“Together in uncharted territory”

KPMG integrates data analytics and digitisation into the DSO Energy Chair

The rise of new forms of decentral energy production and the growing importance of the prosumer has forced DSOs (Distribution System Operators) to thoroughly review their business model. “If the DSOs want to continue to play a facilitating role and remain an interactive partner in the value chain, their business models need to evolve and they need to embrace digitisation and data analytics”, says Jorn De Neve (KPMG). “Concretely, this means that Energy Professor Leonardo Meeus and Digital Professor Stijn Viaene will be joining forces in our DSO Chair. They will be working together with KPMG professionals who are currently playing a very active role in digitisation, customer interaction, and data and analytics within other industries.”

In January, Mr De Neve from KPMG signed an agreement with Vlerick for the launch of the DSO Energy Chair. Why is the Chair being given a strong digital dimension after just one year?

“The survey we carried out among European DSOs in the first year shows that innovation and the evolution of the business model are one of their five main concerns, and that it needs to be addressed to meet the changing market conditions. Reviewing business models is a key part of our activities, not only for the energy sector, but also for other sectors, such as financial services, telecom and the public sector. In this process, we rely on our SMART strategy.

“This has taught us that digitisation and data and analytics are now essential in the review of existing, and the development of new business models. Internet of Things and analytics will fundamentally change our way of working, both within organisations as within our society in general. It has prompted us to integrate digital in all of our sectors. However, that does not mean that the insights gained through academic research into digital aspects in the energy sector will now automatically be plotted onto the other sectors”, explains Jorn De Neve, Partner Deal Advisory and responsible for energy sector at KPMG.

How is Vlerick planning to integrate this digital aspect into the Energy Chair?

“Just like KPMG, Vlerick recognises the need for cross-fertilisation between knowledge fields and sectors. We therefore decided to start focusing on energy and digital aspects as quickly as possible. In this framework, Professors Leonardo Meeus and Stijn Viaene will be joining forces within the Vlerick Energy Centre. In a subsequent phase, Stijn will be interviewing data specialists at DSOs”, Jorn De Neve says.

“Digitisation and data and analytics are now essential in the review of business models.”

“Vlerick is also carrying out a case study with Enedis – formerly ERDF – because this DSO has adopted a consistent digital strategy at all levels of the organisation. That is by no means common practice. At the ‘Energy Meets Digital’ conference Professor Viaene warned the DSOs in attendance that ‘Digital is not another project’. With this in mind, at KPMG we will always link the review of a business model to changes within the organisation (new skills, new staff etc.) and to data management (ownership, privacy, security etc.).”

How ‘digital’ are DSOs generally?

“Europe has about 2,500 DSOs, and it is a very diverse scene. The same goes for the digital dimensions. DSOs already have retailer data, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Our aim is to get a good overview of the digitisation at DSOs through our interviews. It is an exploratory research in collaboration with Vlerick that is taking us into uncharted territory. And it’s a great way to give our partnership, that started many years ago, a new direction”, Jorn De Neve concludes.