Sberbank has held a business breakfast titled ‘Electric Utilities Innovations’. The event was attended by major players in the electric utilities sector: top managers from major Russian and international holdings (Enel, Renova Group, etc.), representatives of government agencies, heads of the Russian divisions of international tech companies (IBM, SAP), and leading consultancy firms (PwC Russia, Arup, Roland Berger, etc.).
The participants discussed the need to transform the principles according to which the electric utilities market functions. They identified the main challenges of the sector as decentralisation, the sharp fall in prices of new technology, and reduced demand due to growing energy efficiency.
Stepan Zveginstov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Enel Russia, confirmed the growing demand for technological innovation: “Innovation and sustainable development are key components in the creation of value that we seek to share with our stakeholders. Only companies that pay sufficient attention to innovation will be sustainable in the long term. And only sustainable companies will be capable of attracting and deploying innovations in the future.”
At the same time, innovation will pave the way for potential growth in the electric utilities sector. SAP forecasts that the sector’s digital transformation will boost Russia’s GDP by 200 billion roubles, with 100 bln from electricity grids.
However, the participants of the discussion were unable to agree on what challenge the Russian electric utilities sector should confront first. There was no consensus on whether this should be digitalisation, modernisation of outdated capacity, development of storage technologies, reduction of electricity losses, or construction of distributed generation, and whether the state is capable of supporting these areas.
“The electric utilities sector is no longer a seller’s market. Now the buyer sets the rules in this era of new technological development. For example, under the power supply contract programme, 30 gigawatts of new capacity have been created in Russia. But at the same time, companies added 20 gigawatts of their own generation capacity from scratch. This capacity was created entirely on a market basis, without applying for subsidies. This is no coincidence; it’s the start of new global changes – according to forecasts, in 2026 distributed generation will be built three times more often than traditional generation. By manufacturing more turbines we are actively supporting the production of solar modules, fuel elements, power storage systems and digital technology,” commented Director for High-tech Assets Business Development at Renova Mikhail Lifshits.
The issue of applying blockchain and its relevance for the energy sector was also discussed. The participants looked at successful examples of using this technology by small enterprises to manage the balance between electricity supply and demand in the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.
The participants also discussed the current status of regulating the digital market, planned changes to legislation and what market players expect from their introduction.
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