We like the sharing community, right? Remember that trip to Barcelona and that nice Airbnb you stayed at? That all worked out. The Uber Pool you took last Thursday night saved you some money.
Now, (and get ready for this), what if you applied the principles of the sharing community to energy? In the future (a time beyond right now), we might be able to buy energy directly from our neighbors, AirBnb (ABNB)-fashion.
Dutch startup Vandebron has already set up a site where consumers can buy electricity from independent producers, such as farms with wind turbines. That’s great for the Dutch—they’re known for their windmills—but the implementation of energy sharing is still pretty rare.
From a global warming/saving-the-planet perspective, we need to rid our fossil fuels consumption and adopt more renewable resources to produce less emissions.
We’re good with that, right?
So, what will it take to turn household renewable energy sharing into a reality within this decade?
Fuergy, a Slovakian startup, has a mission to make renewables effective and affordable to everyone—via an AI-powered device that helps users optimize energy consumption and maximize energy efficiency of renewables.
The premise is: if you have solar panels that produce more energy than you can consume/store, instead of selling the energy back to the grid, you can sell it to members of your community, such as schools and hospitals. As a consumer, by eliminating high processing fees, you can earn more from your energy. You can also enable institutions to buy your green energy at a lower price than purchasing it from the main grid.
Need we say a win-win solution for cheaper sustainable energy?
Fuergy’s idea is simple—use renewables and batteries, as much as you need. And when we don’t use them, we get remunerated for the provided energy.
“It is a perfect use case for sharing economy—just like Uber or Airbnb,” Branislav Safarik, COO at Fuergy told Observer. “However, unlike those two concepts, sharing energy involves much more data—online as well as predictions—and ‘exchanges’ over the day.”
This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into the equation.
Fuergy optimizes energy consumption with its ability to connect with IoT (Internet of Things) devices, everything from heat pumps to washing machines. Connecting to the IoT also allows for scheduling energy consumption to times when energy is cheaper, or to store it in the form of heat or cold.
“In combination with weather forecasting and consumer habits analyzing, the system is, for example, able to adjust heating settings—so no energy is wasted for heating an empty house at the beginning of a sunny day,” said Safarik.
The nuts-and-bolts: Fuergy’s AI learns about the energy consumption habits of the consumer and helps the system decide what amounts of energy they can share with others—and when to do it. The Fuergy AI-unit processes this data received from the server and evaluates it with data concerning weather, price development, production plan, network status, etc.
Based on these calculations, the AI evaluates what amount of energy it can sell or what amount must be purchased to ensure a trouble-free operation of the delivery point.
Sounds great, but what will it actually take to turn household energy sharing into a reality this decade?
“Green energy is highly weather-dependent, and therefore, it is very hard to predict how much energy they will produce throughout the day,” Safarik said. “So, first of all, we need to get the renewables under control. This can be done with the help of batteries or other kinds of energy storage. We can store the green energy and use it when needed. This must be done at the level of energy supplier.”
Safarik also believes that once renewables are not a threat to the power grid, suppliers can be more open to the mass adoption of this form of energy.
“We can create some sort of marketplace for renewable energy and households can become active participants of the energy market,” he stated. “This way, customers can get fair remuneration for their green energy/access to their battery storage, which will push the prices of electricity down as well. Suppliers can then use the households for the primary energy regulation, which will be much cheaper and more carbon-free than it is now.”
And, of course, legislation must also allow this to happen.
Safarik feels the best way to help to put this into practice is by showing/promoting the viability of a renewable solution. Once the industry sees the real technical and economic benefits, it will be more eager to adopt it, consumers will start to demand it and politicians might follow with the necessary legislation.
So far, Fuergy’s pilot project for businesses resulted in energy costs lowered by 50%. The final costs for homeowners would be dependent on the price of the renewable system (solar panel, wind turbine, etc.), price of the battery and the capacity of the energy storage needed. However, renewables without sharing/selling energy have no economic effects, but allowing energy providers to use the capacity of energy storage to regulate the energy in the power grid has much higher economic benefits.
“The payback period of our investment into a renewable energy system is significantly shorter—up to two years,” Safarik explained. “Customers can also use the battery as a back-up power source in case of a power outage.”
So, how will a shared energy community affect the power industry as a whole?
“The world of utilities will transform and move away from the traditional linear value chain to a distributed, circular, open and dynamic energy value cycle,” concluded Safarik. “We are moving from centralized, one-way generation and consumption of energy to one in which generation, dispatch and consumption is decarbonized, decentralized, digitized and democratized.”
“As a result, whole new business models are rapidly emerging. These models aspire to facilitate central aggregation and orchestration of energy resources. The traditional role of the retailer is likely to become redundant.”
This is where Safarik sees the future of energy—and we will share it with our neighbors.