18 May 2024

Smart technology for a greener world

| The European |

Enervalis believes unequivocally in green energy. The company recognises the inconsistent nature of green energy results in the imbalance between supply and demand and is focussed on a solution for this imbalance. Enervalis has pioneered the SmartPowerSuite® – an operating system for the energy network of the future, which will enable mass-market energy services through software-based intelligent demand and supply shaping.

The European caught up with Stefan Lodeweyckx, founder and CEO of Enervalis to learn more about the SmartPowerSuite® and its applications, Smart EV, Smart Building and Smart Micro-Grids.

Please online how Enervalis was initially established.
Stefan Lodeweyckx: Having worked at international companies with a product-market push, rather than a real societal market demand in the past, it got me thinking about my own contribution towards society. I began thinking about my views on global problems and solutions, which, coupled with my technology driven passion, led me to create a company that would provide a solution towards a greener energy system.

In 2012 I left my job to assess the true viability of such a company. It soon became clear that if we wanted to achieve a full green energy system, the mass-market also needed to be actively involved in becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Huge imbalances created by mass green energy deployment would also need end-customers to participate into this new energy network. Each individual customer would provide a small chunk of energy flexibility, which then could be accumulated to provide the necessary overall mass flexibility to run green energy networks at a reasonable cost.

The initial feedback from various stakeholders – such as applied research institutes, investors, energy retailers, distribution service operators, homes alteration services – and industry experts was rather negative regarding what I wanted to achieve because the general consensus was that it was not cost-effective nor realistic. However, I was convinced that all the early indicators, combined with the fast evolving technological evolution to enable cost-effective mass-market green energy systems, were all systems go. I actually went on to launch Enervalis on my own because, in my opinion, this mass engagement in green energy was an inevitable large change that would take place within five years. Time has now proven me right and I’m very happy that I stuck to my initial idea and have been very persistent in its execution.

Highlight some of the steps you are taking to ensure energy-efficient, resilient and secure solutions.
SL: Our key focus is creating a portfolio of very efficient and generic machine learning algorithms, which rely on vast amounts of real-time data coming from the assets under our control, including buildings with diverse sensors and energy actors like solar, heat pumps, EV and batteries. More’s Law and mass artificial intelligence (AI) research is helping us innovate in ways that were previously thought of as uneconomical optimisations, allowing us to make changes on mass-market level with small energy values per asset. We invest heavily in our own data-scientists in combination with establishing partnerships with leading academic institutes throughout Europe – such as the University of Leuven (KUL), University of Liège (ULg) and the Delft University of Technology – with a focus on deep reinforcement learning. ‘Deep Learning’ is a new area of machine-learning research, which has been introduced with the objective of moving machine-learning closer to one of its original goals: AI that can bring the required cost-effective algorithm framework.

The resiliency is built in by design because we have chosen a mixed central-decentral software architecture, which is by default more resilient than a pure central software framework. For example, the great resiliency of the internet versus the disastrous consequences a central energy network can lead to. A case in point is the long outages experienced along the east coast of the US when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. The security also benefits from a mixed architecture, and in addition, we are working on embedding telecom-level security into our full offering. Finally, we are also working on some other more advanced security and decentralisation related improvements.

How are your products and services able to optimise energy use as well as add convenience?
SL: The core focus of Enervalis is to drive our fully self-autonomous/intelligent software agent-based solutions, which allows for mass-market energy services with diverse value-added end product. The self-autonomous drive is based on our belief that the end-user should not need to worry about energy if it falls within the end-users’ high-level comfort requirements. The optimisation then can take place on the end-customers’ flexible usage profile combined with their own desires such as ‘lowest cost’ or ‘maximal green’ or ‘peer engagement’ and so on.

Stefan Lodeweyckx

Our initial results are very promising in the sense that individual asset learning allows for up to 15% more efficient usage of energy without loss of comfort for the end-customers. There are also similar results on energy cost savings and green energy usage increase improvements. We are seeing these results without user-discomfort. Evolving towards the model initially outlined will secure the same improvements by adding user comfort because the system will optimise its learning and will eventually recognise what the user would like at various moments in time – this with minimal user interaction.

Intelligent micro-grids are aimed at linking several communities of buildings. What are benefits of this?
SL: Various benefits arise from the approach of intelligent micro-grids. For Enervalis these green intelligent micro-grids are the generic, semi-autonomous cornerstones of the intelligent overall smartgrid of the future. This is what we like to call the ‘internet of energy’. The benefits of an internet-like architecture can also be applied to the architecture mentioned in my previous answer, as the core elements are resilient and secure benefits.

Moreover, this architecture allows much more small-scale ‘customisation’ of individual energy service desires and requirements. Each microgrid can have a complete different energy usage, production and control mix, where an optimum can be reached by means of the underlying Enervalis software. The grids are then still connected to each other via existing distribution and over-arching transmission networks, which therefore allow for the most cost-effective overall network. Ultimately this also prevents billions of euros of stranded assets from distribution and transmission. These intelligent grids have now become key assets in minimising the operational costs of the distribution and transmission networks when used as aggregated flexibility assets. A detrimental value-loss of backbone assets (distribution and transmission) would be the case for more ‘selfish’ off grid designs and/or approaches.

Finally, the ‘customisation’ allows for a myriad of new services, which will save our customers money while supporting the maximal green energy transition.

How does the Enervalis SmartPowerSuite-Suite® operating system allow its consumers to save or even make money?
SL: Our software enables a mix of different results like energy usage savings, energy costs savings, energy reserve market revenues, real time green energy usage and capacity peek avoidances and we’re developing new added-value services too. All these have a financial value and the biggest part is passed on to the end-customer.

Any new projects planned for 2017?
SL: Our pipeline is packed with different existing projects but we can’t disclose yet, I’m afraid. Stay tuned to our website and social media channels; LinkedIn and Facebook to keep up to date on our upcoming releases.

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