Strengthening the connection with our customers

In the fall of 2015, I was invited to a meeting of a group of people who had taken the initiative to enhance the sustainability of a city district of The Hague. We were sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and tea and eating homemade cookies. It had started with the ideals of a few people. Currently, there are 300 solar panels in this district. This meeting is characteristic of an important development.

Jeroen de Haas
Chairman of the Board of Managementof the Eneco Group

More and more similar initiatives, aimed at autonomy with respect to the local energy supply, are emerging. And it is the discussions of the people who take these initiatives that we wish to join, because we believe we can make a meaningful contribution. Not only through the services that we provide, but also in the form of knowledge based on our comprehensive view of the energy system.

Connecting with our customers is a major challenge. We are convinced that the transition to a world where all energy is generated in a sustainable manner can only be achieved in collaboration with them. Our current and potential customers are smart people who care about their energy supply and try to find like-minded others who share their values and ambitions. And when they gather around the table, they go through the whole process: from generating ideas to the production, consumption, exchange and storage of energy. It is this process that we wish to be part of.

This is why it is important to understand what motivates our customers. What do they need? How can we support them? During the meeting with the city district cooperative, I pointed out that the connection of 300 solar panels to the electricity grid could lead to a grid overload on sunny days. Together, we discussed solutions, such as the installation of batteries to store excess energy during certain parts of the day. Eneco has the expertise and skills to deal with issues like this.

Redfined strategy

To be asked to join the discussion, we must be relevant to our customers. Simply selling energy as merchandise
no longer suffices. Our products and services must provide additional value. This is why it is important that we know what our customers think and feel, prior to developing and marketing products and services. This is a matter of carrying out research, of recognising needs and anticipating possible issues they may be faced with in connection with local initiatives. However, there must also be a fundamental link between new products and services and what our company aims to achieve for our customers. In this respect, our mission forms the starting point: sustainable energy for everyone. To ensure that we continue to be relevant for current customers and to be able to attract new ones, we have redefined our strategy with a focus on innovation, collaboration and acceleration.

Innovation for our customers

Greater emphasis is placed on the development of innovative products and services for our customers. From a technical point of view, the fundamental energy revolution shall mainly take place ‘behind the meter’: in homes, businesses and factories. In our new role, we will work inside the premises of our customers, behind the meter. We make a connection with the ambitions of the growing number of people who start their own initiatives. We innovate with a focus on technology. We add new products to our portfolio such as smart solutions for charging electric cars, apps for smart energy management and batteries for energy storage. We offer more and more digital and mobile solutions.

A good example of this kind of innovation is our Toon smart thermostat. In order to meet the needs of our customers, we continue to add new functionalities, such as the possibility to control home lighting, a smoke detector that sends a signal to a smartphone, and ToonZon, which provides information on the output of solar panels.

Collaboration based on trust and connectedness

Collaboration with external partners
is essential for the realisation of the energy transition. This includes using our power and expertise to help local organisations to expand their sustainable energy supply. In November 2015, we became a member of DE Unie, a service provider for a number of local energy cooperatives in the Netherlands. This is a valuable step for us and a vote of confidence. Our ten-year partnership with the Dutch railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen is aimed at making their train transport operations fully climate neutral by 2018. On our part, we strive to have all our employees travel by public transport. This is also part of the deal for us, based on our connectedness with our partners.

People make the difference

To enable the transition of our company, we continue to focus on improving our performance. Above all, this requires acceleration. And our own people are at the basis of this acceleration. Their adoption of our redefined strategy is crucial. It is important that employees know why products are developed and how this affects them. However, intrinsic motivation is not sufficient, skills are
also required. Acceleration can only be achieved with the right people who are committed to our ambition and possess the necessary knowledge and competencies.

Acceleration of our strategy places high demands on the management in charge of supervising this process. For this reason, we are taking a critical look at our leadership capabilities and are assessing the intrinsic values of our employees. If we do not know what drives them, we will not be able to get our message across.

A new world requires speed

Acceleration is necessary. We have entered a new world. With our new products and services, we will be confronted with new sectors and competitors who know how to operate at a fast pace. This requires us to change our product development approach, marketing and partnerships. Examples of this include involving customers and partners in our plans at an early stage, sharing information openly and testing new concepts externally. In order to quickly give shape and substance to these new developments, a new business unit of Eneco Group was launched mid-2015: Eneco Innovation & Ventures. With a dedicated budget
of 100 million euros for a period of three years, this team will be the driving force behind the internal transformation and will actively seek to collaborate with innovative start-ups and knowledge institutions in the Netherlands and abroad.

A strong business model

Our business model and strategy give us confidence for the future. At present, Eneco Group consists of three parts: the networks, the production of sustainable energy, and our customers. With respect to the networks, reliability and value retention are central issues, as well as the development of new technologies such as smart grids. The production of sustainable energy involves investment in subsidised sustainable production – the safest form of investment. In relation to our customers, investment ‘behind
the meter’ is the only way that leads to a sustainable earnings model. The fact that the unbundling of our company is set to go through will not have major consequences for our strategy. Stedin will continue its development towards becoming
a grid operator that collaborates with the market and stakeholders to find solutions that are the most relevant for the general public for a network that is guaranteed to be both sustainable and reliable. As an energy company, e will continue to focus on sustainable energy production, connection with our customers, service and innovation.

A new era

We are ending an era of central production of energy from fossil fuels. In 2007, Eneco explicitly opted for sustainability and a focus on local energy supply in close collaboration ith customers and partners and with the support of our shareholders. This year, which marked the ending of the old and the beginning of the new era, was also special for me on a personal level. I have been offered the opportunity to serve a third term to guide this wonderful company into the new future. Before the start of this term, I was able to take a special leave for a period of three months. Time that I have spent on studying, finding new inspiration and being with my family. We face the new world with confidence. A world in which we focus on meaningful relationships and connection with our customers, who will be able to use our innovative and smart services to take a step towards a fully sustainable energy supply.

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