The business models of the energy sector are not sustainable. Digitization must be proceeding at full speed. The German Federal Association of the Energy Industry emphasizes this, too. The good news: Due to many standard processes, there is a high potential for RPA. Consulting firm Ernst & Young even sees Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as one of the four digital basic technologies for the energy sector of the future – alongside blockchain, smart metering and Internet of Things.

The energy industry is undergoing a variety of changes. The energy turnaround, high competitive pressure, growing customer demands and digitization are calling previous business models into question. New answers and, above all, a faster digital transformation are needed.

“The energy industry is undergoing a double transformation: in addition to digitization, the energy revolution is changing the foundations of our value creation to date. Both developments are directly interlinked,” says Stefan Kapferer, Chairman of the Executive Board of BDEW, the German Federal Association of Energy and Water Management. The integration of more than 1.5 million largely decentralised generation plants leads to increasing complexity, which can only be mastered with the help of digital systems and a state-of-the-art infrastructure, he continues in the study “Digitalisation from the customer’s point of view”.

Many standard processes make the energy sector the perfect RPA candidate

Digitization, complexity and high efficiency pressure are the drivers for automation. The numerous standardized processes in the energy sector also offer the best prerequisites: The RPA technology focuses on the automation of recurring, rule-based processes and takes over activities such as data processing, data checking and extraction, form filling, creating reports, operating systems and processing simple queries. RPA´s software robots, which relieve people of such monotonous tasks, not only work faster and around the clock, but also much more accurately. This reduces errors, increases quality and compliance.

This is also the opinion of the EY consultancy in its study ´ Change potential of digital technologies in the energy industry`: “The improvement of process efficiency, the achievement of higher transparency, the better quality, the higher processing speed and more processed volume make the use of software robots particularly attractive for energy suppliers and municipal utilities”. EY sees RPA as one of the four digital technologies that form the basis for new business areas in the energy sector – alongside with blockchain, smart metering and Internet of Things.rpa-advantages-servicetrace

Not only the core processes of the energy industry offer a lot of automation potential – there are also numerous application possibilities for process automation in the back and front office.

For example, a municipal utility in Bavaria, Germany, automated dunning processes with RPA from Servicetrace in just a few days. Among other things, software robots check whether a corresponding invoice has been issued for incoming reminders. If this is missing, the robots automatically informs the supplier and stops the dunning process. The result: faster invoice and dunning processing and significantly reduced dunning costs.

Outlook: Rewarding Quick Wins and Intelligent Solutions Offer High Potential

Compared to traditional IT solutions, RPA can help utilities drive digital transformation and achieve very good results quickly and with minimal effort. RPA projects usually pay for themselves within a few months, sometimes in just a few weeks. The often simple operation of RPA solutions leads to the fact that they are also used – and accepted – by employees without IT knowledge. This ability helps to quickly anchor automation in the organization and at the same time advance process optimization and digitization. However, it is important to ensure that the organization can continue to centrally control and manage the technology and its deployment during the company-wide rollout of RPA. The establishment of an internal competence center can help to bundle knowledge and use it effectively and efficiently.

Even greater levers arise when RPA is combined with other technologies such as artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Energy sector process examples suitable for RPA

Core processes:

  • Tariff adjustment and tariff change
  • New customer on-boarding and terminations
  • Fast meter take-over through automatic termination with other providers
  • Processing of meter data and billing data
  • order management
  • quality management

Back office processes:

  • Candidate and Talent Management
  • master data administration
  • Payment transactions and document verification
  • Financial Risk Control Processes
  • Purchasing processes such as procure-to-pay
  • Error Identification for Account Assignment
  • Check processes in dunning

Front office processes:

  • Call center and customer service processes
  • Answering standard questions
  • Inbox management (reading and assigning incoming e-mails)