EcoEnergy Insights: How to keep your business environmentally energised
We spoke with Mansoor Ahmad, Vice President and Global Business Head of EcoEnergy Insights, and learned how this award-winning consultancy is helping its clients with sustainable energy strategies to reduce their carbon footprint and energy wastage while recovering energy losses.
“As the advancement of technology becomes a way of life, the hardest challenge faced by organisations is keeping a track of their energy usage and wastage. Energy sustainability, therefore, is no longer a want, but an inevitable need.” This is the mantra by which EcoEnergy Insights targets positive change for its clients. Formerly part of IT services group WiPro, the company was recently acquired by UTC Climate, Controls & Security (in March 2017). With a history of innovation around connecting non-IT devices, EcoEnergy focuses on collecting, analysing and managing data in ways that can reap benefits for its clients across myriad sectors including healthcare, automotive and building infrastructure.
Syed Mansoor Ahmad, Vice President and Global Business Head of EcoEnergy Insights, believes the company is well placed to help manage the buildings of the future but that getting there will be a journey towards developing greater interconnectivity. “If a company has one large campus, they can utilise own resources and home manage things. But if you are a distributed customer with a large enterprise footprint of hundreds of thousands… then it's a challenge that can only be solved by interconnecting these facilities, getting the data to a central environment and running data analytics to deliver actionable insights. These can be converted into procedures through a bureau service or a remote operation centre to deliver the requisite outcome.”
EcoEnergy’s core services have evolved from its initial offering focused on energy efficiency in the US retail sector to address the growing use cases of multiple industries from hotel and restaurant chains to water utilities companies with Operations Management, Price Optimisation, Quantity Reduction & Regulatory Compliance solutions.
EcoEnergy first developed its Energy Management Platform back in 2011 to meet the demand for more efficient lighting, refrigeration and air conditioning systems with better control systems to manage them. Ahmad recalls the company’s desire to innovate was key to its progress in navigating the non-standardised devices and assets of its clients: “There wasn't really a space for a product agnostic neutral software only approach to this problem. We connect a diverse set of technologies to get data on the platform, using cloud technology and machine learning, to drive a continuous learning curve that can be scaled to a level where we have millions of assets generating data on a continuous basis simultaneously being analysed for optimisation.”
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Cortix is the latest version of the company’s IoT Platform and aims to answer a question from the future: What if buildings had a brain? The ability to reason, intuit and contextualize information - then use that information to develop plans and take appropriate action? Ahmad explains Cortix combines AI and IoT connectivity with the knowledge of domain experts to make this possible in all types of buildings, facilities and energy-consuming infrastructure. With a focus on reducing operational costs while increasing efficiency and performance, improving occupant experiences allied to enhancing safety and security; Cortix offers intelligence for enterprises, OEMs and facility management providers.
What advice do EcoEnergy have for companies beginning to focus on aligning their sustainability efforts with their commercial goals? “The driver for us on the energy efficiency side is two-fold,” maintains Ahmad. “Customers relate sustainability to expenses, that it's going to cost money to achieve sustainability. Our philosophy actually is that sustainability is economically good for business too. Because when we are talking about energy reduction, it obviously has a financial reward by reducing energy bills, so it's savings driven by sustainability and the achievement of carbon goals while eliminating wastage and improving the bottom line.”
To date the company has delivered over 2.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy savings for its customers… “That’s huge,” says Ahmad noting that figure is the equivalent of 325,000 US homes’ energy consumption for a year. “Our largest customer is a home improvement retailer in US,” he adds. “They have around 2,000 sites in the US and over 200 in Canada. We’ve helped them achieve over $100m in savings which translates to over a billion-kilowatt hours of savings on the energy side. Customers like these are running a double-digit reduction in savings while optimising their operations.”
These achievements were recognised in 2017 by Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practice Awards where EcoEnergy was garlanded with the analyst’s Global Building Energy Management Systems, Customer Value Leadership Award. Roberta Gamble, Vice President, Frost & Sullivan, noted: “EcoEnergy Insights leverages the potential of transformational technologies for its value-driven services, delivered through knowledge-based operations. It has strengthened its position as an innovative and customer-centric company driving the evolution of the BEMS industry. Its energy management solution is designed to determine the root cause of problems and provide tangible solutions. The company is on the path to integrate legacy systems through IoT, adding more value to businesses through fully networked cloud environments as BEMS move towards offering a more holistic solution.”
To achieve that holistic goal, what trends is Ahmad seeing around sustainability and how is EcoEnergy responding to them to meet the needs of its customers? “Europe is a lot more focused around sustainability compared to other regions in the world,” he notes. “Our focus is on energy and helping customers make the right choices with their replacement activity. The next jump will occur with the move towards smart buildings, driven through AI and machine learning to offer continuous improvement allied to a reduction in carbon. This will provide a better insight in terms of where companies should focus spend so it gets prioritized towards replacement of assets, which will give a higher ROI. The world is going to become more data driven with buildings enabled for more autonomous activity.”
Pondering his predictions for the future Ahmad points out that “smartness” is creeping into all areas of our lives and that this consumer behaviour will soon be reflected more greatly in commercial buildings and businesses which will further enhance the need for platforms like Cortix. “We will expect similar levels of flexibility to control our user experience within a building,” he says. “Hence the demand for higher levels of sophistication in the systems provided by building operators and facility managers will increase.” Ahmad believes sustainability will drive that “smartness” amid the increased need for agility… “When your system is down, how quickly are you able to bring it back up?” he asks. “If you are able to predict this, you can take a proactive path to avoid the failure which will have a negative impact on user experience.”
EcoEnergy is expanding across geographies with projects running from Australia to the Czech Republic. Ahmad is excited the EcoEnergy’s growing footprint will drive a significant expansion of its customer presence in 25 countries by the end of 2019. Looking to the future, he believes the next three to five years will be pivotal. “We will see more intelligence embedded into the assets that will be coming in to the market as we move into a more predictive, proactive and agile world supporting improved user experience in highly sustainable environments. It makes us feel very proud that we are helping the environment be more sustainable, and doing it while transforming the industry itself.”
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.