Data analytics key to smarter and simpler energy access

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At EnerMark, we have always believed that, beyond the obvious energy shortage, not having the means to obtain accurate energy related information is the root cause of energy crisis in India. Energy savings can be achieved only if you can first reliably measure your usage, actual costs and equipment efficiencies etc.

In our experience, accurate energy measurement tools, let alone energy efficiency practices, are rarely made part of energy setups in India. Even if means of measurement are present, the process of obtaining and interpreting the relevant data, is almost a black art. Don’t believe us? Just try and read the meter panel on the backup electricity generator in your community.

So, even if you are motivated enough to do something about optimizing your energy use, inability to draw logical and actionable conclusions from the data has a good chance of making the effort useless. We have worked with clients who have been regularly paying more than ₹45 per unit of backup electricity and had no means to really measure where the inefficiencies were coming from, forget doing anything about them.

When clients approach us looking for alternative energy sources, our first question invariably is, “do you know how efficient or inefficient your current backup system is?” The answer in 9 cases out of 10, “we have no clue”. Many such setups use diesel back-up generators manufactured by leading companies in India. The problem is not that the customers are not motivated enough to know, but one that goes deep into roots. We have realized that getting the generator companies to help provide data from their machines is a real pain. The astonishing revelation for us was a complete ignorance towards importance of such critical data even amongst those responsible for manufacturing these generators. Perhaps not being able to really measure where we are, is the reason why India is grappling so hard to find solutions to where we want to go to really meet our growing energy demand.

Data, real actionable data, is worth its weight in gold. We have fielded more questions about reliably obtaining and interpreting energy data, than questions about energy shortage. Customers with whom we have worked with are often clueless about:

  1. Per unit cost of their back up electricity?
  2. Efficiency levels of their generator system?
  3. Actual fuel consumption vs what should be expected from an efficient generator system?
  4. Measuring the efficiency of their inverters and other energy storage systems?

Energy usage/production optimization is the best solution to energy crisis. However, the million dollar question is, 'how does one drive this?' Data analytics is the answer. However, energy data gathering has not become a core practice in India till now, even though some good advances have been made in metering usage. Difficulty in procuring data from systems has prevented data analytics from taking an important role in educating the customer. More or less measurement tools and meters have remained an enemy - tools in the hands of utility companies, rather than a customer’s friend.

Even though the phrase, ‘energy data analytics’ may sound complicated and appropriate for just large setups, it is as important, if not more, for your home, field or small office company etc. Also, given the right solutions, accessing the data can be made as easy as checking SMS’s on your phone or accessing a website on your computer.

Energy data analytics can provide information about how systems such as generators mentioned above, function on a day-to-day basis. In fact, you can even analyze on a minute-by-minute basis. These can show you usage patterns at different levels of load and fuel consumption. Data analytics can help:

  1. Assess efficiency, cost and life-time of your systems.
  2. Plan & forecast accurately, optimize maintenance & upgrade schedule.
  3. And above all where you can save or even make money by making changes to your generation systems.

What is the way forward? We recognize that consumers need tools that can gather the data to optimally monitor system performance. And the process for getting this data should be simple enough for the common person. Only with such tools, consumers can assess and choose the right solutions for themselves. So before your inverter suppliers or the solar installers sells you their next latest and greatest product, ask if they can provide an easy way to really measure performance of your existing system. You can use it to decide for yourself if the new system makes financial sense for you.

Please share your views and comments. We are very interested in knowing how you are measuring your energy foot print and also the efficiency of your energy systems. Especially, if you are facing difficulties doing the same, please do let us know the issues; we may have a solution for you.

If you have other energy related questions please join our community at enermark.com/forum  




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