Shifting from Experience Driven to Data Driven to achieve Energy Efficiency

20 Dec 2018

 By Charlotte Wang, CEO of EQuota Energy 


In recent years, China’s fast growing economy has been closely linked to its rapid urbanisation. More than half of the population live in urban areas and this number only keeps growing. As a result, energy usage has shot up due to the increasing number of buildings, factories, industrial and high-tech parks. Public and commercial buildings and energy-intensive industries currently account for more than 60% of the country’s total energy consumption.

How do we ensure economic growth but stay committed to the Paris Agreement of slowing down global warming? How do we implement policies that contribute to sustainability and at the same time incentivise the energy intensive industries to be more cautious about how they spend their energy? Realising that energy efficiency improvements are key to achieving economic progress and reduced environmental impacts, the Chinese government has started electricity reform and adopted several incentives for commercial and industrial (C&I) enterprises to reduce their energy consumption.

However, interaction between different segments within the Chinese energy industry is inadequate, from the most micro level of individual consumers to operational level of power plants and transmission grid, up to the most macro level of centralized power supply planning. The need for stronger interaction between power plants, grid, and end-consumers reflects the needs for China’s reform of its existing energy infrastructure. Lack of advanced operation and maintenance technology is the root cause of energy inefficiency. Most industries are still making their annual energy demand and devices maintenance plan based on traditional experience. They include obviously unnecessary energy consumption. The Chinese government is currently promoting distributed energy systems. Such a reform will change the energy landscape, opening up the centralized grid network to other energy resources to sell directly to the end-consumers. Opening up the energy market to new services depends on cutting-edge data analytics technology.

The energy management system is a key tool, not only to improve energy efficiency by optimising the energy consumption performance of C&I enterprises, but also to understand the behaviour of how energy is being consumed, forming the foundation for predictive maintenance analytics and smart grid services. It is expected to have a huge increase on the market value of the multiple benefits linked to carbon reduction. However, the implementation of the energy management system among C&I enterprises in China still needs strong support. With this motivation, EQuota Energy, a big data and AI oriented SaaS (Software as a Service) start-up was founded in 2014 with a focus on the energy demand and supply side to help enterprises manage their energy, equipment, and staff more efficiently. Over the past four years, the company has developed technologies spanning different fields and educating industry on how data and AI are disrupting the traditional way we look at energy efficiency.

Energy monitoring and management comes first before cost savings

While cost savings is still the top priority for many C&I enterprises when it comes to energy, it is worth pointing out that managing energy itself needs to be considered before factoring in cost-saving incentives. When we speak about energy-related costs, it is not always about the electricity bills but also about the costs of repairing/replacing critical equipment and human resources associated with it. Therefore, having a solution that first helps you to understand what is going on with your energy systems, your equipment, your team, is crucial before thinking about how and where to save the identified costs. These are the main reasons for companies like EQuota Energy to enter the energy efficiency domain. As of June 2018, EQuota has helped its clients reduce 92,751 tons of CO2 emissions, saved 369,531 MWh Energy consumption and reduced 126,815 MWh coal-fired power supply.

Energy efficiency is entering the new data age

Data is becoming a valuable commodity in the 21st century. Those who understand the importance of data, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will be the ones leading the industry in the years to come. Digitalisation is gradually shifting the way we visualise energy today. The IoT industry is growing exponentially in China, compared to the rest of the world. People are increasingly aware of their data, through which they understand more about their energy consumption, equipment and people. Today, they are going one-step further and thinking what can they do about it. AI algorithms can see through complex data and analyse it at a capacity that our brains cannot reach. 

Recently, the biggest cloud computing platform in China, Alibaba Cloud, launched their new initiative ‘ET brains’ to empower digital China. This initiative improves maintenance planning, enhances equipment utilisation, provides real-time production monitoring and process optimisation to achieve energy savings for the manufacturing sector.

“With these new cutting-edge developments, Alibaba Cloud is taking the lead in harnessing AI and deep-learning technologies to expand the innovation capabilities across industries and enable companies to be more productive and cost-effective,” said a representative of Alibaba Cloud.

Sensing the challenges and opportunities in the energy management space, many companies in China have launched similar initiatives including tech giants Baidu and Tencent. Many start-ups in the vertical markets are also starting to develop their own innovative solutions.

Digital transformation in the energy management space is inevitable. With more and more data becoming available, we are gradually shifting our mind-set from experience-driven to data-driven, in order to make more effective decisions.

Revitalising the energy efficiency industry

From the year 2000 to 2015, China was the fastest country to improve energy efficiency compared to the rest of the world, with nearly a 30% reduction in the energy intensity of its economy. According to China's 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020), both energy intensity and total energy consumption have to witness a continued decline in order to meet the set goal.

As a result of government policies and financial support, Energy Management Companies (ESCOs) and Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) industries have been rapidly expanding and developing innovative efforts in the energy efficiency ecosystem such as system integrators, asset & property management facilities, etc. Some industries have also started to look at lower cost and higher return on investment solutions to achieve results. SaaS (Software as a Service) has begun to enter different markets and sub-sectors.

As one of the early developers in this space, EQuota Energy provides technology solutions for energy efficiency optimization, predictive operation and maintenance, carbon emission management, energy planning, electricity sales services, and microgrid services from energy supply side to demand side. There is a great opportunity to collaborate instead of competing with the traditional industry players. The company supports equipment manufacturers in monitoring their equipment to prolong their life spans; provides value-added services to system integrators to utilise the existing data on their platforms and compensates EMC to propel energy savings to a different level, among others services. Software is the key connector in the ecosystem to make sure that every player is as efficient as possible based on the insights from big data and AI algorithms.

EQuota Energy is drawing a new blueprint for more economical, safer and smarter energy system: serving power companies on the supply side, optimizing energy supply and improving grid stability and efficiency through big data technology; on the demand side, when hundreds of billions of electrical equipment are connected to the power grid, EQuota Energy delivers energy optimization and operation maintenance services through artificial intelligence technology. EQuota Energy facilitates the intelligent interconnection among power grid enterprises and energy intensive enterprises on the EQuota Energy platform, and supports users during the whole process under the guidance of the user's life cycle. In the EQuota Energy platform powered by big data and AI, operation status of any power equipment at any time can be monitored and analysed, faults can be diagnosed to provide better maintenance recommendations, and power consumption for a period of time can even be predicted.

In order to contribute towards economic development and sustainability, the government will put in place more green policies to support the collaboration between different technologies and applications in the energy efficiency space.

EQuota Energy is committed to driving the smart energy transition through innovation and technologies for a low carbon future.

For more information about EQuota Energy, please visit here.

Chunguang Wang (Charlotte) is a serial entrepreneur and established EQuota Energy in 2014. She has rich experience in clean power technology industry in China, USA, Germany, Russia and many other countries. Her leading energy projects and a number of research results have been applied to Washington State government, China National Development Bank, National Development and Reform Commission, Ningbo Hi-tech Industrial Park and other domestic and foreign government agencies. In 2018, Charlotte was named one of the 7 Asian Development Bank (ADB) New Energy Leaders, and led EQuota stands out in Free Electrons bootcamp in Lisbon, and awarded APAPAC 25 by Cleantech Group and listed on Ones to Watch 2018.