Case Study

How modernizing a power and utilities tax function can improve society

EY wavespace™ helps European power and utilities leaders define technology for tax strategies.

The better the question

Are you transforming how you work or what you can achieve?

Europe’s P&U companies face the challenge of reinventing for a more sustainable and data-driven future while keeping costs manageable.


Facing an energy supply crisis in the short term and a broader need to decarbonize over the long term, Europe’s power and utilities (P&U) companies have been forced to balance a multitude of demands from customers and policymakers: reinventing for a greener and more data-driven future, while also keeping costs manageable.

Whether within P&U or other sectors, tax and finance functions have a significant opportunity to evolve their capabilities beyond maintaining compliance and delivering strategic value. Digital technology can help eliminate repetitive manual tasks and derive insights out of data — but amid competing challenges, P&U companies have been struggling with a path forward.

“The decarbonization transition is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge — and opportunity — for the world, and particularly for Europe in a time of geopolitical pressures,” said Gerard Gallagher, EY EMEIA Energy & Sustainability Industry Leader. “Operational excellence is crucial for unlocking capital for investment and maximizing value.”

The German Association of Energy and Water Industries— known as Bundesverband der Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft (BDEW) — serves as the primary advocate for the P&U industry, with about 2,000 companies as members, helping to guide them in this challenging time. The tax function for many of these energy companies deals with similar challenges, including temporary legislative changes (such as the energy tax and value-added tax (VAT)) at very short notice to face the energy crisis, as well as digital transformations related to SAP S/4HANA and data management.

The BDEW’s tax working group, made up of heads of finance, tax and accounting from about a dozen top companies, met regularly but felt stuck in their discussions. They had created a portfolio with ideas about technologies available on the market, but the solution wasn’t just a matter of installing one piece of software or another. To help to develop a uniform approach to define an individual digitization strategy or blueprint for the tax function per member firm, they turned to Ernst & Young GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft (EY) for advice.

EY professionals put together a two-day experience in Munich featuring demonstrations from tech and thought leaders from EY and Microsoft, an alliance partner. There, they guided exercises among participating members to drive action plans and results — an approach, driven by EY wavespace™, unlike any other available. Learn more about the EY wavespace experience: 

The better the answer

A hotspot for collaboration — leading to action

EY wavespace enabled industry leaders to demonstrate the technology options.


Through immersive and dynamic experiences, EY wavespace brings together business leaders, design thinking and technology so that companies can accelerate transformation, drive innovation and create measurable outcomes. Whether they meet in-person or virtually — or even in the metaverse — teams can break free from the everyday through EY wavespace, with collaborative tools to reframe thinking about their challenges and opportunities.

That’s exactly what 11 tax leaders from BDEW member companies, as well as Dr. Tanja Utescher-Dabitz, Head of Digitization, Business Management and Tax at BDEW, were hoping to achieve at a two-day EY wavespace experience in Munich. They gathered with EY leaders in a specially designed space equipped with collaboration tools like Microsoft Surface Hub and Studio, Mural and Menti.

The participating members co-created a strategic blueprint for digitalizing tax functions, full of leading practices for the biggest players down to the municipal level. To create an open atmosphere with new ways of collaborating professionally and personally, EY teams encouraged them from the start to set aside formalities and embrace the opportunity to join forces with their peers.

Günther Hüttinger, Intelligent Tax Automation Leader at EY GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft, in Europe, kicked off with an overview of digitalizing the tax function across the key dimensions for success. “To successfully digitalize a tax function, technology alone is not enough,” he said, also citing data, processes, people, culture and change, organization, and strategy. “By using EY wavespace we were able to break through internal silos and bring a cross-departmental strategy for digital transformation in tax.”

Then EY teams surveyed the tax leaders, asking: what are your key challenges in the transformation of the tax function? Where do you see yourselves on this journey? Which tech are you using, and what’s been your experience with it? By being agile and flexible, EY wavespace experience leaders built the flow for the rest of the two days based on these responses.

The capabilities in EY wavespace also help industry leaders to demonstrate technology. For instance, Benjamin Jetter, Senior Client Technology Lead with Microsoft, demonstrated how to maximize value by connecting data and the cloud through Azure Cloud and Microsoft Office 365 suites.

