An Alternative Way of Seeing Data Monetization

From early-stage payments fintechs to giant acquirers, every company is asking themselves the same question: “How can we turn our data into dollars?”

After all, most companies these days are to some extent data companies, whether they are aware of it or not. Many businesses try to leverage certain types of data they capture, but there’s also a lot of valuable ‘data exhaust’ they could use without ever sharing any personal or sensitive information. This is known as alternative data and it is being rapidly monetized and shared in the US and Europe.

What is data exhaust?

No, it doesn’t refer to the exhausting nature of big data. (Though there is something to be said about that too!)

Data exhaust refers to the excess data that is generated as a byproduct of a company’s operations. Simply put, it’s all the data the firm might not know what to do with, or might not think is relevant to its core business. This amount is much bigger than you think – Forrester reported that on average, between 60% to 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused.

However, with advances in IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence, this rapidly growing volume of exhaust could hold much untapped potential. In fact, this data exhaust could end up being converted into valuable fuel, whether for better decision-making or new ancillary revenue.

Why is data monetization so hard?

Firstly, many firms struggle with what data monetization actually means. Some paths to data monetization are more obvious than others. We’re living in an era when exploiting data for advertising or marketing purposes has become a huge concern. Even when there is no threat to personal privacy, organizations still have to navigate reputational risks if there is even a whiff of data misuse.

Secondly, trying to glean insights from all this raw and unstructured data can be like finding a needle in the haystack. It’s a significant challenge in terms of resources and infrastructure, requiring data expertise that is usually not found in-house.

So what can companies do to tackle this?

Two routes to monetization

These are the two primary paths to data monetization that companies can choose to take, though they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both paths can intersect and one can lead you down the other:

1) Getting new business insights – This is an internally focused path that may not directly lead to money on the table. But it’s about leveraging data to improve operations or the customer experience. In turn, this could lead to higher profitability or greater efficiencies that result in reduced costs.

Alternative data can yield insights that we may have otherwise not considered. But it’s easier said than done because, as Forbes reports, 87% of executives are still not confident they’re able to leverage all customer data.

But first, every organization needs to take stock of its data assets and figure out which types of data potentially hold value. Then they need to assess whether they have the data management infrastructure, tools and resources to be able to extract value from it.

2) “Externally” monetize data – These days, the mere mention of “selling data” conjures negative reactions. But there are ways of monetizing non-personal data that is aggregated and anonymized. This can be valuable to people you may not be thinking of in ways you might not have imagined.

Opportunities may exist in markets that are new and unfamiliar to the data owner. For instance, firms can open up new revenue streams by selling their data to economists, analysts, investors and any other parties that are seeking to gain new and unique insights.

Raw data by itself can be one-dimensional. It is when data from different companies and sectors is combined and enriched with complementary data sets that real value is created. For instance, a company working with vendors across the country might have data on national beverage sales. It could track these sales and provide additional insights back to the vendors to help them improve sales and promotions. The company could also share this data with beverage brands so they can finetune and optimize marketing by city.

Think about it this way: Doing nothing with your data is the equivalent of keeping all your savings under the mattress. It seems like a safe bet, but it’s outdated and you get zero returns. Data monetization is a smarter investment – it seems daunting at first but if you can find a safe, meaningful use case, your company’s data becomes a revenue driver rather than a sleeping asset. 

Weekend: A burger and two cola’s, please!

You know that junk food that has little to zero nutritional value and that you secretly love eating? You know how you usually combine it with drinks that are bad for you, and that the combination is high in calories when consumed in excess, which we end up doing? How often is sometimes for you? Once a week? Cheat-weekends only?

Most things that are served at fast food restaurants qualify as junk food. So that means  fries, greasy burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, chips, candy, cookies, and cake; basically all the things we crave for.

According to BBC Good Food Nation Survey, in 2016 one in six young people aged between 16 to 20  in the UK eat fast food twice a day. The same survey found that most people ate fast food on average two days per week. On the other side of the North Sea, the Netherlands prides itself for a healthy population.  

