IT is the enabler of energy transition

IT is the enabler of energy transition

Mario Suykerbuyk, CIO Eneco
IT is the enabler of energy transition

Mario Suykerbuyk joined Eneco as CIO (Chief Information Officer) in late 2017. He couldn’t have come at a better time; Eneco was going through a number of tipping points, the One Planet strategy had just become Eneco’s number one priority, the organisation had become more streamlined and centralised, and the IT landscape was in need of a fundamental change. An interview with a CIO who is gripped by the significance of energy transition. ‘I want to work for a company that matters.’

Mario Suykerbuyk: ‘When I started out here, Eneco was in drastic need of a strategic IT reorientation. There were more than 200 IT projects and – due to the then-decentralised nature of the organisation – over 300 IT vendors. We actually reinvented Eneco’s IT landscape. At the same time, we transitioned to data-driven work. Our new Business Technology Organisation (BTO) at Eneco headquarters focused on four important core IT tasks: engaging customers, implementation of new products and services, operational excellence, and hiring top IT talent. Data and intelligent systems are the connecting links between these core tasks.’

A large proportion of Eneco employees are IT specialists.

360-degree customer view

Mario’s mission is to transform IT into a platform that will help support consumers and business customers in their respective energy transition. Mario: ‘Engaging customers means that we can help everyone accelerate their energy transition using a large CRM platform. This means that we have developed a fully digital and integrated service and product portfolio. All our assets are connected to this: the wind and solar farms, the heat pump boilers and heat pumps, digital central heating boilers, charging stations, and more. This digital energy infrastructure is supported by data, smart apps and websites. With this, we have developed a 360-degree customer view that includes the entire energy supply chain, which allows customers to access and arrange the service they need. Everything is connected digitally, using the highest security standards. In short, we have created connected devices. This is ideal for the customer as the data is available in real-time and they can make decisions based on actual data regarding such things as: what they can do to save energy, what the direct cost effect is, how much charge their car has received, what the solar panels are doing, how their central heating boiler is performing, and more. We can also give customers smart tips based on the data they input. Our technicians are specially trained in this area. And our marketing specialists help us bring this message across. So, in that sense, IT really is an enabler as it will help accelerate transitioning the Netherlands away from gas towards radical electrification.

We can even use data to turn wind turbine blades away from or directly towards the wind flow direction as and when required.

Internet of Things

‘Implementation of new products and services – our second core IT task – is possible because we have actively embraced the Internet of Things (IoT). Basically, this means that we receive data in such a way that we can use AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to develop algorithms that allow us to make predictions. At a mega level, we can predict how temperature changes – colder or warmer weather – will affect energy demand and how we can efficiently manage supply and demand from our wind and solar farms and related energy infrastructure. We can then meet this supply and demand by using a combination of our assets and by buying or selling energy. We can even use data to turn wind turbine blades away from or directly towards the wind flow direction as and when required. We can also store power in batteries and then release it when it is required according to the algorithms. But this can also be done at micro level, i.e. in the consumer’s own home environment. For example, when is the best time to hook your car up to the charging point, can we connect power grids locally without overloading the power grid, what is the best way to use solar panels, etc. Business customers can calculate the effect of heat pumps or E-boilers, and more. In a nutshell, a fantastic development that will help us accelerate the energy transition!’ says an enthusiastic Mario. ‘We want to be at the forefront of this energy transition and help customers take the next steps towards heat exchangers, radical electrification and transitioning the Netherlands away from gas.

Operational excellence

Mario: ‘Our third IT task is operational excellence, i.e. doing things smarter and better. Connectivity – the interconnection of devices – paves the way for continuous improvement of our products or services. Thanks to the rationalisation of IT systems and the specific Eneco approach, it will be possible to connect customers, products and data even more seamlessly than before. This allows us to respond faster to changes, make information more readily available, and realise significant cost savings; all of which will give us a competitive edge. We have developed special methods to increase the effectiveness of our processes, and they can simply be summed up as ‘doing the right things and doing them 100% right’. The objective is to reduce variation in processes in order to improve our products or services.Fascinating stuff,’ says Mario. ‘IT makes the next steps possible. Because Eneco is big – but by no means a juggernaut – we can really make a difference in this area. We have all the skill sets in-house to enable the energy transition.’ 

We can help accelerate the energy transition from a large CRM platform.

The right talent

Attracting and retaining talent is the fourth core IT task: the right people within our organisation and the organisations of our partners must work together as high performance teams. Mario: ‘We only have one planet and at Eneco we harness our knowledge and expertise to keep it liveable. Simply put, the energy transition is desperately needed. More and more people and organisations are realising this and the fact that we, as Eneco, can help them achieve this speaks to our DNA as a company. IT is crucial in this respect. And that is why we are able to attract and retain the right IT talents. We offer IT people great career and development opportunities, not least because the digital transformation is happening ever faster. It may sound strange, but COVID is also helping accelerate the transition. Giving an extra push, as it were.If you know that we have a team of 400 to 450 IT specialists, then you’re aware of the power we have. A large proportion of Eneco employees are IT specialists; without us, the energy transition would actually be impossible. IT enables us to respond faster to changes!’  

Click here for the Eneco Annual Report 2021 website.