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.”
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere