Tapping into the energy market: Telco energy propositions from IoT to EV charging

Telcos can leverage their existing capabilities and assets to dive deeper into the utilities industry and build a more sustainable future. There are several ways telcos can explore these possibilities. Some of these showcase the utilisation of existing connectivity and the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to implement energy management systems and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

In a time marked by escalating geopolitical tensions such as the ongoing Ukraine-Russian war, and the pressing climate objectives outlined in global mandates and COP28, the global energy landscape has experienced a period of volatility. The resulting inflation in energy prices is reshaping consumer behaviour, prompting households and businesses to seek new energy propositions to better manage their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint.

Some operators have recognised this opportunity and are seeking to tap into the utilities industry to better engage with consumers. Their extensive distribution networks, established brand names and existing connectivity and IoT expertise position them favourably for success in this market. While there are a range of ways that telcos can leverage their assets in the energy market, this article dives into two: offering IoT-based energy management systems and providing EV charging points.

IoT smart meter installation can enable remote energy monitoring

Several telcos are using their expertise in smart metering and IoT connectivity to help consumers install and configure connectivity to remotely monitor the performance of energy-generating systems (such as solar panels or heat pumps) in real-time. The mass data generated from IoT sensors and devices play a crucial role in managing energy. This data enables operators to make more informed decisions, such as deciding on procurement strategies and how to dynamically provision seasonal or daily changes in demand.

Telcos can also use these data insights to provide value added services. These could be simple advice-based services such as providing suggestions on how to use appliances more efficiently or displaying electricity status reports on TV home pages and smart meters, so consumers become more aware of their energy consumption patterns. Services could also be more sophisticated. One example is advanced remote-control systems that are designed to reduce energy usage by triggering the operation of devices (e.g. washing machines) during periods of low energy demand and reduced billing tariffs, thereby effectively minimising consumer’s energy bills.

In spite of this, utility companies have historically been challenged by the complexity of monitoring and billing energy. These issues have revealed discrepancies between energy billings and actual energy produced and used, as well as network and meter faults (e.g. due to calibration issues). The inadequacy of existing metering tools to deliver accurate information to operators, but also the deficiency in the energy grid’s capacity to respond to sudden increases in demand has driven the use of IoT solutions. Telcos such as Orange are maturing their IoT smart metering solutions to remotely monitor and provide real-time information on energy consumption for more accurate billings.

Several MENA countries lack efficient energy supply due to the reliance on diesel-based energy generation. The volatility in diesel supply means energy access is unreliable, with consumers experiencing blackouts and power cuts. The launch of Orange’s integrated smart metering solution, Orange Energy, enables automated remote energy monitoring. This was facilitated by the installation of a fleet of smart meters in consumers’ premises and solar-powered mini-grid systems. The system is anchored by telecom towers as a means of having a consistent point of presence for power distribution. Connected IoT technology allows the operator to identify areas requiring reliable energy and distribute power accordingly, and any solar energy produced is used to power the towers with green electricity.

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Telcos can transform existing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging

The expansion of electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads today has led to an increased prevalence of battery units, including in residential spaces. Telcos are consequently exploring their network of connected infrastructure and assets to serve as charging points. By making amendments to existing infrastructure, such as base stations and street cabinets, and reconfiguring the network to support more applications, these physical assets can be repurposed to function as charging points for a larger fleet of EVs, bikes and scooters.

Source: BT Group

 

The transformation of existing infrastructure serves the demand for charging points and battery units well for two significant reasons: the first is attributable to the large availability of cabinets throughout various neighbourhoods, especially in residential areas. The second is in line with the sustainability benefits attached to remodelling end-of-life cabinets, which are increasingly underutilised following the move away from cabling to extensive fibre deployments across many localities.

Deutsche Telekom, BT and Vodafone Germany are among the few European operators that have made significant strides in this space, setting up on-street EV charging points and converting street cabinets for kerbside EV charging across Germany and the UK. Deutsche Telekom, for instance, established “Comfort Charge” subsidiaries that run fast-charging stations providing 150 kW of charging power. The company has also entered the home charging market, partnering with Envision Digital to deliver wall-mounted 11kW chargers for households, promoting faster charging compared to conventional power sockets

Extending the application of telco networks, equipment, and solutions to the energy sector can unlock new revenue potential for operators and bring smart savings to consumers

In summary, cross-sector partnerships could enable the telecommunication and energy industries to realise significant benefits. Telcos are at the forefront of integrating key telco value levers (i.e. the extensive network of infrastructure and technologies) to offer sector-specific solutions, playing a critical role in promoting sustainability and environmental responsibility at the household level. Their specialism in connectivity and IoT solutions, experiences in the transmission of large data volumes, and distributed networks are sophisticated tools that can be leveraged for energy storage and management. While the economics behind this is challenging, with much of the expected returns on investment to be realised in the medium to longer term, telcos are beginning to realise the value in integrating their services into the energy industry. STL Partners’ extensive research study into whether telcos should dive deeper into energy studies this opportunity in greater detail.

Harine Tharmarajah

Harine Tharmarajah

Harine Tharmarajah

Strategy Consultant

Harine is a Consultant at STL Partners, who joined after completing her undergraduate studies. She earned a First class honours degree in BSc Economics from University College London. Since joining STL Partners, Harine has worked with telecoms and technology companies on strategic engagements in network transformation, but also works within STL’s Edge practice.

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Telcos can leverage their existing capabilities and assets to dive deeper into the utilities industry and build a more sustainable future. There are several ways telcos can explore these possibilities. Some of these showcase the utilisation of existing connectivity and the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to implement energy management systems and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.

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