The digital economy is developing rapidly worldwide. It now contributes up to eight percent of the GDP of the G-20 major economies, powering growth and creating jobs. It is the single most important driver of innovation, competitiveness and growth, and it holds huge potential for European entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). New digital trends such as cloud computing, mobile web services, smart grids, and social media, are radically changing the business landscape, enabling more than just technological innovation: they spur innovation in business models, business networking and the transfer of knowledge and access to international markets.
The huge potential of the digital economy is, however, underexploited in Europe, with 41% of enterprises being non-digital. In addition, although the European Union as a whole proves to be a net exporter of digital services, the situation among Europe’s countries appears to be largely uneven, with some countries – amongst which Italy – being net importers.
The ongoing digital revolution is coming to the power industry. Renewables, distributed generation, and smart grids demand are triggering new business models and regulatory frameworks. The competition for customers is shifting to the online channel; the IoT promises new product and management options. Governments and companies should share the huge effort. On one hand, Governments should be ready to embrace the new trends and create the market conditions in order to make new technologies flourishing; on the other side, companies should completely reconsider their business model and the way they have been used to relate with customers.
There is a new generation model, different in terms of ownership of the assets and the integration of new distributed energy resources into the grids.
Currently, thanks to technological progress, the final consumer can produce, store and consume (or shift in time consumption) her/his own energy under fair conditions in order to save money, help the environment, and ensure security of supply. The prosumer could represent the first step towards the exchange of energy between users through digital platforms, in real time.
Through the development of interconnected systems in everyday life (e.g. smart grid, smart home, smart buildings), end customers have the chance to be empowered. Regulation should encourage the use of new digital applications (and of new innovative services), ensuring the security of transmissions and
adequate data protection.
The large amount of variable generation and loads requires a greater system flexibility to prevent or solve grid congestion and balancing production/consumption at national level. The digitalization and the huge amount of available data allow System Operators for transmission and distribution to achieve new levels of operational efficiency and modernize their communication, bringing huge opportunities to the system as well.
Data management is different across countries. Some Member States have chosen a centralized data hub, with a common clearing platform managed by a regulated party (e.g. DSO, TSO or third party), others preferred a decentralized model. One size fits all model is not applicable in all European countries, while, instead, each Member State should define its own strategy considering its needs and characteristics. However, according to TSOs and DSOs vision, some common principles related to data management have to be set at European level.
Moreover, the energy industry is evolving from large centralized power plants owned by utilities to a new generation model, different in terms of ownership of the assets and the integration of new distributed energy resources into the grids.
The Internet of Things offers new potential to develop interconnected systems and promotes the process of empowering end customers. Although varying depending on estimates, the number of daily connected devices every day to 2020 will exceed 30 billion (and some estimates put the gure at 50 billion).
Currently, thanks to technological progress and distributed generation, the final consumer can produce, store and consume (or shift in time consumption) their own energy under fair conditions in order to save money, help the environment, and ensure security of supply. The ‘prosumer’ (consumers who also produce) could represent the first step towards the exchange of energy between users through digital platforms, in real time.
Regulation should encourage the use of new digital applications (and of new innovative services), ensuring the security of transmissions and adequate data protection. Although still unattractive for end users because of their costs or complexity, such digital applications and related services could bring many benefits to the system as a whole. In their long-term interaction, intelligent applications, smart grids and management platforms will lead to a new model of consumption, automatically and remotely managed.
The Internet of Things in the energy sector can enable a large variety of services. For example, thanks to smart meters, consumers can have access to a huge quantity of information and companies should help them in understanding how to improve their consumption. The roll-out of smart meters in the Union is occurring more slowly than expected due to di erent results of the CBA across EU member states, as well as concerns linked to the transmission of data security and privacy. The Third Energy Package sets a specific target for the electricity sector – 80% of consumers with a successful cost/benefit analysis by 2020 – but not for gas, for which “a reasonable period of time” is recommended.
Estimates predict that in Europe the market value of the Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in 2020 will be approximately $9.2 billion compared to the $28.6 billion global market.
The extraordinary diffusion of Internet and technological progress are revolutioning our lives offering new opportunities to citizens/consumers and businesses. In particular, the amazing diffusion of mobile devices, cloud services and video consumption is generating a huge growth of data traffic which makes crucial the availability of high-performance telecommunication networks. Around the world, the Americas and Asia Pacific regions are accelerating investments on fixed and mobile networks.
5G technology will be a key enabler for IoT and new digital services’ deployment. Considering past leadership in developing mobile technology in 2nd and 3rd generation, it’s at the same time crucial and a concrete possibility for the European Union to play a main role also in the deployment of 5G. To achieve this goal, in accordance with EU Commission initiatives and planning, it’s necessary to accelerate on investments, simplify and remove barriers to small cells deployment, plan a roadmap and a shared timing in Europe, ensure an harmonised and efficient spectrum management, the availability of adequate spectrum bands to 5G deployment and a strong cooperation among all stakeholders.