COVID-19 and Utilities: The Happy Hour opportunity

By Mirka Karra

Brand Journalist – NET2GRID

COVID-19 affected much of the traditional utility business during last year. On one hand, commercial energy usage has been negatively impacted due to lockdowns in various places around the world. The trend, on the other hand, has been offset by the notable increase in residential customer electricity demand.

In light of COVID-19, innovative utilities grabbed the opportunity to offer their customers Energy Happy Hours to help them optimize consumption and lower costs while staying at home for extended periods of time. One such example is Pinergy, a leading Irish utility company. Pinergy offers its customers reduced tariff plans also tailored to the COVID-19 reality such as 9-5 home office, evening family time and a ‘Drive Time’ plan for EV owners motivating them to charge their cars at specific times during the day.

enviaM’s Happy Hour

EnviaM, an E.ON daughter company in Germany, has also incorporated a Happy Hour feature in its iONA app , a user interface that allows customers to control their energy usage at home. With NET2GRID’s help, enviaM’s customers are notified of the upcoming ‘Happy Hour’ during which they only pay half for the electricity they consume. After the ‘Happy Hour’, customers are notified of their  ‘Happy Hour’ savings. The ‘Happy Hour’ has proven highly popular amongst enviaM’s customers.

What is also remarkable is the AI innovation behind the Happy Hour feature; a flexible tariff engine allocates different tariffs to individual appliances and/or in specific time of use slots. It thereby supports dynamic pricing and behavioural-steered load shifting.

Low tariff time slots appear on the screen so individual customers can plan ahead the use of their appliances. It also notifies customers on their smartphones when a low price event is coming up 3 hours and 10 minutes in advance.

In the enviaM case, the app calculates and presents the cost of consumption in each time interval, thereby allowing the user to see the actual prices being used and the money they have saved. enviaM itself can track the results of the service in a report detailing the cost savings their customers have accrued.

Home energy management companies over the globe have invested a great deal of expertise in developing AI models to provide solutions like Happy Hours, bringing utilities to the forefront of innovation and help them keep up with the increasing customer demand in a liberalizing and ever-competing energy market.

How does the Happy Hour work? 

An Energy Happy Hour which is a Time-of-use tariff, refers to time slots that utilities choose to offer at a reduced  price.

A smart meter makes it possible for end-users to access the time-of-use tariffs giving them more choices than the standard 24-hour tariff or a day/night tariff while an engaging user experience can notify them upfront when the energy price discount will happen. In fact, electricity suppliers can provide a specific electricity tariff every 15-30-60 minutes over the 24 hours of a day. Thereby, utilities can incentivize their customers to move their energy consumption, maximizing their energy efficiency to times when the load in the grid is lower and the corresponding price reduced.

Apart from offering new services that can attract new customers, this way the energy providers can better engage with their customers, encouraging behavioral load shifting and offering better prices at times of day when demand is lower to help better manage the grid.

The trend will become more and more prevalent in the years to come because of the volatility of renewable sources like wind or solar power and because the overall use of electricity will be further increased due to more use of EVs and smart home equipment.


European CEO Alliance backs ambitious climate strategy

100 billion euros of investment to decarbonize their companies by 2030, a gradual introduction of a cross-sector CO2 price and ambitious phase-out dates for coal: These are some of the key points of ten top managers from the energy, transport and technology industries issued in a joint position paper. Thereby, the leading European CEOs are calling for far-reaching climate protection measures at the occasion of the seventh international climate strike on Friday, March 19, 2021.

The ten business leaders Björn Rosengren (ABB), Thierry Vanlancker (AkzoNobel), Francesco Starace (ENEL), Leonhard Birnbaum (E.ON), Ignacio Galán (Iberdrola), Søren Skou (Maersk), Christian Klein (SAP), Henrik Henriksson (Scania), Jean-Pascale Tricoire (Schneider Electric) and Herbert Diess (Volkswagen) are members of the “CEO Alliance for Europe’s Recovery, Reform and Resilience”.

This CEO Alliance formed in 2020 against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and the historic decisions on the European Green Deal. Their common goal is to make the EU the world’s leading region for climate protection while unlocking investments, driving innovations in tomorrow’s technologies and creating future-proof jobs.

The top managers published a joint position paper with ambitious proposals. They state: “We firmly believe that the EU Green Deal and Next Generation EU will put Europe’s innovation and business ingenuity to the service of the global climate cause, will kick-start a wave of investments into sustainability and resilience and will create future-proof jobs across the EU.”

