Utility of St. Gallen and energienetz GSG

Co-creating potential areas of cooperation together with local SMEs

St. Gallen utility is one of Switzerland’s most innovative utilities. The utility has invested in multiple renewable energy resources (especially photovoltaics and water power), mobility initiatives and a full fiber optic cable network for the entire city. The utility strives to make St. Gallen a Smart City and to create Smart Grids related products and services that facilitate and improve business for the enterprises in the region and the utility itself. In addition, energy development in St. Gallen is sharpened by the so called energienetz GSG, an energy related network of companies in the area’s business districts. Together, the companies developed a cross-company energy concept that they can adapt to changing environments and technologies and together advocate reliable, competitive and green energy for commercial energy users. Together, the companies have created energy clusters for e.g. CHP initiatives and share know-how on energy management in business, trade and industrial processes. In fact, the energienetz GSG has become a vital partner for St. Gallen’s utility to learn about the energy-related needs and challenges of commercial customers in their supply area and the S3C consortium was asked by the utility to facilitate a co-creation process targeting this exact issue. In the end, a co-creation workshop helped to delineate large business cases and projects that are of interest to both the companies and the utility (see picture below) and the participants shared the impression that they understood each other’s perspective.

Picture: Key cooperation areas and business cases to be developed as identified by the utility of St. Gallen and local SMEs; source: the S3C consortium

Based on the S3C guideline "Co-creation - collaborating to develop smart energy solutions" a half-day cooperation workshop titled "What you always wanted from your energy supplier" was organised. The workshop was facilitated by a professional moderator from the S3C consortium and covered the phases "explore" and "investigate" described in the co-creation guideline in order to provide the utility with a sound basis to prepare the "design” phase.

Picture: On site impressions from the co-creation workshop in St. Gallen; source: the S3C consortium

The S3C contact persons at the St. Gallen utility and the energienetz GSG were satisfied with the outcome of the workshop and particularly liked the fact that co-creation as delineated by the S3C guideline can serve multiple purposes – from dealing with technical functionalities to social expectations – while being close to the customer at all time. 

The main learning for the S3C consortium relates to the different expectations towards co-creation processes. Depending on the types of products and services to be developed and the customers segment – commercial or residential – to be addressed, the expectations and time frames for the co-creation processes were very different. While the co-creation process in the S3C trial project Mooi Wildeman was implemented over a course of weeks and the design of the individual steps of co-creation were designed flexibly, the requirements for the co-creation workshop with commercial representatives were to be as concise and time-efficient as possible. The additional experience could be included in the guideline to delineate both situations – implementing a co-creation process geared towards residential and commercial users.

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