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How Applications Enhance Energy Consumption Visibility and Control

Energy is one of the fundamental pillars of human society, but the physical principles that govern its generation, distribution and consumption are not common knowledge. Any energy management solution for the mainstream market must be able to gather information and process it into a form that can be understood by any user.

Information technologies play a fundamental role when developing accessible energy management applications, creating collaboration opportunities between utility companies, homeowners and business clients. Data can be gathered, processed and presented to each party involved in the most convenient way:

  • Homeowners require interfaces that are user-friendly above everything else. Keep in mind that most smartphone applications don’t require a manual – that is the degree of simplicity an energy management solution must offer to be successful in the residential market.
  • Applications for business clients can add more complexity in exchange for improved control and energy savings. Business clients often have an engineering staff in-house, which can be trained on the use of energy management platforms.
  • Utility companies can use applications to gain visibility of all energy inputs and outputs throughout their network, in real time. Analysis of consumption patterns can help utility companies schedule generation so that the lowest possible operating cost is achieved, and the benefits can then be shared with consumers through a reduction of electricity rates.

The most interesting opportunities arise when the different parties involved in the energy value chain collaborate. For example, utility companies can offer energy management services as an incentive for their clients to implement an application, which in turn grants consumers greater control over their buildings.

Monitoring is the cornerstone of any energy management solution: it is impossible to control a system without measuring its key variables. Energy monitoring systems can also gather external information, such as hourly electricity rates and weather forecasts, to then optimise energy consumption accordingly.

The Importance of Compatibility

Electrical equipment and electronic gadgets come in a nearly endless selection of brands, so an energy management application must offer full compatibility to be successful. Even if a building has equipment from several dozen manufacturers, the system must be able to monitor and control all of it. Fortunately, wireless communications provide a common language for all types of appliances, and with the advent of light-based communication, energy management systems will become even more powerful.

Compatibility is also important when dealing with renewable generation and energy storage systems. An energy management application can focus not only on energy consumption, but also on local generation. For example, the owner of a solar PV system can know exactly how much energy was generated, and how it was split among local consumption and exports to the power grid. The savings accumulated and carbon emissions avoided can be displayed in the app as well.

Customizing Energy Management Applications for Different Market Segments

An energy management dashboard for a residential user would be too simple for a business consumer, but an industrial or utility-scale platform can add extra complexity without bringing value. Hence, it is important to match application features with user needs.

Residential Sector

An energy management application for homeowners must have the following characteristics to be viable:

  • Simplicity: Like any smartphone app, it must be simple enough that a non-technical user can understand it without having to read a manual.
  • Compatibility: If you gather all appliances in a household and count the total number of manufacturers, you will likely end up with a long list. Energy management apps must be completely vendor-agnostic.
  • Automation and Flexibility: The application must provide configuration options for the end user, but it must also be able to detect energy saving opportunities and decide if they can be deployed without interfering with user preferences and comfort.

SSE Airtricity App - Heater control Quantum heaters

Business Sector

Like in the residential sector, a commercial energy management application must be able to digest plenty of data into an understandable format, but extra complexity is acceptable here if it brings added value. For instance, the following features can be very useful for business clients:

  • Information for Accounting Purposes: A business client will prefer an energy management system that processes data into a form that can be used directly in financial statements or other key documents.
  • Financial Validation of Energy Investments: All investments, including energy efficiency measures and renewable energy systems, must make sense from the business standpoint. When dealing with solar PV systems, HVAC upgrades and other measures, shareholders will want to know metrics such as return on investment (ROI) or benefit-cost ratio (BCR).

Of course, the characteristics that are desirable for the residential sector also apply here, since they make the energy management application easier to handle.

Utility Sector

Optimising energy use at the point of consumption provides benefits throughout the entire value chain. For example, homeowners can reduce their power bills by shifting consumption from high-rate to low-rate hours, but in doing so they also alleviate the load on the power grid. One household or small business does not have a significant impact, but when the concept is deployed across thousands of locations it is possible to reduce peak demand in the scale of megawatts.

In other words, a utility can improve its own performance by optimising the energy consumption profile of its clients: the service can be deployed through an application, and the energy cost reduction benefits all parties involved.

Large-scale data processing is the most important performance characteristic in a utility-scale energy management application:

  • The system must be able to gather live energy consumption data from hundreds or even thousands of residential and business clients.
  • This data must then be aggregated, analysed and crunched into useful metrics.
  • If the utility company is offering energy management services for its clients, the application must also be able to send commands to equipment in multiple locations.

The RealValue project is being funded by Horizon 2020, and led by a consortium of companies that includes Glen Dimplex, Intel and SSE. They are testing a concept in which peaks in power grid demand are controlled by optimising the operation of hundreds of residential smart heaters.

Developing a User-Friendly Energy Management Application

Logic Energy brings a decade of experience working with monitoring systems for various clients not only in the energy sector, but also in fields such as transportation, high-rise construction and scientific research. Our technology is built on the knowledge of industry experts, and offers an integrated solution, eliminating the need to configure hardware and software from multiple vendors.

Our energy management applications are based on gathering data from multiple appliances and processing it into a useful form, and they can be customised for the needs of any system or end user:

  • Information can be displayed in dynamic and color-coded charts and graphs
  • Alerts can be configured for when performance issues are detected
  • Customization options can be added to configure displays and controls
  • The application can include intuitive controls such as sliders and dials, as opposed to only numerical inputs.

Logic Energy technology can interface with any system that deals with energy, regardless of its end purpose and energy source. For example, a heat pump running on electricity and a boiler fired by biomass can be monitored within the same application.

The Hydrogen Office

The Hydrogen Office project demonstrates the role that energy efficiency, renewables and hydrogen can play in reducing the future impact of climate change and energy security of supply concerns securing our energy supply.

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