BLOG ARTICLE: Exploring total social impact in the energy business

By Dr. Iliana Ilieva and Mari Kristine Buckholm, Smart Innovation Norway 29. March 2019

Energy businesses that manage to incorporate total social impact into their activities, products, services, and communication to customers and employees, will have the best premises for future business growth – and for contributing to a better world.

Dr. Iliana Ilieva is a senior researcher at Smart Innovation Norway.

Inspired by the grocery industry in the U.S. and how attractive organic production and fair-trade food have become, Smart Innovation Norway has explored ways to implement total social impact into the energy sector and our projects – with respect to exploitation and building business plans.

Looking into the EU Horizon 2020 INVADE project, which envisions a cloud-based ICT platform that through integration with EVs and batteries enables storage services at various levels in the distribution grid (mobile, distributed and centralized), we found that total social impact should be incorporated within many layers of the project. This is important for the future success of implementing the INVADE solution.

 

The whole picture

Many of the project partners have already incorporated total social impact strategies in their businesses. For instance, the INVADE pilot Albena Group in Varna, Bulgaria, is a hotel chain which promotes themselves with renewable energy, using the flexibility platform offered by INVADE, but also by producing organic food of their own. This makes the hotel chain more attractive to visitors.

However, one must be aware of inconsistencies. If a company tries to implement total social impact by “greenwashing” its image, but at the same time carries activities that are not totally compatible with the green image, this could have a contradictory effect. Let’s say if a hotel chain company would be using the flexibility platform and selling organic food, but at the same time underpaying its employees, this could give negative impact to visitors. Or, if a company promotes itself with EV charging and infrastructure, but at the same time the top management of the company drives diesel cars, this would not be compatible in the eyes of some customers.

Thus, total social impact is about the whole picture, all the activities, the core strategy of the company, about incorporating a sustainability image and communicating this image to the end customers.

Discussing examples from several industries and how INVADE incorporates the total social impact strategy towards its business model, its core technologies and across partners, we can come up with specific recommendations to the following: How should a total social impact strategy best be fitted into an energy company’s business?

Our statement is that an energy business that manages to incorporate total social impact in all its activities, products, services, communication to customers and in the eyes of its employees and managers, will have the best premises for future business growth and for contributing to a better world, as well as better sustainability options for its customers.

 

Three examples

Looking to the INVADE project partners, we see evidence that supports our thesis. Lyse, a multi-utility company with energy-related services such as EV charging, PV and battery solutions, distributed energy and management of such as its core business, including all the elements of traditional “smart homes”, has integrated total social impact into the products and services they offer by ensuring strong privacy measures around the data that is acquired. Lyse also manages to communicate the innovative sustainability measures that they are taking to their customers.

The Albena hotel chain in Bulgaria, as mentioned, makes a good example of how incorporating a flexibility platform and social value creation into the hotel chain’s business strategy can promote the company’s popularity and bring economic prosperity. Their focus on locally grown, ecological food served in all restaurants and hotels during the tourist season, their pursuit of renewable energy solutions and forest preservation creates a solid base for sustainable tourism and social responsibility-driven business development.

A third example is the strategy of technology company Schneider Electric, which is getting more and more considerate about social impact values, trying to fit their business model so that it better incorporates those. The company has declared that they aim to use their products to develop sustainable energy resources, assure gender balance and a high degree of governance. Thus, the social responsibility philosophy has become an integrated part of their products.

 

Incorporating the strategy

We have seen that being considerate about social responsibility has a strong impact on the energy businesses. In particular, we have seen how relevant it is for INVADE with respect to developing a solution that considers total responsibility issues, as well as running the solution in the future and being sure that it will contribute to a better society.

