Every now and then I think it makes you stop and think without being overwhelmed by the prevailing trends…
In early December of 2021, we had the great opportunity to be exhibitors in the Hub Initiate of the ENLIT international fair dedicated to innovative startups sponsored by ENEL and IBERDROLA.
It was an incredible platform to discuss latest innovations in the sector, exchange experiences with other founders, and try to grasp what future trends may be. A month later, reviewing the harvest of contacts and actions to be achieved, and taking advantage of the “slower” days during the end of year holidays, I can take a few seconds for a general reflection on the dynamics of the current energy sector .
The risk of “buzzing”
The first impact at the fair came from the enormous number of proposals relating to the digitization of the sector, let’s say that the use of so-called buzzwords such as digitalization, smart grid, smart utilities, decarbonization was a little inflated, to the point that I doubted whether our proposal could be well recognized in a sea of solutions that used the same keywords.
But as I began to analyse these calmly I realized that most of them fell into large categories, now rather inflated, for example the so-called smart meters, or the measurement of consumption in real time, or the measurement of various parameters inherent to electrical substations, in short, we are all quite in the trend “but nothing really disruptive
An inflated market
In some of my conversations with Brian Sparling and Marius Grisaru, true gurus of global power sector, I was surprised to learn that there are 55 online monitors for dissolved gas analysis alone in the power transformer market. On the other hand, we have about 20 different asset management software in the sector of high-power electrical equipment in the substation alone.
If we consider that the value of the condition monitoring market is approximately 500 million euros annually with a minimum cost of online monitoring systems of around 20 k and for the software part at least 100 k of installation for each solution, we can probably infer that the added value does not come from selling such solutions. So be smart or digitalized is just another way to sell the “good old hardware”.
The saturation of the supply redundancy for monitoring input signals, on the other hand, collides with an enormous bottleneck deriving from the difficulty of interpreting these, especially if we intend interpretation systems based on existing standards.
I don’t want to talk about our solution here, anyone can easily enter our demo area and appreciate its uniqueness and simplicity, mine is a simple observation or a desire to start a debate to which I hope others want to join in drawing everyone’s attention on the fact that probably the concepts of digitization and smart grid have been used mostly as commercial advertising slogans by the current major companies to maintain control of the market on instrumental components to the detriment of an effective evolution of the sector in the sense of what it is the basis of any digitization process, that is, simplification.
Need for simplicity
In fact, what was the computer revolution of the late ’70s, if not this? From operations that required planning on punch cards to simple commands that could be within the reach of every user with minimal notions.
On the other hand, more often I find myself dealing with asset managers who, once the online monitoring systems and perhaps some software for evaluating the asset performance is installed, are still looking for an answer, let’s say the oracle, to tell them “but now what should i do with my asset?”
I have seen some examples of asset management software and (by the way, I repeat we do not offer this type of solution as we are a startup dedicated to simplification and niche solutions) which at the end of the story require courses of some days to for find the full use of all the potential of the dashboards only!!
Is this precisely the goal we wanted to reach twenty years ago when the concepts of digitization were launched? We find today ourselves stuck with superstructures upon superstructures that require interpretation, training and additional costs.
Will we ever have unicorns in the power sector?
Most likely this situation has a strong impact on the relative scarcity of proposals from new companies that do not depend on the big OEMs and historical names in the sector. Indeed, there are some interesting attempts to enter by operators from other sectors but for example there are some use cases (except for us of course, but we are a small seed … precisely Seeta) of the application of AI or ML models borrowed from successful cases in sectors such as medical or financial where we look beyond hardware seems more marked.
The startups in the power sector in fact, show that they are the most dependent on close relationships with utilities and very often in fact the tendency of these ones to launch calls and challenges linked to innovation, sometimes move to a simple “paste and copy” of solutions already proposed in other events, without a real search for substantial innovation.
In essence, the risk is that under the sky marked by trendy words, the power sector will miss the opportunity to see significant technological renewals.
 Our startup name comes from an Indian Goddess but also we like it ‘cause is very close to word “seed”