It is often argued that Basque companies have a reputation for being flexible, and are able to tailor their offer to each individual client. Well, now we have a superb opportunity to actually prove this reputation with the field of electric grids and a newly constituted brand called Smart Grid Basque Country. If the reader will allow me, I should like to play around with the initials 'B&C' to turn them into ‘Bespoke & Customized’ to portray our industry’s value proposition.
For years now there has been talk about the Smart Grid. Fortunately, though, it has ceased to be a buzz word and we are focusing on the practical: product development, pilot projects, and a search for real business opportunities. We are now learning what works, and what does not, while we search for links between client needs and our capabilities. It is also the time to learn more about the ins and outs of each electric grid, each electric system, and each electric utility to offer made-to-measure solutions.
There are a number of factors which determine the particular traits of each grid, sector, and utility which must be analysed by all companies competing in the market. Some of the factors which need to be taken into consideration are:
- the physical layout of the grid (underground or overhead lines, distances, population density, etc.);
- the energy matrix (the share of wind, and distributed and decentralized sources in power generation, etc.);
- the level of sector deregulation and the history and nature of the electric companies (private vs. state companies: do they possess the necessary engineering and maintenance capacities, etc.?);
- the problem of fraud being committed by some consumers;
- the roll-out model of smart meters chosen by regulators;
- and finally, less evident questions such as the method of communication chosen by each company (GPRS? PLC?), or the existing technological and industrial capacities in the given country.
Furthermore, all the above factors determine that the needs of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) in Mexico, for instance, may be quite distinct from those of European electric companies, and that the best solution for Iberdrola in Spain might not be the same for ScottishPower.
However, we must not only think about the electric utilities. Instead, it is useful to think in terms of an 'ecosystem' for this sector, more so with greater market deregulation. We need to understand, therefore, what new activities are emerging around the management of consumer information, the optimisation of the power bill, the aggregation of consumers and producers, and energy storage. And we also need to analyse who is undertaking these activities: The electric companies, the established service companies, or the equipment manufacturers? What about new players on the scene? Can we come up with an offer which benefits all the relevant players in the ecosystem (electric companies, consumers, governments, etc.)?
Finally, this question leads us to another, which adds a point of further complexity: Can we offer a more complete and meaningful solution to the client by collaborating with other companies? The answer is unequivocal: we must attempt to do so. At least in the electric grid sector, I believe that the Basque Country Brand, and the value proposition of Bespoke & Customized, ought to go hand in hand.