Junk food is popular because it is convenient, cheap, addictive and it becomes a habit quite easily. Anyone who visits a fast food restaurant can order a burger off a euro menu. For under ten euros, you can get a full meal. That is the reason why junk food is so popular among low-income groups. For as long as an instant Cup-A-Soup will cost less than an orange or a banana, the hungry and the poor will aim for the cheaper alternative.  

The other drive behind this popularity is the fact that it is convenient. Almost everywhere, vending machines or kiosks offer a wider variety of junk food than healthy food. And as the name indicates: You can order a fast food meal and then eat it in less than five minutes later.  You can even order it online while driving to the fast food chain and pick it up with no waiting time. Exactly what the fast society was missing.

Data and Insights

Do the Dutch however eat these varieties of junk food every day? Our sample is quite small and it is far away from being representative to answer this question. That means that nominal values of consumption in the figure below are only useful when compared to one another.

What is remarkable from the figure above is the weekend peeks. During weekends the consumption of junk food is approximately five times higher than on Monday or Tuesday. As people go out more often in the weekend, their preference for burgers and hot-dogs increases. Convenience of the food might be the right explanation for it.

What goes better with a burger than a cola? The consumption of cola-like drinks (Coca-Cola or Pepsi) also follows a weekly fluctuation. There are seven times more cola consumed in the weekend as when compared to Mondays or Tuesdays. In other words, every burger lover orders two colas to wash the burger down in the weekends.

The same movement we see in the other popular soft-drink of Fanta. Different from Cola, Fanta lovers consume the soft-drink more and its weekend peaks are less higher on relative terms.

Read the full report here.

France: Energy production mix is changing

France is in the forefront of clean energy production. The country manages to sustain its demand for electricity by producing around 75% of it through nuclear plants, the highest share in the world of the total energy generation. During the last five years, the total production of energy has remained relatively stable, with fossil energy showing minor shift down. Every day, the production of wind energy and the production of solar energy follow opposite direction, with wind energy being produced more at nights.

France is number two in the world in producing nuclear energy, right behind the U.S. and ahead of Russia and China. If comparison were in terms of nuclear share on the total domestic electricity generation, France has by far the highest percentage portion of any country in the world. However has the total energy consumption increased? What are the main sources of energy in France and how have their portions changed across time?

In our last report we inspected energy consumption in France and found that electricity consumption has increased during the past five years. Around 75% of electricity comes from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. In 2015, 15% of electricity came from renewable energy, and therefore 90% non-fossil, non-CO2-emitting energy. Government policy is to reduce nuclear to 50% by 2035, in an effort to increase renewable energy portion.

French production of energy is mainly controlled from ENGIE and EDF, the two largest producers, and some smaller providers that are mainly focused on renewable energy. ENGIE and EDF were state-owned until late 2006 and the government has a large say in their management. Respectively, it currently owns more than 30% of ENGIE’s capital and 85.3% of EDF’s capital.

Interestingly, due to high regulation and governmental intervention in the market, energy efficiency has increased in the past yeas and total production per capita has slowed down. According to the International Energy Agency, the production of primary and secondary oil has decreased by 25% since 2005. As of 2014, natural gas production has experiences a sharp fall and its levels are now incomparable to what they were.

France produces more energy than it consumes. The figure below shows that France consumes almost 1.5 billion MW a year while it produces more than 2 billion MW. However, in our consumption estimates only electricity and gas are calculated.

If we zoom in the production part, fossil and nuclear energy account for the highest portion. There seems to be little variation with the production of these two energy sources. In 2016, nuclear energy declined by almost 8% and remained at those levels ever since.

Clean energy production has showed substantial increase since 2013. In 2018, wind energy has almost doubled and solar energy more than doubled since 2013. This shows the continuous efforts of the French government to move towards clean sources by 2040.

Moving forward to monthly volatility:

During winter, while temperatures decrease and demand for energy increases, the production of energy follows along. However, the overall total production shows less volatility than consumption. In the summer, the total production decreases with 35% while consumption by about 50% in the case of electricity, and 80% in the case of gas.

Zooming in, we see the seasonal fluctuation of solar energy and that of wind. As expected, the highest production of wind is in the stormy season of winter, and the highest production of solar energy is during sunny summer.

