In our latest interview with small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) on their work with the networks, Network speaks to Senergy chief executive Christine Boyle MBE.
With a background spanning almost 20 years in the commercial roofing industry, Senergy are a Belfast based enterprise that design and manufacture smart solar thermal panels.
Q:What is the best way to try innovations on a huge customer base/national operation?
A:It takes a village to launch and drive the adoption of new technology, so find an industry partner who is actively seeking innovative solutions, sell them the value added and collaborate with them on a test project. Focus on incremental investments and milestones as opposed to quantum leaps to build the customer confidence in your new solution. Also leverage the opportunity of working with them and use their resources to build your village within the industry, this will allow you to launch and drive adoption of your new innovative solution.
Q:What cutting-edge technologies are you most excited about?
A:Transforming the future energy system to be clean, secure and affordable will require integrating and optimising solutions and innovations from a range of previously separate systems including power, heat, transport, and across the physical, digital and market systems. These solutions will come from all relevant aspects - technology, people, policies, regulation, business models, market mechanisms and much more.
I am excited that Senergy are bringing to market cutting-edge technology that can easily integrate both physically and digitally and this will enable our technology to play a central role in this future energy system, providing clean affordable heating and cooling for all.
Q: As an SME, what are some of the main challenges you face when it comes to engaging with the wider sector and the regulator?
A: Good story telling is crucial when engaging with the wider industry sector. Finding a charismatic spokesperson is key to gain recognition and to create a new industry narrative for innovative solutions. The level of seniority and the content of the story will determine the response from industry, don't underestimate the effort and resources that it will take to have your story heard.
Q: How smart is the smart revolution going to be?
A: Alexa is proof that a home can only ever be as smart as the people who live in it.
Thousands of commands are not employed by most users, just like the vast majority of the thousands of pages of encyclopedia volumes that used to sit gathering dust on family bookshelves all over the world.
Also, too many high-profile data hacks show us how much of our privacy can be violated if information falls into the wrong hands. Until we reach the point of consumers trusting and using these technologies, smart homes may not be all that clever.
Q: Why do UK utilities need to evolve?
A: The energy market will change and become more fragmented than ever before. This will alter industry roles, investor landscape, regulatory policies, customer preferences, competitive landscape, etc.
In order to adapt to the changing world, energy companies will need to evolve to find where they fit in the market, what their role is and determine their business models in the future. They will need to revaluate how they operate, and their consequent operating models and align their businesses toward a medium-term change journey that will steer the mothership at the right pace for success.
Q: Can regulation be a barrier to innovation?
A: Governments need to look at removing burdensome and expensive barriers to new products and services entering the market, particularly when those products and services offer more positive social, economic and environmental impacts.
Q: What are the biggest disruptors facing utilities?
A: Across asset management, new offerings are being created that allow full advantage to be taken of the progress being made in the fields of machine learning, analytics and advanced maintenance methods.
The integration of new emerging technologies that can adapt and scale fast will optimise onsite generation in the built environment.
Finally, radical new approaches to the energy problem, will result in new business models and operating procedures.