Every company today wants to be innovative. But what does that mean in concrete terms? How does innovation work for us? What is Axpo doing in World 4.0?
What's key is that we want to use the opportunities offered by digital transformation innovatively and strategically to manage existing business areas more efficiently and develop new, profitable business areas.
At Axpo, digitalisation is therefore an important topic and a key factor in the new Group strategy 2018 to 2022 and in the innovation process. Processes (such as accounting) and customer interfaces have already been digitalised in many areas of the company. We work in cooperation with partners such as ETH Zurich in regular hackathons and are active in areas such as machine learning, robotics, blockchain and the Internet of Things. Drones and sensors are also used for various purposes and to optimise costs.
With innovative services such as long-term power supply and purchase agreements ('Power Puchase Agreements/PPA'), Axpo has succeeded in consolidating its market position as an international leader in energy trading and the development of tailored energy solutions for its customers. Axpo offers renewable energy investors individual and long-term power purchase agreements at guaranteed purchase prices. This makes it possible to build new photovoltaic and wind power plants that are not subsidised with a fixed feed-in tariff. There is also great interest on the part of consumers. Many energy-intensive industrial companies want to commit themselves sustainably and rely on a long-term, cost-effective, reliable energy supply from renewable sources. With its PPAs, Axpo supports the development of renewable energies and thus helps to produce climate-friendly electricity and reduce CO2 emissions.
Simply order environmentally friendly electricity from your neighbour's solar plant, from the local farm's biogas plant or from a local supplier's wind turbine.
Elblox offers regional end distributors a platform on which consumers from the region can digitally compile their own electricity mix. The proof of origin is guaranteed by a blockchain. Regional operators of solar, wind, hydro and biomass power plants have the opportunity to sell their self-produced electricity directly to local end consumers.
In the future, electricity consumers will establish themselves as energy partners on an equal footing with electricity suppliers. The Elblox platform enables intermediaries such as the regional electricity supplier to establish a digital local marketplace for electricity from their region. This allows their customers to put together their own electricity mix.
Following a successful pilot project in Wuppertal, the Axpo subsidiary Elblox 2019 in Halle has successfully launched such a platform for trading green electricity based on blockchain technology.
They buzz overhead and sometimes distrub the relaxing coffee break on the terrace: Drones are widely used today. At Axpo, they make sense in the grid area to maintain a reliable electricity network. Drones make it possible to efficiently inspect approx. 7500 power masts and our lines, which are around 2100 kilometres long. Their impeccable condition is a prerequisite for the safe and reliable transport of electricity.
To date, only overhead linesmen have regularly monitored the condition of masts and conductor cables. Now they get support from the air. With the drone, system inspections can also be carried out when lines are switched on, which increases the availability and saves costs. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can also take high-resolution photos from optimum viewing angles - even in hard to access locations. The photos help to assess any damage and to define repair measures.
And by the way: Drones are also available to other companies as a service.
Axpo expects higher efficiency, fewer routine operations, less administration and thus cost savings through the use of state-of-the-art technologies in the field of hydropower. Switzerland's first digital hydropower plant is located in Sarganserland and has been designed as a pilot project.
There, for example, acoustic sensors are used to monitor the turbines, whose data is evaluated by means of innovative algorithms (machine learning). If there is a problem with a machine, it often sounds different from normal operation. Such anomalies can now be measured with the 'digital ear': Microphones have been set up at seven locations in the power plant to measure the sound around the clock. If there are only slight deviations in the tones, the measuring station sends the information, including sound snippets, to the control centre, where it is evaluated by an employee and, if necessary, a measure is taken.
New drones are also being used at the Sarganserland power plant (KSL). They take phots of places that are difficult for people to access (water tunnel/water castle). A new feature is the autonomous use of drones indoors and without GPS positioning: The drones move to predefined locations on command within the installation via an orientation thread.
Last but not least, a final example of a total of 20 innovative and digital measures used in the KSL: The autonomous boat. Like the drone, the surveying boat can also move independently and orient itself via GPS. The boat's tasks include recording underwater structures and documenting changes.
In Spain, Axpo has successfully launched a project to help market its large wind power portfolio even more successfully on the Iberian wind exchanges. The aim is to improve wind forecasts in order to obtain a precise as possible forecast of actual wind energy production and to minimise the difference between forecasts and production.
The big data project is based on artifical intelligence algorithms and machine learning. This means that the forecast model is trained and improved every night on the basis of the latest data.
Axpo is now gradually introducing the new forecasting methodology internationally in other European markets as well.
The quality of the electricity grid is key to security of supply in Switzerland. The better the grid, the more reliably electricity can be transported to your home at all times and in sufficient quantities. Axpo has developed a new method for measuring and assessing the electricity grid. It gives security of supply a value at the click of a mouse and supports investment planning in a targeted manner. The ERIS methodology is based on sophisticated software that takes all grid-relevant parameters into account. A total of 39 different factors are calculated, weighted and evaluated. ERIS can also be used to compare different variants for network optimisation. This helps to optimise costs. As a grid customer, you benefit because the grid costs included in the electricity price (approx. one third of the total amount) decrease.
Axpo also offers ERIS as a service to other network operators. More details about Eris:
In the still relatively young wind industry, the topic of digitalisation has already arrived. At the Axpo subsidiary Volkswind, for example, each wind turbine is equipped with two systems which continuously monitor operation and route any defects directly to the smartphones of the responsible service technicians. All data on the system, such as temperature, wind speed, etc. can, of course, also be retrieved online. Each wind turbine also feeds a huge database with which its efficient use can be controlled.
More about Volkswind: