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Households need basic tools to curb energy consumption – energy companies spur on solution developers

Sitra has launched a new call for solutions to find data-driven digital products and services that boost energy savings. Check out the suggestions flagged by energy sector representatives at a recent pitching event, come up with your own transformative solution and join our call for ideas!

Writers

Camilla Aspivaara

Trainee, Communication and Public Affairs, Sitra

Johanna Kippo

Specialist, Communication and Public Affairs, Sitra

Published

How can households get more options to save energy and use electricity and heat more flexibly? How can data based on electricity or heat consumption or weather forecasts help? What data is freely available for solution developers? And what data is still needed for developers to use and develop new solutions?

At the end of October, Sitra held a reverse pitch event with a startup-focused approach. Energy companies presented challenges they would like to see solved and showed what data they have to offer developers.

The pitch event was part of Sitra’s call for solutions entitled “Using data to curb energy use”, which aims to find agile pilots to explore how data can be used to help consumers use energy more wisely. The goal is to develop products and services that make use of different data sources to save energy and steer energy use away from consumption peaks.

Those attending the event included the state-owned sustainable development company Motiva, the grid) operator Fingrid and the energy company Helen. Below, we summarise the suggestions made by the energy companies.

Motiva: Heating control in a single-family detached house with direct electrical heating

Motiva encouraged participants in the call for solutions to develop products and services to control heating in a single-family detached house with direct electrical heating. Switching from direct electrical heating to other solutions, such as geothermal heat, can often be difficult and expensive. Jaakko Ketomäki, Senior Expert atMotiva, said that by controlling heating sensibly and taking account of the hourly prices of electricity households could easily reduce their energy consumption and lower their heating bills.

How could households shift their electricity use away from peak hours as easily and cheaply as possible?

Motiva’s suggestion:

  • Develop a heating control system.
  • The solution should take into account house heating, ventilation and domestic hot water.
  • The solution should have a simple user interface, the possibility to monitor consumption and should be easy to install in homes.

Various services for controlling electricity consumption for people whose homes are electrically heated are already available on the market. Motiva reckons that there is still room in the market for technological solutions that can be used to optimise heating.

Fingrid: Demand response opportunities for households

Grid operator Fingrid is responsible for balancing Finland’s electricity system. Its task is to ensure cost-effective and secure electricity. Fingrid urged the participants in the call for solutions to clarify electricity demand response and the savings it can bring to consumers. 

Demand response refers to shifting electricity consumption to times when there is more abundant electricity available. Households can reduce their electricity or district heating bills by taking advantage of demand response. This involves shifting electricity usage away from the hours when electricity prices and consumption on the electricity grid are highest, instead using electricity during the cheaper off-peak hours. 

Planner Engineer Visa Simola at Fingrid explained that it is often unclear to consumers what energy sources are available at certain times, and what demand response alternatives there are. Smart home automation systems, for example, could help with this.  

Fingrid’s suggestion: 

  • Develop application solutions that enable households to find suitable alternatives for implementing demand response. 
  • There are several data sources available for the development of the solution, including Fingrid’s Datahub portal, Fingrid’s open data and data from the Epex Spot and Nordpool electricity exchanges. 

Demand response helps mitigate the risk of electricity shortages in winter. In the future, flexibility  provided by demand response will be increasingly needed as the use of renewable energy sources increases and it becomes necessary to balance the amount of energy available and match production with demand.

Helen: For households to learn and benefit from demand response

The energy company Helen also underscored the importance of increasing demand response in energy consumption. “Saving energy is beneficial, but doing so at the right time is even more important”, said Tuomas Teuri, Chief Digital Officer at Helen. This makes it possible to reduce emissions, lower household energy costs and create benefits for the electricity system.

According to energy companies, a growing number of consumers have switched to exchange price electricity. With large fluctuations in the price of electricity a part of daily life, how can households more easily take advantage of demand response to save energy? 

Helen’s suggestion:  

  • Consumers’ understanding of their consumption and its impact need to be increased. Households should pay attention to the big picture and learn to time their electricity consumption.
  • Knowledge of market prices should be embedded in household energy consumption decisions.
  • Automation may provide technical solutions for the timing of energy demand. 

People’s interest in their energy data has increased considerably in Finland. The Oma Helen (My Helen) online service, for example, has some 350,000 users. The service is a platform where developers could bring innovation, Teuri pointed out.

Helen has data available for developers via its open data portal, but so far there has not been much demand for the data. The company is therefore inviting developers interested in the call for solutions to work together to consider what others types of data should be made available. Making data available would ultimately bring benefits for customers if and when the data is used for the development of new services.

Electric vehicles and weather data

The pitch event also addressed the role electric vehicles might play in the future to help balance the electricity system. Wind power forecasts based on weather data were also of interest. 

The call for solutions entitled “Using data to curb energy use” presents applicants with the opportunity to develop solutions to the problems pitched by the participating energy companies, or other challenges. Further information and application instructions are available on the application page.

The recording of the pitching event is available until 16 November 2022. Also check out the recording of the information webinar held on 31 October 2022. During the webinar, we explained the steps of the call for solutions, the funding available and the criteria used for evaluating the applications.

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