Harmsen, T.H., MSc.

Development of innovative business models for smart and sustainable local energy systems

Department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies, Faculty of Behavioural, Management & Social Sciences, Twente University, t.h.harmsen@utwente.nl

Supervisors: Prof. Stefan Kuhlmann, Dr. Kornelia Konrad

Background

Harmsen holds a master degree in Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University. His master thesis focused on the characteristics of climate mitigation policy in the Netherlands.

Summary

Recently, the energy sector has been confronted with major societal and technological developments: the negative externalities of the current energy system, increasing decentralization of energy generation, the rise of smart, ICT driven technologies for the energy sector, and the rise of grassroots sustainable energy initiatives by citizens throughout Europe. These developments require a shift in business models for energy provision. This holds for incumbent players, and even more so for new players, as localized energy organizations (Seyfang et al. 2014), who are currently exploring what types of business models would work best for them (Jonker 2013; Hoppe et al. forthcoming).

The feasibility of business models depends on multiple factors. Smart energy technology (like smart grids and smart metres) can support or induce new business opportunities. However, technology alone will not direct change; societal, market and governance insights are required to design workable business models. The development of successful and societally responsible business models can be facilitated by involvement of stakeholders such as energy consumers, grid operators, energy producers, and different governmental parties. Complex and often uncertain contextual settings have to be addressed, such as ownership of key energy technologies and infrastructures, changes in consumer behavior, or institutional as well as policy arrangements. Public interests, such as security of energy supply, price stability, equal access, and privacy also need to be safeguarded.

The project suggests to a) investigate the process how local energy initiatives develop business models with particular attention to the role of (varying sets of) innovative ‘smart’ technologies in this process and b) to develop and apply intervention methodologies building on qualitative and quantitative scenario development to support creative business model design and the exploration of their conditions and implications. Scenarios (exploring evolving context conditions and strategy options) and simulations (exploring specific implications) will serve as tools to support the creative and systematic design of business models.