Production is higher during daily hours but the difference is not substantial with the night time production. The gap between day and night total production is only 15%.  

Solar energy shows an inverse U-shaped distribution throughout the day with the most energy being produced during light hours. During night time, solar panels require energy stored from during day time as their energy production reaches negative levels. The production of wind energy is highest during night time. 

Download the full report: France: Energy production mix is changing.

France: Energy consumption doubles in winter.

Historically, energy consumption in France has been dependent on coal and oil. Since 1970s gas consumption has tripled, only to slow down during the late years. Increase in energy efficiency, market dynamics and regulation have changed the shape of the pie in the energy market. Electricity, which is mainly sourced from nuclear plants, is the primary source of energy and its consumption is less volatile throughout months. In July, the consumption of gas is 20% of gas consumption in January, while electricity consumption is half of what it is during January.

Introduction

France is the country with the largest share of nuclear electricity in the world. Its electrical grid is part of the Synchronous grid of Continental Europe and the country is ranked among the world’s biggest net exporters of electricity. According to Planet Energies (2018), during 1973 and 2015 oil consumption fell by 35%, while gas consumption almost tripled. How has the consumption of electricity and gas changed during the past five years in France?

In 2015, primary energy consumption in metropolitan France broke down to 42% nuclear, 30% oil, 14% natural gas, 9.4% renewable energy and 3% imported coal. (RTE Results, 2017).  France’s energy landscape has been shifting constantly for a while, with core inputs shifting one another throughout time.

Historically, coal and oil were the two main forms of energy sources. Until 1970, the majority of energy consumption was supported solely from these two sources. However in late 1970’s, the energy structure underwent a profound transformation with the large-scale development of nuclear energy. In 1990s natural gas dominated the energy production and the consumption followed along.

Until 2005 energy consumption rose gradually for both gas and electricity. Changes in economic activity and improvements in energy efficiency eased down consumption. Today, the country is experiencing a fresh transition to clean sources with the development of renewable energies and the implementation of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. France plans to reduce the share of nuclear to 50% in the electricity mix by 2025.

Mainly energy consumption is split in three major sectors: The first and most important one is residential and tertiary consumption which accounts for about 45% of the total share.

Transportation is second with 33% of the share. This share increased since 1990s when it was around 20% of total consumption, only to decrease at the later years due to changes in regulation and energy efficiency. According to the National Statistics office of France, petroleum-based fuels remain largely dominant in transport.

Thirdly, industry is the sector where the drop in energy consumption until 2015 has been the most remarkable. The sector faced broader developments which shifted from the predominant use of oil and coal to the growing use of gas and electricity over the period. As with gas, the growth was sharp during 1990s, and it slowed down during recent years.

The 2016 International Energy Agency review of France’s energy policies highlights and several areas that are critical to the success of the energy transition. For example, planned growth of the share of electric vehicles and renewable electricity will require enhanced power system operation and flexibility, including demand-side response, smart grids and metering, and more interconnections.

Data and Insights

Following the claims that regulation changed the shares of energy consumption in 2015, total gas consumption saw a sharp increase a year later in 2016. Even though on average, electricity consumption counts more than twice as that of gas, its drop in 2014 was quite sharp.

Looking at regional differences, gas consumption shows three peaks in Grand-Est, Hauts de France and the main economic region Ile de France. Yearly consumption in these regions amounts around 80 million MW. Compared to other regions in France, this amount is almost double.



Monthly data on gas and electricity shows that the seasonal consumption of both these energy sources is highest during winter time when it’s colder and daylight is limited. Areas with highest economic activity like Ile de France show less volatility due to high dependence on these sources.


Gas consumption shows higher monthly volatility than that of electricity, as it is the main source of heating, which is highly dependent on temperature. Electricity usage increases during winter at a slower pace as its consumption is less dependent on weather. The figure below shows this relationship on monthly average terms. During July and August, both electricity and gas are at its lowest levels while temperature is at its highest.

