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Innovation Benchmark Energy Industry 2021

In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, energy supply companies have continued to focus on their existing offerings and have barely invested in new business models. This is shown by the Innovation Benchmark 2021 for the energy industry from the consulting firm AXXCON.

Far from disruption – a lot of catching up to do in climate protection

In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, energy supply companies continued to focus on their existing offerings and hardly invested in new business models. The innovation boost expected for many sectors in terms of digitalisation, transformation and corporate sustainability continued to fail to materialise among energy supply companies. This is shown by the Innovation Benchmark 2021 for the energy industry from the consulting firm AXXCON. Compared to the previous year, the energy supply companies now offer 33 of the innovative products and services analysed in the study instead of an average of 26. However, they were once again particularly reluctant to offer new products and services in their core business. “There is no disruption at all. Instead, companies are acting conservatively and risk-averse,” comments Stefan Jaschke, Partner at AXXCON. The energy market expert cites the following reasons for this: “Many employees were working from home and there was a lack of capacity. At the same time, the competitive pressure in the sector is not high enough.”

There is still plenty of room for improvement

For the annual study on the innovation activities of German energy supply companies, the externally visible range of innovative services and products from consulting apps, electromobility and new storage technologies to telephony and the Internet were compared. This was based on the current entries on the respective websites. A total of 28 German energy suppliers were analysed – from the major nationwide players to small and medium-sized municipal utilities. The latter were selected as examples to reflect the different sizes. The service offerings examined in the study were clustered into four categories: digitalisation, efficient energy use and generation, mobility and innovative services and sales strategies. A total of 70 innovative service offerings were identified as part of the study. According to Jaschke, this means: “Theoretically, the number of innovative offerings could be more than twice as high.”

In the area of digitalisation, the processes were expanded in such a way that the existing business model can be maintained. Dr Bernard Richter, former Senior Manager at AXXCON, explains: “Every energy supply company offers its customers several online access points – for example via a customer portal or multichannel communication services in customer service. The online recording of meter readings and online billing have also reached a high level.” There is still room for improvement in other areas. For example, only ten of the 28 companies analysed offer online appointment scheduling. Companies were also still reluctant to offer apps for their own range of services or mobility apps. The greatest growth at a lower level was achieved by B2B software solutions and smart streetlights.

Major backlog in climate protection

In the mobility sector, almost all energy supply companies have offers for public and private electric charging stations, and many also offer car power contracts. In contrast, development is much slower when it comes to car sharing and e-bikes. Richter: “Only just over a third of companies offer such services. Yet they would be particularly important for curbing private transport, which is such a heavy burden on cities.” This also applies to local transport on demand, which has hardly played a role to date. Energy suppliers also have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to climate protection. It is true that 22 of them now actively offer direct energy marketing following the expiry of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG). The range of innovative heating solutions, which 16 of the companies analysed market on their website, has also increased. “However, we need significantly more smart grids and smart home solutions,” Richter warns. Only half of the energy supply companies analysed are involved in these areas. The newly elected German government in particular could put much more pressure on energy suppliers in this respect.

Rising star of 2021: Stadtwerke Düsseldorf

As in the previous year, the winner of this year’s comparison with 48 of the 70 possible innovative services and products is EnBW with an annual turnover of 18.8 billion euros, followed by EWE in second place with 5.6 billion euros and EON in third place with 41.5 billion euros. Stadtwerke Düsseldorf, which shares third place with EON, has caught up considerably with an annual turnover of 1.8 billion euros. The newcomer has upgraded in areas such as car sharing and intelligent electricity tariffs, heating sales and the sale of innovative heating solutions. A total of 40 innovative services are offered here. The fact that innovation is not just about size and corporate structures is also demonstrated by the companies that ranked just behind the top trio: Badenova AG (annual turnover of €1 billion), Intega (€1.75 billion) and Stadtwerke Augsburg (€0.67 billion). Richter: “Especially when it comes to regional offers, medium-sized and small companies are often ahead.” Most recently, a particularly large number of smaller energy supply companies took top places in 2019.

For the “AXXCON Innovation Benchmark Energy Industry”, the range of services offered by 28 selected energy supply companies was compared. The results were compared with previous years. Since 2020, it should be noted that RWE and EON have undergone a merger in which the RWE subsidiary Innogy was merged into EON, meaning that Innogy is no longer listed. Instead, RWE has moved back into the overview with its own offer. The energy supply companies analysed in the study generate an annual turnover of around 136 billion euros. In total, around 388 billion euros are generated annually on the energy market in Germany.


AXXCON is an independent and 100% owner-managed management consultancy specialising in transformation. The focus is on the core areas of digital, IT and organisation. AXXCON has been successfully supporting large and medium-sized companies in the energy sector, banking and insurance, service sectors and industry in the implementation of their transformation projects for many years.

We look forward to presenting our results to you in a personal meeting. Please feel free to contact us. Stefan Jaschke is at your disposal as your contact person.

Quelle: ZfK, Dezember 2021