter the new playing field.

Lack of visualization stalled progress

While the new model for renewable energy production and consumption is challenging utilities, it’s also not always a joy ride for the prosumers in energy communities. For example, in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, prosumers lacked visualization of their renewable energy production, consumption, and community sales.

Moreover, they weren’t dazzled by the low feed-in tariffs and increasing time required to achieve their return on investment for their solar panels.

Exnaton visualizes the future of energy

Exnaton, a Swiss startup, provides the visualization prosumers crave in an energy billing and sharing SaaS platform, PowerQuartier, that integrates with utilities’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. This integration enables all parties in an energy community — prosumers, consumers, and utilities — to achieve economic, business, and environmental goals.

Exnaton provides utility companies with the user interface and the energy-community platform using SAP solutions. This perfect match of the back-office expertise of utilities and SAP with the visualization and energy-community wizardry of Exnaton resulted in successful energy-community implementations in the region.

Best practice consulting AG (bpc AG), a long-standing SAP gold partner with expertise in utilities, integrated Exnaton with SAP. The integrated offering for energy communities is called EnergyCommunity.

Anna (bpc AG)

The benefits of energy communities

The integrated Exnaton and SAP EnergyCommunity platform provides many benefits for utilities, prosumers, consumers, and the environment.

It enables utilities to easily offer an energy community, which creates a new revenue stream and retains customers who otherwise could trade in other energy communities.

Furthermore, better visualization of smart-meter data results in environmental benefits through a more complete use of produced renewable energy. Unused renewable energy that isn’t sold to consumers can be stored in home storage systems or pumped into artificial lakes for hydroelectric storage.

Finally, for convenience, consumers will only receive one bill for both renewable and non-renewable energy from the same utility.

Most important for the environment, it helps the European Union move from 19% consumption of renewable energy today to its target of 40% by 2030.

Insights from Exnaton

“In contrast to the energy production of large, centralized power plants that run on fossil fuels, we cannot turn renewable generators on or off whenever we need energy,” said Anselma Woerner, Ph.D., co-founder and COO of Exnaton. “Instead, if we want to move to renewable energy, we need to change the way the energy system works and create a balance between energy consumption and production on a local level. Using smart-meter data, EnergyCommunity software allows the management of distributed resources and can incentivize the use of renewable energy when it is available to consumers. Our software not only creates local energy communities; it also creates a new revenue stream for utilities offering additional services around renewable energy.

Customer deployment at Energie Burgenland

Energie Burgenland, an Austrian utility, wanted to offer energy communities to its customers to prepare them for a sustainable future. Energie Burgenland is currently using EnergyCommunity and SAP to fuel two energy communities with approximately 100 participants.

“With Exnaton, we were able to find a professional partner for the development of energy communities,” said Philipp Payer, business development and strategy at Energie Burgenland. “Not only the product itself but also the enthusiasm of the Exnaton team convinced us to jointly build a solution for future energy communities.”

Exnaton was recently honored as a winner of the SAP Innovation Awards 2022 through this effort together with best practice consulting. You can learn more about the project from their submission pitch deck.