Global energy company E.ON has partnered with San Francisco software start-up Sight Machine to bring artificial intelligence to bear on improving energy efficiency in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector in Europe.
The intent of the partnership is to develop new digital solutions for the sector that will enable the optimisation of energy and core manufacturing processes in unison, a statement says.
“Together, we will make our business-to-business customers fit for the competition of the future with brand new solutions,” says Bernd Schumacher, CEO of E.ON Connecting Energies, the company’s integrated energy solutions arm.
Artificial intelligence for energy
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are being applied to an increasing number of use cases from weather forecasting to demand response in the energy sector, driven by the growing volumes of data and advanced analytics capabilities enabled by the storage and computing power of the cloud.
Indeed, according to Navigant, AI is one of the “enabling technologies” of the future grid, effectively providing the ‘brain’ for what the company has termed the ‘neural grid’. Indicative of this potential, Navigant projects the analytics market to more than triple from now to 2025.
Sight Machine has created an Internet of Things enabled digital manufacturing platform, which uses AI, machine learning and advanced analytics to help address critical challenges in quality, productivity and visualisation.
E.ON will use the technology to expand its Optimum Platform, which provides visibility on energy consumption and costs and other related data, with the aim to turn combined input manufacturing and energy data from across the facility into actionable information.
Benefits anticipated include improved machine uptime and utilisation through predictive maintenance and identification of production bottlenecks, quality issues, and energy optimisations, leading to reduced energy costs and CO2 emissions.
“The partnership will give manufacturers an unprecedented ability to evaluate how energy-related decisions will affect their productivity, quality and profitability,” notes Sight Machine CEO and Co-Founder Jon Sobel.
Alongside the partnership with Sight Machine, E.ON’s Scouting and Co-Investment division has made a venture capital investment into the company.
C&I energy efficiency
With ambitious energy efficiency targets in Europe, there is considerable scope for initiatives both at the C&I and residential levels.
The C&I sector, traditionally the market of the ESCOs, has proved particularly challenging due to the scale of projects and the difficulty in raising the level of financing required – typically a few tens to a few hundred thousand euros, too small for most funds to engage.
However, this is now changing with an initiative led by financial solutions company Joule Assets, which has developed a platform on which much of the project groundwork is automated and ESCOs and funders are connected.
The market is also becoming of increasing interest to utilities, with the drive to develop new services and having a base of C&I customers. The new solutions will expands E.ON’s offerings to the sector while bringing innovation to an area that up to now has been principally technology driven.