Power Plant

Eesti Ekspress: An Estonian invention can render the heating and cooling systems of large buildings capable of making money

“It is not just about the owner of the building being able to save electricity. The network operator will also purchase the saved volume from them,” says Reio Orasmäe, Partner Relations Manager of Fusebox, and explains how this will help achieve the objectives of becoming climate neutral.

Reio, what does Fusebox do and what is it good for?

In a nutshell, we offer a fully automated technological solution that helps ensure the quality of electricity in the grid and helps avoid blackouts. But to keep you interested, I will claim straight away that our clients earn money on this. However, before talking about money, let us make clear how we are able to achieve this.

An electrical system is similar to blood flow, with blood pressure being its quality indicator. If pressure is optimal, the body functions like it is supposed to. If it goes too high or drops, malfunctions and trouble follow. In the power grid, frequency is a similar indicator – 50 Hz in Estonia – which must stay the same in order for the power-dependent equipment to function just as needed. This can be achieved if the consumption of all the companies and homes connected to the grid is the same as the production of electricity. Production and consumption must be balanced not just every second, but in every single moment of time.

This sounds like a delicately balanced calculation.

Exactly. Currently, all electricity traders estimate their portfolio consumption for every day and hour and send the estimates to Elering, who will order production based on that. But it often occurs that the estimates are wrong, or there is a lack of electricity in the grid due to fluctuations in renewable energy production. In order to fill in this void, the single energy system of the Baltics has a separate electricity market where rapidly responding producers offer additional volumes. These are generally natural gas or diesel powered plants or powerful energy storage devices in the rest of the world that are able to rapidly respond if there is a sudden demand.

How does Fusebox fit into this balancing game?

We are currently competing with the same major power plants on the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian markets. But instead of producing more electricity in the case of a shortage and, for example, using fossil fuels, the solution we have created reduces consumption – that is our main idea. When a network operator decides to use us in a certain moment of time, we ask our clients whether they are willing to reduce their consumption a little bit. Fusebox is a virtual power plant trading with volumes that our clients save. But the client always has the right to decide whether to reduce consumption in a specific moment in time. It is important to note that we do not manage the power consumption of our clients but rather suggest them to decrease consumption only if it is acceptable for them. All this communication takes place via automated systems.

Please bring an example as to how this actually works?

Let us consider a large office building. Summer is soon upon us, and in this building, a cooling system will start operating at full power, with the coolant generally held at 12 degrees. As such systems have a large degree of inertia, nobody in the building is able to recognize when the temperature of the coolant is briefly increased by one degree and later returned to the normal operating mode. However, it means saving on electricity consumption. Our portfolio has many office buildings like that. If we are able to save, for example, one megawatt-hour together, power plants do not need to produce this capacity. This also means reducing a significant amount of carbon emissions.

Let us talk about security. What would happen if an evil genius were to break into the data network of Fusebox and attempt to control the consumption of your clients?

Our system is secure from the very first step. We never switch off anything at our clients. The signal we send shifts the temperature half a degree higher or lower, for example, in the automated systems. With our signal, we simply tell the automated systems of the client that if all the conditions are compliant, they should decrease or increase consumption. If the local conditions are not compliant, the automated systems will refuse the signal of Fusebox. Therefore, there is no negative impact on business processes in the long term.

Secondly, we must generally install our own measuring devices in order to be able to measure consumption with an accuracy of a single minute or seconds and report it to Elering.

You have created an efficient and working solution. Are you now planning to conquer the world?

Actually, Fusebox is already conquering the world. We operate in several countries and we are represented on different continents. For example Latvia, Lithuania, Australia, Finland, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore and Brazil. When elaborating the system in 2014 and launching it along with the staff of TalTech, we thought we were making a virtual power plant solely for Estonia. We had no idea that this would go international. We understood our potential in a power start-up competition in Australia where our idea reached the top 10 among 1007 participants. Australians have dealt with managing consumption like this for decades, and their jaws dropped when they saw how cost-efficient and automated our product in Estonia is. After that, our wish to get major things done in the world and reduce carbon footprints by many times increased, and we are currently moving towards our goals. We have proved the efficiency of our solution at home and many of the major electricity consumers are now our clients.

How does one join Fusebox? How big are the consumers in question?

If the electricity consumption of your company exceeds 60 MW per month, please let us know that you also wish to earn revenue and reduce the carbon footprint. Contact us and let us go in-depth as to how it works and how you can benefit!

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