Should telcos dive deeper into energy?

Recharging Consumer Revenues, Sustainability

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The rapid rise in energy prices mean consumers and businesses are now much more conscious of how much power they are using and what it is costing them. As energy moves up everyone’s agenda, some telcos are pushing deep into the electricity market, investing in renewable power, storage and retail propositions.

Introduction

Some telcos have been dabbling in the energy market for a decade or more, partly reflecting the interdependent nature of the two industries. In the past two years, energy has climbed up the agenda of telcos’ management teams, as the electricity and gas sectors experience another major wave of disruption.

In much of the world, energy prices have surged as a result of the war in the Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions against Russia. At the same time, the ongoing transition to renewable energy in response to climate change is opening up new sources of supply and bringing in new players. The cost of wind and solar power, and battery storage is falling steadily, while many policymakers are introducing further incentives to hasten the transition away from oil, natural gas and coal.

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In 2022, energy prices have surged around the world

Source: The IEA

In August 2022, for example, US President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, bringing with it, tax incentives and other measures that should significantly boost the deployment of renewable energy and storage (large-scale batteries). The Act earmarks US$369 billion to help bring about a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas levels by 2030, by supporting electric vehicles (EVs), energy efficiency and building electrification, wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), green hydrogen, battery storage and other technologies. For example, the Act introduces an investment tax credit for standalone energy storage, which can lower the capital cost of equipment by about 30%.

As policymakers and consumers seek out new energy propositions to try and contain rising costs and greenhouse gas emissions, some telcos, such as Telstra and Polsat Plus, are seeing strategic opportunities to build deeper relationships with households. To that end, they are pushing deeper into the energy market, investing in generation capacity, as well as developing retail propositions.

Our landmark report The Coordination Age: A third age of telecoms explained how reliable and ubiquitous connectivity can enable companies and consumers to use digital technologies to efficiently allocate and source assets and resources. In the case of energy, telcos could develop solutions and services that can help consumers and businesses manage their own consumption and sell excess power back to the grid.

This report explores why telcos may want to get involved in the energy market, what their options are and presents case studies, outlining the steps some telcos have already taken. It considers the key advantages/assets that telcos can exploit in the energy market, illustrated by short case studies:

  • Extensive distribution networks
  • Established brand names
  • Billing relationships and payment mechanisms (mobile money/carrier billing)
  • Existing connectivity and IoT expertise
  • Big buyers of energy and in-house energy management expertise

The subsequent chapters in the report include an in-depth review of Telstra’s end-to-end energy strategy, the economics of energy retailing and whether telcos should move into energy generation and storage. The penultimate chapter, which considers how to engage consumers, is followed by conclusions summarising how telcos can help address some of the challenges facing energy suppliers and buyers.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Extensive distribution networks
    • Case study 1: Polsat Plus – bundling telecoms & electricity
    • Case study 2: Orange Energy Africa – distributing solar kits
  • Established Brands
    • Case Study 1: Singtel Power – taking on the incumbent
    • Case study 2: Building a Reliance Jio for energy
  • Billing relationships and payment mechanisms
    • Case Study: MTN Nigeria – Pay as you go solar
  • Existing connectivity and IoT expertise
    • Case study 1: Telefónica España – monitoring solar panels
    • Case study 2: Proximus – electric vehicle charging
  • Energy buying and management expertise
    • Case study 1: Vodafone – enabling energy data management
    • Case study 2: Elisa – balancing the electricity grid
  • In depth case study: Telstra Energy
    • The strategic justification
    • How the IoT and AI can help
  • The Economics of Energy Retailing
    • An even tighter regulatory regime
  • Telcos and energy storage and generation
    • Competition from other investors
    • Planning permission
    • Grid connections
  • Engaging consumers
    • Ripple Energy – consumer ownership
  • Conclusions

Related research

 

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