With that in mind, we will conclude with a few recommendations of how the total social impact strategy should be fitted into the management decisions within the energy sector:

  1. There should be a good understanding of the current position of the business and a vision for further development.
  2. There should be solid arguments why social responsibility is important for the energy business.
  3. It could be very beneficial for the energy business to have partnerships with other businesses that are in the sustainability field.
  4. There should be goals and metrics that can be compared in the future, so that you know you have the desired impact.
  5. Finally, it is important to communicate effectively to the customers and to make sure that the measures taken are compatible with what the customer expects.

These recommendations are directed to companies in the energy domain that wish to ensure company longevity and contribute to good growth in the future.

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INVADE updates

Science blog: INVADE inspired by Amazon and Airbnb

The work package WP9: Business models and market structures, led by INVADE project partner Lyse has put forward a market structure for platform-based business models inspired by disruptive companies like Amazon and Airbnb. (3 weeks ago)

@INVADEH2020 : Work package 9 Business models and market structures, led by project partner Lyse has put forward a market structur… https://t.co/xC50UvJELK ( - 3 weeks ago)

@INVADEH2020 : "The work package WP9: Business models and market structures, led by INVADE project partner Lyse has put forward a market structure for platform-based business models inspired by disruptive companies like Amazon and Airbnb," writes Smart Innovation Norway researcher Bryan Pellerin in this INVADE science blog article. Read more: ( - 3 weeks ago)

@INVADEH2020 : Renewable energies and electric vehicles (EVs) change the way we consume and produce electricity. It also changes the way those who manage and distribute it must think about the electricity system – to always provide the best possible service for the connected costumers. The goal of the EU funded Horizon2020 project INVADE is to greatly speed up this process, by showing that the technologies and solutions we have today, only must be connected in new ways to solve the challenges of tomorrow. Watch the official INVADE film to understand how: ( - 1 month ago)

@INVADEH2020 : As part of the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), the Sustainable energy days in Albena last week was an informative event/workshop about the innovations and optimizations in the energy field the company is introducing (https://www.eusew.eu/energy-days/eu-sustainable-energy-days-albena-bulgaria). One of the projects presented was the EU Horizon2020 project INVADE (www.h2020invade.eu). Two INVADE partners were represented, Albena Resort, Bulgaria and Smart Innovation Norway. Researcher Bryan Pellerin presented INVADE to the local stakeholders and got to exchange with Albena’s partners (both hotel managers, guests and more technical people) about what the project is addressing. "This is a part of our work package 3 focused on exploitation. We also toured their facilities (farm, wine yards, biogas plant), which was very interactive and puts INVADE in context of their other sustainability activities," explains Pellerin. ( - 1 month ago)

@INVADEH2020 : This week is @euenergyweek, the annual flagship event organised by the @EU_Commission. Achieving #sustainable… https://t.co/wWKrc2VOQp ( - 2 months ago)

@INVADEH2020 : This week is the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), the annual flagship event organised by the European Commission. Achieving Sustainable Energy is within the INVADE goals. HOLD THE DATE for "INVADE Barcelona 2019" on the 20th of November, as a side event of Smart City Expo World Congress, to see what we have done in the project. ( - 2 months ago)

@INVADEH2020 : In the INVADE project, a central delivery is the cloud-based Integrated INVADE platform, which will be used by the Flexibility Operator to manage #flexibility from flexibility providers and offer this to flexibility customers. It is crucial to specify how data can be sent to and from the Integrated INVADE platform through its communication platform API pilot by Pilot. You can access Deliverable 7.2 "Specification of the CP-API-functions" at https://h2020invade.eu/deliverables/ ( - 2 months ago)

The pilots have begun testing the INVADE integrated platform: “An excellent example of how we can bring flexibility and storage technology to the end-users”

In the end of May, the INVADE consortium was gathered in the Netherlands. During the two-day meeting, all five pilot owners presented their progress to the project partners. (2 months ago)

@INVADEH2020 : In the end of May, the INVADE consortium was gathered in the Netherlands. During the two-day meeting, all five pilo… https://t.co/H7CYKd3zyO ( - 2 months ago)