You have seen scary news reports describing how Europe should prepare for a cold winter and a spike in energy prices. Although talks about the energy crisis have been around for quite some time, the situation has been acerbated by businesses reopening post-Covid-19 lockdowns and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The EU governments were not ready for such a steep rise in energy demand.
Although the headlines are somewhat misleading for the dramatic effect, the truth is natural resources such as gas and oil are becoming more and more exhausted and hard to supply for reasonable prices. So finding ways to solve the problem of an energy shortage, cut expenses and optimize their use becomes of paramount importance.
Modern technologies like AI and IoT have the means to alleviate the energy crisis, and as a rule, such hardships and limitations lead to new inventions that can change the world.
Challenges for businesses
Last year Russia supplied the EU with 40% of its natural gas. This year the European governments promised they would reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds. To achieve this, they agreed to cut gas usage by 15% by 2023. Thus the EU is confronting the challenge of finding alternative gas supplies that might take some time.
There are several ways to tackle the energy crisis in Europe – some are more realistic and quicker to implement than others. The most obvious ones (and more time and effort-consuming) are switching to clean energy and expanding the supply network. The other one the businesses can opt for right now is adopting a more technological approach. For example, to collect accurate energy use data to understand the trends better, make predictions about energy use, and as a result, gain better control over it.
As gas and electricity prices surge, many EU businesses face problems with either underheating or massive bills in the coming winter. Rising energy prices have increased production costs by almost 50% for some energy-intensive industries. At such a pace, small businesses such as bakeries might be forced to curb operations or close doors. Midsize companies with vast properties such as warehouses, offices, or hotels might resort to strict energy-saving measures.
Buildings that are expensive to operate will be deemed inefficient. Asset managers and building owners might feel an urgent need to take action to make their buildings more attractive to let. Obliging employees to work from home if entire floors are unoccupied and unheated might be the answer, but this option is not yet considered viable.
As the future looks bleak, is there anything businesses can do that can yield results in the short-term perspective? Yes, and the answer is – buildings optimization. It seems like a job for cleantech startups and tech companies that develop energy management software, which we will explain below.
Digital technologies that help tackle the energy crisis
This chapter will cover the most influential technologies that can make a difference in the current energy crisis and save businesses.
Digital technologies for energy-efficient solutions
- Internet of Things. Connecting devices to the internet or collecting data via sensors or meters is the basis for any IoT solution. IoT solutions are a staple of digitalization and help move towards a more eco-friendly world. By keeping track of energy consumption and tailoring its use, businesses can save energy and costs and have their input into solving the energy crisis.
- Artificial Intelligence. AI technologies analyze data to identify the best strategies to optimize production efforts, improve operations and minimize environmental impact. AI notices patterns from the past and can predict supply and demand issues before they occur. Systems powered by AI can determine the best energy use and reduce the risk of overspending or deficiencies.
- Big Data. Assets and sensors generate big loads of data that, after processing, can reveal a company’s energy consumption habits. A smart energy management system can transform them into actionable business results. Companies can use analyzed data to model their energy usage patterns and become more energy-efficient.
- Smart grids. A smart grid is an electricity network that uses such advanced digital technologies as IoT, big data, advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning to monitor and manage the electricity flow. Smart grids began with smart metering and led to automatic metering, and enable a two-way flow of electricity and data. By managing the transportation of electricity, they help meet the demands of end-users and coordinate the needs and capabilities of all generators and grid operators. Having smart grids give consumers the tools to make the best use of their electricity.
- Digital twins. Manufacturing industries benefit from digital twins by providing digital visibility and automation to their physical assets. It is a full digital replica of equipment in the cloud that helps in monitoring and optimizing maintenance and in saving energy by automatically switching into energy-saving mode.
- Smart cities. As humanity moves towards sustainability, smart cities become the centers of digitalization and implementation of modern technologies. They can also be the answer to the global energy crisis. Smart cities handle resources more efficiently with smart city lighting and smart buildings that monitor energy usage.
What action can businesses take?
To ensure the viability of their businesses, building owners must find ways to improve their buildings’ energy performance and concentrate on energy consumption cutting. The main meaning of energy efficiency is to get more power by spending less. Companies can achieve this by introducing operational changes, and building energy management software is a tool.
This leads us to the notion of smart buildings, which have been widely discussed in recent years and are an integral part of energy infrastructures such as smart grids and smart cities. Smart buildings are packed with sensors that collect data to help building managers run operations more efficiently and optimize energy and resource use. Consequently, it also improves tenants’ well-being.
An ideal decision would be to stick to the decarbonization plan already agreed upon by most EU countries. This means a transition towards clean, renewable energy, and the current energy crisis might give this shift a final push. The main drawback of renewable energy resources like wind, solar, hydro, etc., is their dependence upon the weather.
Adopting a renewable energy strategy takes time; that’s why game-changing solutions right now are small-scale. These can be getting up-to-date information on electricity use to decrease consumption, detecting room occupancy via sensors, and switching the lights off in case it’s empty. We collected small steps towards energy efficiency for businesses below.
