How to support increasing green mobility without killing the power grid

Fortum Oyj and IBM Garage are changing the world two weeks at a time

By | 4 minute read | April 22, 2021

You may have done a double-take the first time you saw an enormous wind turbine or may have paused to stare at your supermarket’s first electric vehicle (EV) charger. But, EVs, solar panels and wind farms are now fairly common. Our world is embracing the fight against climate change, with electrification and renewable energy on the front lines. However, as separate solutions, these initiatives present two major challenges. First, renewable energy is volatile because it depends on external factors such as weather. This volatility is a threat to the power grid’s stability. Second, electrification — even just powering the world’s existing EVs — is already pushing the power grid to its limits. The solution is to use renewable energy to power electrification. But, how do we do this effectively and keep everyone, from EV drivers to energy producers, happy?

 

Finland-based energy company Fortum Oyj is determined to balance the power grid so that our green ambitions don’t fail. However, as part of the energy ecosystem itself, Fortum can see where the problem lies: the key players have conflicting objectives.

  • EV drivers want convenient, cost-effective charging to get them from Point A to Point B.
  • Charge point operators (CPOs) want to reduce the cost of peak energy loads.
  • Fleet owners want to successfully operate their fleets, but they can’t go 100% green to do this because they don’t yet have the infrastructure.
  • Energy providers want to keep the grid balanced without interrupting client business.

 

To achieve green mobility while maintaining a stable grid, Fortum wanted to bring together key players in an open exchange of information. To facilitate this process, Fortum turned to the IBM Garage, a proven framework for transformation that combines people, processes and technology. Following the agile, human-centered IBM Garage Methodology, IBM and Fortum got to work changing the world two weeks at a time.

 

Here’s a glimpse into how the first sprint went.

Week 1

  • Brought together a global interdisciplinary team from IBM’s business design and customer experience arm, IBM iX, with team members hailing from Berlin, Geneva, Hamburg, Helsinki, London, Miami and Zurich. Began breaking down the enormous challenge of energy orchestration into small, solvable initiatives.
  • Shaped the business case to integrate climate goals with profitability goals. Started unraveling highly complex electromobility ecosystems and interdependencies. Completed an industry spike for the automotive industry.
  • Worked on architecture. Completed a tech spike on Adobe technology to start to flesh out the needed infrastructure. In addition to IBM Cloud, IBM Watson and IBM Quantum technology, chose Adobe software because it provides end-to-end capability for creating, running and analyzing customer experiences.
  • Determined that CPOs are at the center of value creation because they act as the hub to connect energy providers with users.
  • Commenced human-centered design research to minimize risk, sharpen the problem and get on the right path. Formulated 16 problem hypotheses and assumptions to validate the ecosystem’s value flow. Translated hypotheses into interview questions and research goals.
  • Conducted 14 interviews. Completed concept testing with EV drivers, CPOs and fleet providers.
  • Concluded that EV drivers value comfort above all and have little incentive to change behavior, CPOs view peak loading as a massive problem, and fleet owners have had bad experiences with e-mobility adaptations.

 

Week 2

  • Launched an intensive week of close co-creation to ideate the project’s plan and “golden thread” — an aspirational future vision that threads through every aspect of the project.
  • Brainstormed creative solutions and participated in joint working sessions.
  • Used design-driven approaches, including IBM Garage Enterprise Design Thinking, to create solution hypotheses and scenarios.
  • Continued testing and adapting through further design research such as daily interviews.
  • Built proofs of concept to explore the technical solution space with Adobe technologies. Prototyped Adobe technical architectures and user journeys.
  • Built roadmap to take proof of concept into production.

 

The Results

  • Validated that simply placing an extra battery next to charging points can enable 100% green mobility at a large scale and keep the power grid alive, while maximizing the service level of CPOs and EV fleet owners. The battery provides three solutions in one:
    • Charging points could manage energy loads and avoid peaks that kill the grid and are costly for the CPO.
    • Fleet owners could have a greater chance of accessing fast charging.
    • Energy producers could provide primary and secondary reserve capacity to the power grid and monetize this flexibility.

 

In only two weeks, Fortum and IBM defined a solution that can help keep sustainability sustainable and resolve concerns from key players in a complex, interconnected ecosystem. They accomplished this by listening to real people who are affected by both the problem and the solution and then brainstorming resolutions without constraint. The joint team worked collaboratively in an agile way and broke down big challenges into manageable chunks to address within timeboxed sprints. Even an issue as staggering as our world’s energy crisis can begin to feel approachable when the right mix of passion, methodology and expertise are applied. We can’t wait to see what’s next as Fortum and IBM continue to work together to build solutions that combat climate change.

 

Learn more about how IBM Garage and Adobe can transform your business.