“Through our alliance with EY, companies get a platform that underpins the tax function of the future, coupled with skills from EY and Microsoft professionals in getting the most out of it,” Jetter said.

Data proved to be one of the most pivotal subjects in the discussion since tax functions get a lot of it in different formats and from different sources every day. “Tax is typically last in the data supply chain,” said Alwin Schatz, a senior business tax advisor at EY GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft, who helped design the EY wavespace experience. “They depend on others for data, and they must cleanse and transform it to prepare before it can be ready for use and turned into insights.”

Proactive data management was, therefore, a crucial area to understand better and define during a successful transformation. “Each department within a company often builds its own technical workarounds,” Hüttinger said. “But with the backing of executives, unified data management creates the opportunity to leverage cross-departmental synergies.”

EY teams also described and demonstrated platforms such as the SAP S/4HANA Direct Tax Solution; Tax Workflow Platform for Audit, Risk and Compliance Management; and Tax Data Hub. EY wavespace added value through centered dialogue, not a series of lectures. For instance, participants were separated into smaller breakout groups to discuss different challenges through round robins, giving the tax leaders the opportunity to build on each other’s ideas.

Through it all, EY wavespace experience leaders remained flexible enough to pursue the most fruitful paths based on the discussion. “On the second day, we decided to use design thinking to put them in ‘dream big’ mode, as many were thinking within the confines of reducing headcount,” said Oina Kerchner, EY wavespace™ Berlin Leader, Ernst & Young GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft. “How do you think outside of the box if the box is super-limited?”

To step outside of this limited box, we chose an exercise in which we told the tax leaders to pretend they had a million dollars to spend right now. Which solution would they invest in? Then they pitched their choices to the others.

The event offered great food for thought; we discussed the topic of digitization of the energy industry from top to bottom.

The better the world works

Ripple effect to further drive digitalization

Participants were positioned to come up with a joint blueprint and future digitalization roadmap.


At the conclusion of the two days, participants had gained a better understanding of the challenges, more exposure to key topics for the digitalization of tax function, and clarity on the digital roadmap and leading practices. A big result: they understood the need for greater efficiency in getting and analyzing data, as well as maintaining strong data quality and ownership, well beyond the tax context.

“The days at EY wavespace were totally exciting and inspiring, as we could clearly tell from the participants’ feedback,” Utescher-Dabitz of BDEW said. “The event offered great food for thought; we discussed the topic of digitization of the energy industry from top to bottom.”

Erik Schreiber, Tax Expert with EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, participated in the discussion and found it to be similarly enriching. “This was not a lecture or a sales pitch — it was an opportunity to constructively shape ideas into reality with subject matter leaders who understand our industry and its challenges,” he said. “I left with a greater appreciation of the most important drivers of a successful evolution of the tax function and how to address them.”

By experiencing the right tools, insights and methodologies, and working through collaborative activation exercises and energizers, participants from across the industry were positioned to come up with a joint blueprint and future digitalization roadmap to be shared with all BDEW member companies.

I left with a greater appreciation of the most important drivers of a successful evolution of the tax function and how to address them.

One thing I particularly liked was that we, in the end, came up with some concrete recommendations for action and further steps, ensuring that all the participants assembled by the BDEW and EY would actually derive some benefit for their practical work,” Utescher-Dabitz said. “Digitalizing the tax function is essential for us and our member companies, and innovative and open environments such as EY wavespace promote the creativity that this topic demands. You come together not only in a different environment but also in different constellations — something we have been able to experience here on an intercompany basis.”

And this was just the beginning. Participants agreed upon the next steps to further drive the dialogue toward decisive action:

  • Günther Hüttinger of EY joined the Expert Committee to present the key pillars of efficient tax data management for all BDEW tax working group members.
  • EY teams and the working group will launch a study on the digitalization of the finance and tax function digitalization, with a focus on data management.
  • Participants also expressed a wish to continue collaborating with peers on a regular basis, facilitated by EY wavespace teams.

Informed dialogue and collaboration will ultimately help P&U companies in Germany and elsewhere address the challenges of today and tomorrow — for a more sustainable and more secure planet.

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