How one municipal energy company is using Bright to drive the future of energy consumption
We spoke to Swedish municipal utility Öresundskraft to learn more about why they've partnered with Bright to help deliver real carbon neutrality for their customers,why municipalities are driving innovation in the Swedish energy sector, and hear their vision for the future of energy consumption.
This blogpost is authored by a member of Montel's content marketing team.
Öresundskraft is a Swedish municipal energy company responsible for northwestern tip of Skåne county in southern Sweden, the area around the towns of Helsingborg and Ängelholm. They operate the electricity, district heating and gas grids for that area. They’re also an energy supplier, and sell solar panels, electric charging and other energy related services. In the last ten years, Öresundskraft has acquired a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking companies in the Swedish energy market. Working both alone and in partnership with five other municipal energy companies, they’ve looked to innovation and new practices to reach their internal goal of climate neutrality, as outlined in their “Plan For Our Planet” strategy.
Amongst the multiple initiatives that Öresundskraft has embarked on as part of this commitment is a partnership with Bright, to help the company’s 125,000 electricity customers better understand, manage and control their energy consumption. We spoke to Sami Nybom and Ingvi Aron Thorkelsson at Öresundskraft to hear more about their project and their impressions of working with Bright.
Can you tell me a little bit about your company? What makes you a bit different, do you think?
Sami Nybom (SN): We used to say that we are 160 years young! Our main market is northwest Scania, with Helsingborg as the largest city and then up the North is the city of Ängelholm.
Ingvi Aron Thorkelsson (IT): One important thing to know about us is that we're 100% municipally owned. The municipality of Helsingborg owns all our shares through a board, a mother company that owns other municipal companies. We started as a gas distribution company, and then built the electricity grid 20 years later. In the 1960s we add district heating to our portfolio, and then in 2000 added the fibre optic network [Ed: now operated by a separate daughter company, Pingday]. So now there's quite a lot of different units that we own, infrastructure wise and service wise.
Municipalities are willing to finance these new investments that we need to make the transition possible."
In Sweden it seems like the regional side of things is very important, that they are a driving force for innovation in the market….
IT: The most important reason, I think, is that there are a few municipalities that are really trying to take responsibility for transforming their way of living and working to be more climate neutral and sustainable. As they are owners of regional energy companies - 100% owners - they've been using us as an important tool to work out how can they make a municipality more sustainable. They're willing to finance these new investments that we need to make the transition possible. Both for ourselves and our customers, but more importantly in that context, for the municipality itself.
If you were to make a list of the most innovative energy companies in Sweden over the last 10 years, I believe that Öresundskraft would be close to the top of that list. We’ve always liked pushing boundaries and finding new ways of innovating and working together with other people. Though now there are other innovators coming in - IKEA, most recently - that are entering into that discussion as well.
If you were to make a list of the most innovative energy companies in Sweden over the last 10 years, I believe that Öresundskraft would be close to the top of that list."
How do municipal companies like Öresundskraft work to drive innovation?
IT: We are part owners of this development company together called Utvecklingsklustret Energi AB. It’s a development cluster of five regional energy companies that work together. The thinking is “we’re stronger together than alone” and we aim to improve our businesses by working together. We try to map the future and position ourselves for the future and new competition, developing long term strategies through that company. And then we all participate on our own terms and introduce the ideas in our local offers.
SN: Our CEO says always that if we work together with other regional energy companies, then we can compete against the biggest in Sweden, like E.ON, Vattenfall, the big companies. So that that's one reason why we like to work together with other regional companies and daughter companies.
And what do you do in terms of decarbonisation? Is Oresundskraft 100% renewable?
IT: I would say we're trying to reach actual climate neutrality and not just neutrality on paper. It's so easy to become Climate Neutral in electricity trading by buying guarantees of origins and feeling like you've done your job. If our customers buy 100%, renewable electricity from us, but then they use it at the worst possible time - in the middle of winter or when there's a lot of carbon in the system - then that's kind of pointless. So now we're trying to figure out ways of how we can make an actual difference by actually helping our customers to use energy sustainably, not only on paper, but in real life.
We're trying to reach actual climate neutrality and not just neutrality on paper."
And Bright is obviously a part of this strategy. When did you first become aware of them?
SN: I think the first meeting was October 2019. And at the same time, we had developed our new website with a focus on the consumer being able to follow their consumption. We had a massive backlog of things that we wanted to develop in the future: expected costs, following your carbon footprint of the energy et cetera. When Bright came to us, there was nearly a 100% match with our backlog, in terms of what they could offer us. So, it was an easy decision. Now we can send our customers push notifications when it’s a good time to use energy as the carbon footprint is low, and vice versa when the system carbon footprint is high.
Have you seen a change in the habits of your customers?
IT: If we were to guess I would think it's very marginal at this stage. There are a few people that are super interested in it, that maybe have changed their habits a little bit. But electricity is something that we think should just work. If someone can make it more sustainable for you, then you will be very appreciative. We have to optimise it, make it automatic for them. But the response to the app itself has been positive from our customers.
Electricity is something that should just work. If someone can make it more sustainable for you, then you'll be appreciative."
Bright also means that you can work with smart switches and smart technology, of course. So I guess that is what you are working towards.
IT: Absolutely. And even taking the switches out of the equation and directly communicating with each component; having them working in relation with each other. That could mean you could charge your EV extra quickly when your solar panels are producing electricity, which is cheaper for you and helps avoid unnecessarily overloading the grid. That’s what we want to achieve, using Bright as an interface and a communications infrastructure for all these different components in your household.
We want to use Bright as an interface for all these different components in your household."
What do you see as the next steps towards this goal?
IT: We want to have individual energy components, such as EV chargers, working in relation with solar panels and heating systems and so on. This means we can optimise the household as a unit. We’re then able to ask how we can reduce the real footprint from the household itself. And then the next step is working out how we can use that household as a resource for the whole energy system. How can we use demand response flexibility and local energy production together to actually help the system when it's needed? Part of that will be mean giving the customer a chance to earn income from being a resource in this system.
We have a very good constructive dialogue with David and Camilla [Forsberg, the founders of Bright] and the whole team about how to do this in the most responsible way. And together with the five other companies in Utvecklingsklustret Energi AB, we have a customer alliance. So together we try and agree on the most effective way forward, so that we all benefit from it, and maximise the development from Bright's side. Rather than us all coming to them with separate demands.
How would you describe your collaboration with Bright?
IT: The reason why we're collaborating, both with our municipal partners and with Bright, is that we see our role in the future of the energy system, and our role in terms of sustainability, in a similar way.
With Bright, I don't think I've ever worked with a company that is so responsive and willing to take up discussions that are quite ‘out there’. And then also able to think how we can create solutions that work to make the things we discuss a reality.