On average, daily consumption of gas in France is 1,303 GB of gas and 2,516 GB of electricity. On average, if daily temperature increases with 1 °C total average consumption of gas decreases with around 84 GB and the consumption of electricity decreases with 60 GB.

Download the full report: France: Energy consumption doubles in winter.

Diesel prices are set to rise.

This piece is going to look at historical price differences between unleaded petrol and diesel in The Netherlands. In the long run the price of crude oil is the main component that affects this price differential. In the short run, state taxes and subsidies affect the price of both fuels. Additionally, environmentally oriented regulations with respect to the level of sulfur in diesel has pushed the prices up and narrowed the difference. Throughout the year there exists some seasonality with winter having smaller price difference, as demand for diesel increases and the price of diesel follows along. 

Unleaded petrol has continuously been more expensive than diesel. In the Netherlands the historical gap has been around 20% and it is getting narrower with time. If in early 2006, petrol was a bit above 25% more expensive than diesel, in 2019 this price differential is 15%. What are the main drivers behind this narrowing?

While the price of crude oil is the main driver of retail fuel prices in the long-run price, differences across countries are due to various taxes and subsidies for gasoline or diesel. During the ending of 2018, crude oil prices have shown shaky signs and the price differential between petrol and diesel is quite unstable.

Crude oil prices have been on the rise for about a year, passing the $80 per barrel level in January 2019. On top of that, supply concerns from U.S. sanctions pushed the prices even further up. In the short run, exchange rates, tax policy, regulations, supply disruptions, and seasonal factors also play a role but these influences are minor compared to crude oil. 

Moving forward, in an effort to decrease pollution from ships, on the 1st of January, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will require the sulfur content in marine fuel to drop from a maximum of 3.5% down to 0.5%.

While in Europe these type of regulations began in the early 1990s, the U.S. began to phase in the ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) only in 2006. Meeting the standards of ULSD requires a substantial investment into equipment to remove the sulfur. In turn, diesel prices went substantially up and the price differential became narrower.

Experts predict that the European average gasoline price is expected to remain relatively stable at around €1.27 per liter in 2019. This average is based on 36 European countries including Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Russia. The average diesel price is expected to be €1.17 in January 2020, or around 1% more expensive than 2018. In any case, it seems certain that diesel prices are set to rise during 2019, and more significantly than petrol prices.  

Let’s start with the yearly average of oil and diesel prices since 2006. The highest average price of both fuels was noted in 2012 and the lowest was in the aftermath of 2009. The world economic contraction and the lack of local demand pulled crude oil prices down during the financial crisis of 2009 which had an immediate effect on petrol and diesel.

In 2012, higher oil prices, driven by concerns about Iran, have been behind the rising price of petrol fuel. Crude oil prices rose by 12% throughout 2012 and with a recovering economy and an underlying upward trend in global demand, the risks of the price increasing further were high.

Back in 2013, a litre of petrol costed an average €1.78 in the Netherlands, compared with €1.64 in Belgium and €1.55 in Germany. Italy was closest to the Netherlands, with a litre of Euro95 costing €1.73.


Still, the price growth of petrol is nowhere close to that of diesel. The increasing cost of diesel motoring in the Netherlands is partly due to various car-related taxes, which are the highest in Europe. While tax on petrol-driven cars is the second-highest in Europe after Norway.

If we focus on the difference, the figure below can give us more insights. In 2016 petrol was 23% more expensive than diesel, while in January 2019 this gap decreased to a bit above 15%. The lowest recorded difference was that of 2019 but there are eleven months to follow. The second lowest was that of 2008 when both fuels were cheapest.



While the price difference between petrol and LPG has historically remained steady, with petrol being 60% more expensive than LPG, increasing diesel prices are narrowing the gap between diesel and petrol.

Moreover there is a seasonality noticed throughout the year. Fuel oil used for heating homes is made from the same ingredients as diesel fuel. As it gets colder throughout the year, the demand for heating oil rises.

In turn this pushes the diesel price up and narrows the price difference between petrol and diesel further. On average, petrol is 21% more expensive during the period May- September and 17% more than diesel during October- February.

Download the full report: Diesel prices are set to rise.