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House of the rising sonnen: storage, autarky and new business models

To paraphrase the work of The Animals, new energy market players are set to be the ruin of many a traditional energy value chain. Many distributed energy players, like Sonnen, are on the rise. These players are starting to redefine the energy market, generating value through the supply of energy services and autarky amongst end-users. We’ve found that many firms are scrambling to keep up with this shift to new distributed energy business models, and risk being left in the dark as the sun sets on the old energy market paradigm.

Spend your life in energy autarky

Delta-ee’s Energy Services Innovation and the Energy Storage Research Service recently combined forces to examine how energy storage players are developing their business models beyond a product-sale-only approach. We did this in order to understand the future value opportunities emerging from increasing customers’ energy autarky.  I’d like to touch upon one Germany company, Sonnen, that we have looked at.

 From products to services to 'new age' energy supplier

Building upon their market leading status as battery storage solution providers in Germany, Sonnen has broadened its focus beyond selling batteries, and has developed a community platform to position itself as a renewable energy supplier for customers unable to fully meet their energy needs from self-production via solar PV. What is key, is that this business model provides them with an ongoing relationship (and an ongoing revenue stream) with customers via their subscription-based community platform. In turn, this ongoing relationship gives Sonnen more customer contact and credibility to facilitate their shift to a more general provision of energy services, including the supply of energy.

Of course this attempt at developing an ongoing relationship with customers is not unique to Sonnen, but rather reflects an approach being investigated by many companies.  Sonnen is an interesting example to look at because energy storage is a ‘hot topic’, and it may prove easier for the company to get market traction with customers than in other areas, such as heat.

Sonnen’s business model could take them all the way from being a battery supplier to being a ‘new age’ energy supplier.  Why ‘new age’? Because Sonnen won’t be an energy supplier in the traditional sense of supplying energy and billing for it. Instead Sonnen would be a ‘new age’ supplier by optimising a customer’s consumption to minimize their bills while giving them upside from
participating in an energy community and access to new energy services.  Actually it sounds scarily
similar to the vision on many major European utilities! An ambitious vision and one that has significant
implications for incumbent players. 

Don’t let the opportunity be misunderstood

Rather than making directly for a customer-insight survey, the opportunity for value generation from business models that engage with customers needs to be better understood. Questions include: What approach should my company take? How can we make sense of all this change? Most importantly, how can we make the most of it?

Working with companies at the forefront of the distributed energy transition, Delta-ee answer these questions, and understand how new-entrants and existing energy players are changing their strategies to better engage with and generate value from the end-customer. Our ongoing monitoring and analysis of market changes allows us to help firms keep abreast of the latest opportunities in their markets, and restructure their business model approach to let the sun rise on their firms, long into the future.

From products to services to ‘new age’ energy supplier

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