ENERGY TRANSITION

E.ON’s Brave New World

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Flailing utility giant E.ON needs to raise revenues and overhaul its product palette, otherwise it risks a hostile takeover.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • In recent years, collapsing wholesale energy prices and the cost of nuclear decommissioning has forced Germany’s large energy companies into radical restructuring.
    • E.ON, which now focuses on renewables, retail and networks, posted a loss of €16 billion in 2016.
    • Innogy, formerly part of RWE, which has a similar focus to E.ON, enjoyed a successful IPO, and reported net profits of €1.5 billion.
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    Audio

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Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia, Minden, Roof with photovoltaic installation
Knowing how much sunlight your roof will get annually is helpful information when investing in solar panels. E.ON and Google are making that available for German customers. Source: Westend61/Getty Images

Karsten Wildberger is in buoyant mood, addressing a late night team meeting at company headquarters. E.ON’s chief operating officer for commercial business is here to point the way to the future. “People talk about us like we’re yesterday’s news. But we want to be the energy company! Customers should think of us as pioneers of the new world of energy!” he says.

The 49-year-old executive with a physics PhD and an MBA can already point to one big success last week: E.ON will partner with Google to bring the Sunroof app to Germany. Sunroof uses data from Google Earth to tell E.ON clients precisely how much solar energy their houses can generate, then providing a link to buy and install the technology.

Mr. Wildberger will need a lot more deals like that. Ten years ago, E.ON was the biggest company in Germany, valued at more than €100 billion, around $110 billion. These days, it’s not even the country’s biggest energy company. In many ways, the company’s hopes – perhaps even its very existence – now rest on Mr. Wildberger’s slim shoulders. Heading a division called Customer Solutions, his job is to invent products and services for the company’s 21 million energy customers – and, ultimately, to reinvent the lumbering giant for a clean energy world.

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