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A year of innovation

Posted by on in Heat 2015
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By Casey Cole, Managing Director of Guru Systems

At the beginning of this year we were given the green light to conduct feasibility studies into technology to improve the energy efficiency of district heat networks.

Nine months on and we have successfully moved beyond proposals and concepts, and in May were awarded a share of a £7 million fund to put our plans into action by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It was a pivotal moment for the company and the team.

Our core team has worked for many years in the decentralised energy sector and we were champing at the bit to put our plans into action.

As a company we have worked with landlords and developers across the UK to ensure they can monitor their networks and bill tenants correctly for the energy they use. For tenants, the Guru Hub works as a pay as you go and energy monitoring device, whereas for developers it provides a way to measure incoming energy, heat produced and used across the networks – as well as being able to see any drops in efficiency.

Our DECC project takes our diagnostic capabilities to the next level.

Heat network operators have generally suffered from a lack of data about how their networks are performing. And in those cases where they’ve managed to extract data from their systems, it’s often been difficult to interpret. As a result, good practice in the UK heat market hasn’t evolved as quickly as it should.

We’re attempting to radically speed up the development of the market by building tools for operators to understand and analyse their own energy performance data and, importantly, share that data with each other.

Using innovative machine learning algorithms to analyse the large data sets that come from heat networks, our systems will put the power back in the hands of operators and lower the cost of tenants’ bills thanks to the improvements that can then be made in the networks’ efficiency.

Early results from the four heat networks where we’re trialling the technology have been hugely positive. Working with operators, we’ve used the outputs of our system to identify cost effective changes that are significantly improving network performance. By the end of the project, we expect to have reduced input fuel use on the trial sites by between 33 and 51 percent. This can equate to an average saving of £179 per home per year.

If this technology was rolled out to heat networks across the UK we could save £400 million in reduced energy costs in 10 years.

These figures are astounding and give an indication of just how much value there is to be had in improving performance of heat networks.

Not only are we looking to save tenants money, we are also working with leading developers and affordable housing providers to help them anonymously share key performance data – including return temperatures and peak loads – while complying with the Data Protection Act and our own strict data sharing policies.

It was important for us, as part of this project, to encourage a flow of information. Not just between operators, but with suppliers and consultants as well.

For example, many designers of heat networks never see their systems in action and have no idea of how well (or poorly!) they perform in real life. For this reason, we believe it’s just as important to share data with network designers as it is to share with operators. Otherwise, they don’t learn from real world outcomes and improve design on their next project.

It’s an exciting time for the innovation of heat networks and we are just one of eight schemes receiving this funding from DECC

This year in particular has been a landmark one for the sector, with CIBSE and the ADE publishing a Code of Practice which will ensure minimum standards on new networks. But standards aren’t enough on their own.

The old maxim that you can’t improve what you don’t measure is especially true in the heat sector. The evolution of the UK heat market will depend on the effective extraction, analysis and sharing of data by heat network operators and other stakeholders and we hope to do our part in making this happen.

 

Comments

  • Guest
    Marko Cosic Sunday, 18 October 2015

    Nice one Casey; cracking results there. :-)

    Do we get to find out who dropped the biggest clangers then? Was it the designers (M&E consultants), installers (commissioning engineers), or operators (maintenance and in-use controls) who managed to double the fuel use on these networks vs. the optimised case?

    Naming names would be useful: it would mean that everybody can safely ignore everything that those groups have ever said or might say in defence of mediocrity over progress. ;-)

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