Post Interview Crowd balancing March 17, 2022

Hans Schermeyer – Product Owner Energy Services at Viessmann


German manufacturer Viessmann is a leading European provider of climate solutions for living spaces. Its Integrated Climate Solutions Offering enables users to connect products and systems seamlessly via digital platforms and services for climate (heating, cooling, air quality) and refrigeration solutions.

What is the ambition for Viessman, and your industry, in relation to energy transition?

I’d like to use the analogy of car exhausts to sketch how I see our industry’s ambition in the residential sector. Filtering car exhaust fumes results in clean air, which contributes to the public good. Car owners have the means, at least to a certain degree, to make sure their exhaust is clean. As such, everyone contributes to the greater good.

Similarly, I see every single piece of hardware installation that we put out there – that has a relevant impact on the electricity system – as part of the solution to the energy transition challenge. This includes contributing to system stability in the near future, via some kind of flexibility scheme. In our homes mainly through heat pumps, batteries, fuel cells, electric vehicles, etc. It simply won’t work to massively electrify without changing how electricity is consumed. The sheer scale of this connectivity wave will make it very cheap. Our ambition plugs into this: to build an energy operating system that allows for the seamless integration of one’s own climate solutions at home, without compromising comfort.

What role do consumer-owned devices play in the future electricity landscape?

Consumers are used to accessing electricity when they need it, and I believe it can largely stay like this. However, the additional demand for the electrification of heating and mobility changes the game. These devices will have to follow the availability of renewable electricity supply and comply with grid constraints. Because it’s relatively easy to store thermal energy, I see great potential for heat pumps to shift their demand in a way that helps the system and does not compromise comfort whatsoever. In the case of electric vehicles, it’s more about a charging strategy that prevents additional problems like capacity constraints in the electricity grid.

How do you engage customers in this?

Viessmann has been scaling up its direct end-customer interaction for a number of years now. We’ve been doing this mainly during the information and decision-making phase when customers are buying energy technology for their home. They leave their contact information and we call them back with technology solutions. We follow up until the project is done, so developing a deep understanding of our customer’s journey when investing in renewables. Additionally, we implemented business models where we keep a customer relationships throughout the whole lifetime of the hardware product. This suits both our installing partners and the end-customers. One example of this is a heating-as-a-service scheme where we sell comfort instead of a heating system. Another example are our electricity tariffs that reduce the complexity of generating your own electricity.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in relation to sector coupling?

It’s about striking a constant balance between the future landscape and current needs. Viessmann is creating its own energy operating system, driven by our users’ demand for a single source of answers to the energy questions at home. Or to be exact: Climate questions at home. While investing heavily in this platform solution at full commitment, we expect and experience stiff competition to be the first-choice platform for climate solutions at home.

We don’t know for sure who will win the race: A Silicon Valley tech giant? Or a party much closer to the manufacturing players? One of the biggest challenges is to not allow this uncertainty to slow the pace of our progress.

What’s the biggest change we will have accomplished by 2035?

It won’t be a matter of deciding if we want to participate or not; I expect that connectivity will have to be built into the hardware people use, meaning they will participate in the energy transition no matter what. By then, we will have moved on from selling products. Instead, we provide our users with solutions. They’ll be buying comfort. They’ll buy independence from the electricity grid. Nowadays, it’s quite an engineering project to outfit your house with energy hardware. There are a lot of different companies to coordinate and more than a fair share of paperwork. With the standardization of the industry, much of that will disappear, and it will become much easier for consumers to buy what they want directly.

What does the energy transition mean to you?

It’s the most interesting challenge of my generation. I think it’s a huge privilege to work on the shift from digging energy from the ground and burning it, to switching our economies to run on something that’s renewable. This is about “creating living spaces for generations to come”.

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