Ram Ramachander, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Digital Officer, Hitachi Europe
Ram Ramachander explains how describes how Hitachi is providing cheaper sustainable energy to homes in the Isles of Scilly, using an integrated platform combining renewable energy, battery storage and artificial intelligence, with the aim of reducing energy costs and environmental impact by 40%.
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Read the transcript of Ram Ramachander’s interview on smart energy and how interconnections can help deliver more effective smart neighbourhoods.Show transcript
Anna Delaney (Business Reporter)
Let’s talk about that ordinary householder. How can they save energy? How can they reduce their carbon footprint? Is there a technology out there already? Is the smart meter their saviour?
Ram Ramachander (Hitachi)
The answer to that, really, is around optimising renewable energy that is generated locally. So a good example of that is a project we’re doing on Isles of Scilly, which is an archipelago just outside of Cornwall in the UK. We’re deploying solar panels: solar farms, and panels on households, primarily council-owned social homes, so that we can provide cheaper energy for those residents.
We are using an IoT (Internet of Things) platform to connect them up, and also putting batteries in their homes. We connect all of those assets. And then we get data on weather conditions and using AI we understand when is the ideal time to generate renewable energy, so that we can store the renewable energy, and supply that energy to the local residents cheaply. When we know that we also know when is the best time to buy energy from the grid.
Now we are connecting this energy ecosystem the main energy coming in from the mainland. We have renewable energy, we know the weather conditions, and using AI we can work out when is the cheapest energy to going to be generated, and when do we supply it to the local residents.
One of the goals of this small island project that we’re doing with the Isles of Scilly is to reduce energy costs by 40 percent on the island. And at the same time, to reduce the energy footprint, the carbon footprint, by 40 percent as well.
Both of those goals are being achieved by deploying this interconnected platform around renewables, home demand, and battery storage. It’s a range of different things.
And this has already started?
Yes. We are due to go live at the end of this year (2018), with first year operation in 2019. This is a European Union funded project, where Hitachi is investing in this relationship and building this small island environment to prove that we can provide renewable generation in an economically effective way to residents.
How about elsewhere with a smart meter? Is this really effective at changing people’s energy consumption?
I think smart metres have a place to play in the energy ecosystem. The challenge we have with smart metering is it’s taking a while to roll out. And what we now have that’s overlapping with smart metres is the whole idea of smart homes. Smart hubs inside homes. Smart meters understand your energy consumption at a certain level. But things like the smart hubs that people are putting into homes enable us understand a lot more around how you consume energy at a granular level.
Smart meters do provide one kind of data, but actually I think we’re going to see the market moving more towards understanding– much more around “How do I use my washing machine?”
There’s a lot of smart devices that could be in your home. Interconnecting those devices and understanding your behaviour as an individual – when do you switch on your washing machine, when do you switch on your TV -and provide you with energy in the best way to support your behaviour, that is going to be the thing that’s going to make a difference. I do question how much benefit smart meters on their own will provide as this technology starts to proliferate.
And what about public spaces like streets, parks, hospitals? How can they use digital technology to use energy more sustainably?
One area that we’re looking at the moment is around the street charging for electric vehicles (EV). If we think intelligently around how we plan these public spaces and how we utilise the existing infrastructure, it’s a good way of improving our sustainability.
A good example is this: if we are deploying charging stations for cars across car parks and across streets, we need to think about those charging facilities being far more intelligent than just as a dumb charger. For instance there might be some renewable technology there. They might have the ability to put energy back into the grid. They might have some storage capacity.
So we need to think about making that infrastructure far more intelligent than it is at the moment, and then using digital technologies to optimise that environment effectively. Take car sharing as an example. You have an EV charging infrastructure that also enables car sharing. You can plug a car in, but also you can deploy telematics information to somebody else to say: “Hey, there’s a car available for you to use here. What’s your journey?” This lets you plan that journey effectively, and where is the best place to put the car next.
That interconnectivity of the different assets in the public infrastructure allows us to start to optimise all the infrastructure that we are deploying. When you are building new towns there is an opportunity to really start to think about incorporating a smart digital plan into the local environment. So we (Hitachi) are talking to municipalities, very large ones in the UK and abroad, about how you deploy a smart city plan, a smart digital plan that connects your energy infrastructure to your health infrastructure, to your transportation infrastructure, and helps you manage that in a much more intelligent way.
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Image under licence from iStockPhoto.co.uk, credit alexsl