Will the weather decide when you do your washing?
03 July 2014
Author: Joseph Borza, CEO and founder of EnergyElephant.com
On 1 February 2014, over 60 per cent of Irish electricity demand was met for a time from Irish wind energy. Just two days previously, wind energy had at times provided as little as 4% of the country’s electricity supply. While discussions on smart meters and smart grids are ongoing, very little – if any – work has been made on persuading people of the benefits of being ‘smart users’. EnergyElephant aims to change all that.
With the help of researchers in Trinity College Dublin’s Future Cities Research Centre, which enables, promotes and facilitates behavioural change for sustainability, EnergyElephant has been developing a proprietary, smart energy ‘traffic-light system’. This is to help consumers see when the electricity they use is greenest – and so facilitate the use of renewables.
After testing numerous interfaces and app ideas, it became clear that most of the complex interfaces used had little or no effect on users, due to their complexity and difficulty in use.
As part of the Science Gallery’s ‘Strange Weather’ exhibition, which is due to launch in mid-July and willl focus on climate change, EnergyElephant will be displaying its smart energy traffic-light system. The idea will be to educate users on how their small individual decisions – such as when to put on the washing machine or dishwasher or charge their electric vehicle – can help to support Irish renewable energy generation by matching demand to generation.
The physical installation will be supported by an app that viewers will be able to download, take home and try out themselves. There will also be a workshop to teach students how to build their own smart energy traffic-light system.
EnergyElephant has also devised a smart energy tool (called ‘3C+’) for businesses to help them to engage their staff in becoming more energy efficient, and to quantify savings from the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects carried out. All users need to install the system is web access and a smartphone.
We went to the market and we quickly heard the same problems again and again. Businesses reported that:
1) Energy bills were difficult to understand and they took time to analyse;
2) They did not have the time nor the budgets for installing expensive sub-metering equipment; and
3) Staff were constantly at odds with the energy-reduction measures.
So, with this as our starting point, we developed a smart solution to solve this problem and came up with the 3C+ software-as-a-service solution. The ‘3Cs’ represents the cost, carbon and consumption elements of energy use, with the ‘+’ representing the secret sauce of the system, namely creating competition and community behaviour changes.
This system has now been successfully trialled. It has managed literally millions of euro of energy use across Ireland and is now preparing for expansion overseas. The technology has recently been invited into the national smart-grid innovation hub, which is run by Eirgrid, and has recently been short listed for a European Union innovation award. The system has also invited to display at the upcoming Web Summit in November.
In the coming years, as climate change, fuel security, energy costs and fossil-fuel depletion rise up the priority list, smart-energy systems combining the use of ICT and renewable energy will become essential to meeting targets and creating high-end careers and jobs. There will be almost unlimited opportunities for Irish technology companies to be leaders in this field.
The recent acquisition of Nest (smart thermostats) by Google for $3.2 billion illustrates the potential for companies in this area and the wider internet-of-things field. The EnergyElephant team aims to be an innovation leader in this disruptive technology area and a global player in the years ahead.
Joseph Borza is CEO and founder of EnergyElephant.com. He is a chartered engineer and the former chair of Engineers Ireland’s Young Engineers Society committee. He has worked on the development of a number of smart-energy technologies and is a guest lecturer on smart technologies in Trinity College Dublin. Email: joseph.borza@TrinitySSI.com. Telephone: +353 87 2823447. Twitter: @EnergyElephant. Facebook: EnergyElephant.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2014/07/03/will-the-weather-decide-when-you-do-your-washing/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Energy-elephant-1024x692.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Energy-elephant-300x300.jpgTechenergy,ICT,renewables