The CEOs encourage European policy makers to take bold steps towards climate neutrality such as “continuing to pursue a standardized cross-sector CO2 price” and “setting end-dates for carbon-intense technologies”.

The CEO Alliance considers itself an “Action Tank”, working together in concrete joint projects: Cross-EU charging infrastructure for heavy duty transport, integration of EU Power systems, digital carbon footprint tracking, sustainable healthy buildings, e-buses for Europe, green hydrogen value chain and rapid build-up of battery production.

The aspiration of the top managers is to work with their companies across sectors to find practical solutions for effective climate protection. In doing so, they strive for an ongoing constructive dialogue with the EU Commission. In a digital meeting just days ago, the Executive Vice President of the Commission Frans Timmermans and the CEOs discussed the progress on the implementation of the Green Deal and the interim status of the Alliance’s joint projects.

Executive Vice-President Timmermans stated: “Making Europe climate neutral by 2050 is a huge challenge. The European Commission will propose legislation to put sectors like transport and energy on the right track. Our long term plan includes investment in charging infrastructure, battery production, renovation and renewable energy production. The NextGeneration EU recovery fund will help make this possible. Our goal is not any transition, it’s a just and fair transition, leaving no one behind. I welcome the CEO Alliance’s commitment to Europe’s green recovery and share their conviction that their companies have what it takes to build a sustainable future.”






DEDDIE sale a government priority, major players interested

Major European players with network management experience are believed to be interested in acquiring a majority stake of electricity distribution network operator DEDDIE/HEDNO.

Both the government and state-controlled power utility PPC, the operator’s parent company, have received calls of interest, still at an unofficial level, from a number of big firms ahead of the forthcoming privatization.

Interested parties are believed to include E.ON, operating regional networks in Germany, as well as Italy’s ENEL.

DEDDIE/HEDNO is at the top of the government’s privatization list, according to sources. A final decision to offer a stake of 51 percent, including managerial rights, has been taken, the sources added.

The sale is expected to lead to the digitization of the country’s network. This much-needed upgrade project, to feature the installation of smart meters and modernization of mid and low-voltage lines, will contribute to the EU’s network unification plan.

Also, the sale of a majority stake in the Greek electricity distribution network will rake in considerable funds for PPC. The operator’s estimated value is 3 billion euros.

The sale’s procedure is expected to begin early in 2020 with the aim of completing its tender by the end of June.


DEPA Infrastructure sale to be announced mid-December

Privatization fund TAIPED is preparing swift privatization action at gas utility DEPA to follow the government’s ratification of a restructuring plan at the company that will place for sale two new corporate entities, DEPA Trade and DEPA Infrastructure, emerging through this process.

A tender offering investors the Greek State’s 65 percent of DEPA Infrastructure – resulting from the Greek State’s equivalent stake in DEPA – will be announced no later than December 15, according to energypress sources.

Hellenic Petroleum ELPE’s 35 percent stake – resulting from the Greek State’s equivalent stake in DEPA – is expected to be included in the DEPA Infrastructure sale, sources noted. The petroleum group has indicated it is not interested in maintaining interests in DEPA Infrastructure. If this is so, then the potential buyer or buyers of DEPA Infrastructure will become full owner.

DEPA Infrastructure is the full owner of Attiki gas distributor, covering the wider Athens area, and DEDA, covering the rest of Greece. DEPA Infrastructure also holds a 51 percent stake in distributor EDA Thess (Thessaloniki and Thessaly). Italy’s ENI is the minority partner in this venture.

DEPA Infrastructure, through all its interests, has lined up a five-year investment program worth 250 million euros. Revenues at DEPA Infrastructure are regulated and worth a total of approximately 130 million euros.

Italy’s Italgas and Germany’s E.ON are believed to be among the potential bidders for DEPA Infrastructure. Belgium’s Fluxys and Spain’s Enagas, both part of a three-member consortium controlling Greek gas grid operator DESFA, may also participate in the DEPA Infrastructure sale.

The announcement of a sale procedure for DEPA Trade will follow and is expected by the end of January.

ELPE is not expected to offer its 35 percent stake to this sale, meaning bidders will most probably be bidding for the Greek State’s 65 percent.

The Mytilineos group, Motor Oil and a partnership comprised of Copelouzos and KKCG, the Czech company holding a stake in Greek lottery company OPAP, are seen as likely participants in the privatization fund’s ELPE Trade sale. International players ENI and Edison have also been mentioned by pundits.