Five things companies can do to become more energy efficient
1. Install smart meters
Keeping track of resources spent is carried out with smart meters. They can help businesses identify usage patterns and avoid unnecessary waste. Smart meters work best when combined with an energy monitoring system – software that helps make sense of data collected by transforming it into actionable insights. Companies that use energy management software can compare their energy consumption levels over time, set targets, and identify peak usage times or leaks.
Our case: Utility monitoring system
Our client required a solution that automatically gathers metric data from all sources in a utility network, monitoring usage and condition. We developed a utility monitoring system that monitors conditions and performance using meters and identifies areas for maintenance and improvement, showing them on a map.
2. Move to the cloud
Every digital transformation journey has one thing in common – the cloud. Cloud allows storing big masses of data securely and is crucial when adopting energy management systems. This helps businesses monitor their critical infrastructure, respond to issues faster and increase customer satisfaction.
Our case: Smart City Lighting Solution
Euristiq improved an existing IoT system, a highly concurrent, heavily loaded network. The smart city lighting system lowers the energy consumption of street lighting by decreasing the lighting level during off-peak traffic hours. It stores vast amounts of data and enables real-time monitoring of thousands of lighting units on the city scale.
3. Collect data to get insights
The next step would be to use the data collected through data management to improve your decision-making. Insights into your energy hotspots – when and where your system is overloaded – can be indispensable when trying to decrease energy costs. Analyzed data in neat dashboards can assist you in making immediate operational changes. But this is the task for the next step – energy management solutions.
Our case: Smart WMS
Our client wanted to expand its portfolio of products and decided to develop a warehouse monitoring system. We developed a complex real-time utility monitoring system for managing warehouses that helps with condition monitoring, in-house security, and reduction in resource consumption.
4. Plan proactively with energy management solutions
For large enterprises and businesses with vast properties, IoT-enabled EMS can be most beneficial and cost-saving. EMS can help monitor energy consumption and can aid in developing sustainability plans. The network of sensors gathers data, then the system analyzes it and gives hints on actions that can lower energy consumption. Buildings with an energy management system installed can inform managers and tenants about electricity outages, breakdowns, and gas leakages and give suggestions on managing the resources more efficiently.
5. Save even more – replace your old devices
Although it borders on the obvious, replacing your old devices with the new is an additional step you can take toward a more ecologically sustainable life. For instance, modern technology has long ago offered a more energy-efficient alternative to traditional light bulbs – LEDs. They use more than 75% less energy and can be incorporated into a smart building or smart city not only to be controlled remotely but for creating lighting schedules and patterns.
Our case: Smart LED lighting solution
LED street lighting reaches its full potential when paired with an IoT system. For our client, we developed an energy-efficient connected lighting system that allows city officials to control street lamps via an easy-to-operate mobile app. They can adjust light levels, set schedules, and change light colors remotely.
Benefits of Digital Transformation for Energy-Dependent Businesses
What does having digital systems at your disposal mean for you as a business owner? Predicting supply and demand, identifying the best strategies to maximize production, or – as is the case now – having a chance to survive this winter.
By bringing automation with utility management software, industries can operate more efficiently. IoT and AI can help predict and schedule maintenance works, thus extending asset life. Forecasting the future can help determine the best energy use and reduce the risk of overspending the budget.
Not to sound vague any longer, we’ve collected all the benefits of digital transformation in regards to energy efficiency for businesses and the environment:
- An accurate understanding of energy consumption. Due to continuous monitoring in real-time, you get a clear picture of energy consumption in your building right at your fingertips. The customized dashboard can show you the areas you might be most interested in and display notifications of deviations from the norm.
- Control over energy consumption. You can react instantly by having an overview of areas where energy consumption reaches the tipping point. You can identify cases when machines are left running unnecessarily, or the equipment isn’t performing to its full potential.
- Reliable power supply. Preventive maintenance and constant monitoring can help understand trends in energy usage, for instance, surges in demand. Understanding these, you can plan changes in use and decrease the risks of outages or malfunctions.
- Energy systems save costs. This is perhaps the most important of all benefits. Implementing an energy management solution and getting actionable insights will ultimately save operational costs.
- Increased global access to energy. With optimized energy use by businesses and energy-dependent industries, global energy demand is supposed to diminish. A positive impact on energy supply and distribution should follow.
- Reduce emissions and air pollution. If such energy sources as oil and gas are used less, and the transition toward renewable energy continues, it will drastically reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.
How digitalization can improve efficiency using a combination of technologies
Join forces with Euristiq to build energy-efficient solution
The importance of getting on the energy-saving bandwagon cannot be overstated. Especially now when the energy crisis is looming more than ever before.
Euristiq has the expertise and relevant experience in building energy-efficient solutions or improving existing systems. Write to us with your idea, and we will schedule a meeting to discuss development opportunities.