What has EMPOWER taught us?

By Mari Kristine Buckholm, Smart Innovation Norway 27. October 2017

The Horizon 2020 EMPOWER project is coming to an end, and at the same time the INVADE project is taking form. How will the EMPOWER findings be used in INVADE?

Last week, a final EMPOWER workshop was held at Smart Innovation Norway’s offices in Halden, Norway.

Several of the project partners and relevant stakeholders were present, and the discussions emphasized business models, business development and exploitation of the research and development results.

In addition, the participants provided relevant input for various other ongoing projects, like INVADE.

Important EMPOWER findings

“The issue is how to make a transition from EMPOWER to INVADE, what the learning effect from EMPOWER is in respect to INVADE”, says professor Bernt Bremdal, Senior Advisor Energy Solutions at Smart innovation Norway. He elaborates:

“Firstly, EMPOWER has shown that some of the local problems that relates to congestion, relates to containment of solar power and other renewables that are incontrollable. It has also shown that you can use certain financial incentives to have people invest in renewables and thereby accelerate the energy change to a more climate friendly environment”.

Bremdal points out that the whole process has been a bottom-up approach to fulfill the political objectives of the EU Horizon 2020 programme.

“Also, the project shows that battery storage creates a natural hub for local trade, consisting of three elements; energy, flexibility and services. That part of EMPOWER is transferable to INVADE. Because it is about storage, like vehicle-to-grid”, says Bremdal.

High credibility

Another part that EMPOWER has contributed a lot to is how the market aspect, combined with new business models, can create a platform of absolutely new ways of looking at how energy can be used.

“For example, how you can incentivize people to take part in this venture of green change. That is extremely important”, emphasizes Bremdal.

He believes that is the reason why Smart Innovation Norway has achieved such a high degree of credibility with the European Commission:

“I think the work done with the EMPOWER project has been very important in order to achieve funding for INVADE. Technically we are not doing a lot of new stuff, but we are putting it into a business context and market context that very few others have done”.

Platform-based is key

According to Bremdal, the major contribution from EMPOWER to INVADE, is the knowledge of platform-based business models.

“In fact, what we are testing in EMPOWER now, is a network market approach. First, you got the internet. You got social systems like Youtube where you can upload and download things. You don’t pay anything, but there is a tremendous cost involved. Only that is taken care of by advertisement”, he describes.

The hot topic during last week’s EMPOWER workshop was platform-based business models.

Today, companies like Airbnb and Uber have emerged. They deliver goods in a physical world, and it is a global system.

“Uber has shown that you can operate a global system with a bunch of drivers that have their own cars and offer a service. They do not offer it continuously, but when they have the time and availability, the surplus, so to speak”, Bremdal continues.

Business before technical development

What makes EMPOWER unique, is how the partners have translated this business model into the energy world.

“It proves that a platform-based model actually works. These types of business models will be expanded into INVADE”, says the professor.

Finally, Bremdal calls attention to the importance of mapping the market and business opportunities before exploring the technical tasks in an EU project.

“A lot of projects start with the technical development and they do a little bit of business at the end, which is not the way you should do it. First, you should try to find out what is viable in economic and business terms. Then, you try to figure out what kind of technical support you need to fulfill the issues related to money flow, incentives, participation of people and engagement”, he summarizes.

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