By Chetna Bhatia, CIO, Pozitive Energy Group

In December 2021, technology intelligence firm ABI Research estimated that by the end of the decade, oil and gas firms globally will spend up to $15.6 billion on digital technologies as they strive to overcome commercial, operational and existential challenges.

In the UK, the challenge and pressure to digitally transform the energy sector has been growing, with many suppliers facing substantial costs to replace their expensive legacy systems with more suitable technologies and innovations. However, this approach of trying to shoehorn a new digital infrastructure into a traditional organisation with legacy systems is problematic, and often the innovation chosen for deployment is already outdated by the time it goes live.

The need for suppliers to not only meet current digitisation demands – driven by consumer expectations, and evolving regulations – but also future-proof their service is significant. But where do they begin?

The importance of an Energy Platform-as-a-Service in cost reduction

Meeting the complex needs of digital transformation in the energy sector is a major challenge, especially at a time of industry flux and upheaval, with regulatory change and consumer demand creating ongoing obstacles.

With cost to serve under increasing scrutiny, it’s critical for suppliers to keep new investments into digitisation to a minimum or be in a position to prove strong ROI for that spend. Which leaves many of them stuck between the absolute need to digitise and the need to ensure investment is justified, effective and future-proof.

When faced with the substantial cost of overhauling existing legacy systems, deploying an Energy Platform-as-a-Service (Enpaas) can be a much more cost-effective and long-term solution, that quickly delivers tangible Return-on-Investment (ROI) for board-level buy-in.

Converting capital expenditure into operational expenditure, by removing the need for expensive servers, networks or server racks, enables suppliers to gain maximum cost efficiencies and reduce the financial risk often associated with digital transformation, especially in the energy sector.

Costs are also minimised thanks to operations and support being managed externally, often with contracted support agreements that deliver SLA results within controlled and expected costs.

Benefits of operating SaaS in the Cloud

Moving legacy systems to the Cloud is good, but it isn’t enough. Operating as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) on the Cloud is critical if suppliers want to respond quickly to government changes and schemes such as EBRS discounts, while offering transparency to customers.

Developed using the latest .net technology and benefitting from Cloud and SaaS, Enpaas enables suppliers to offer customers the ability to manage their business from anywhere, anytime and increase their bottom line.

Another major advantage of SaaS in the Cloud is the fast deployment and immediate ROI it affords suppliers. The rapid deployment means fast and low cost system set up for suppliers, very low cost of ownership, high operational flexibility, security and efficiencies. The solution also benefits from professional support, maintenance and disaster recovery built in.

Working in the Cloud creates a standardised, repeatable way to scale IT services, so that should a situation arise that could impact business continuity, for example a global pandemic, customers benefit from no disruption at all to their processes or systems.

The Cloud SaaS approach also enables suppliers to keep their costs down, reduce risk and ultimately pass those cost savings onto the end customer.

Collaboration is greatly increased through the Cloud as information is clearly visible in one shared place, dramatically reducing email traffic and providing the required audit trail of data. It also provides greater collaboration and engagement with customers, for enhanced service.

Automation and the future role of Artificial Intelligence

Simplifying complex processes to deliver cost effectiveness and profitability is high on the digital transformation wish list for many in the sector. Enpaas is already delivering up to 85% automation, making the cost to serve and cost to acquire very low for those suppliers using it, in turn, delivering higher profitability and sustainability.

This automation means the managed services element looks after the remaining 15% where the software cannot take a decision or has an exception or error. Once the managed services element has rectified the issue, that process moves back into the 85% automation, for a highly streamlined experience for both suppliers and customers.

The next iteration of this is already well under way – the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The future role AI could play in the energy sector is hugely exciting; from analysing churn rates and patterns to optimisation of pricing based on historic and future price predictions to suggest when it would be best to buy energy; the opportunity for AI innovation knows almost no bounds. Here at Pozitive Energy, we’re already using AI to set alarms to alert customers when energy usage parameters are above the capped limit. But this is just the start, as our technical teams are continuously working on our AI roadmap.

For brokers, automation and AI will enable them to easily access and view current and historical commissions, and provide bill validation for time and cost efficiencies, while Power BI reporting will empower both brokers and end customers to build their own reports, significantly reducing the cost to serve.

Key benefits of an Energy Platform-as-a-Service approach

In summary, deploying an end-to-end managed service, that combines software with managed services, enables suppliers to capitalise on digital innovation, today and in the future.

The key benefits of taking an Energy Platform-as-a-Service approach in the energy sector are:

·         Enhanced security – more secure systems that can only be accessed by authorised users; look for ISO 27001 accreditation

·         Scalable – very flexible, scalable systems and infrastructure to support business growth, with the ability to manage millions of meters without any additional cost or performance impact

·         Business continuity – regular backups and disaster recovery ensures no impact to business with high availability under any circumstances

·         Accessibility – easily access systems from anywhere and on any device

·         Industry expertise – managed services provided by experts with deep industry knowledge

·         Low cost – SaaS and Cloud means sharing hardware and software to reduce costs

·         Fast implementation – set up done in days rather than months

·         Risk mitigation – all the risks and pain points taken off your hands, allowing suppliers to focus on their business, revenues and profitability