Greater energy savings in utility engineering

Katharina Kittelberger

Startup Stories

According to the Federal Environment Agency, many air-conditioning and ventilation systems are hidden energy wasters that account for up to 50% of energy costs in offices, public buildings and companies. The startup etalytics, founded in 2020, aims to tackle previously untapped energy-saving potential. A spin-off of Darmstadt University of Technology, etalytics delivers innovative insights and measures to maximize energy efficiency while reducing costs and CO2 emissions. 

Thomas Weber, Co-Founder and Head of Data Science, explains how value can be generated for utility customers as follows: "With our etaONE platform, we offer a software solution (on-premises or cloud) for monitoring and operational optimization of heating and cooling supply systems." 

In the interview with 5-HT, Thomas goes into more detail about etaONE's software solution in addition to the motivation of the three-person team of founders and explains how the topic of energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important, especially in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Thomas Weber, Co-Founder and Head of Data Science at etalytics

A reality gap in utility technology

According to Thomas, the topics of Industry 4.0 and sustainability are currently the two big drivers on the market. However, there seems to be a reality gap here: "On the one hand, companies assume that the installation of sensors and the associated generation of data will automatically lead to improvements based on this database. However, the reality is different, because although vast amounts of data are generated, in most cases these are simply not used by the companies," he explains. 

The same applies to the topic of sustainability: Here, for example, classic energy management systems, which are also required and promoted by the federal government, are basically software platforms like etalytics. But there is a crucial difference: "These classic energy management systems only have monitoring functions, i.e. data storage, visualization and KPIs. In order to uncover energy wastage, these data and visualizations have to be evaluated manually and in a time-consuming manner by a well-trained engineer. Therefore, energy efficiency measures often go undetected and the real goal of the federal government, to detect energy waste, is missed."

Prepared data in the back and front end of etalytics

Minimize the overall energy demand with etaONE

Since there is basically a lack of resources to perform evaluations manually, etalytics addresses precisely this point. "Primarily, we are concerned with operating the plants in a coordinated manner. Because through this coordinated operation of the energy conversion systems, energy savings of between 20 - 50 % can be implemented even without expensive hardware upgrades. For this purpose, our solution records the states of the energy system via sensors, anticipates future system behavior and calculates the optimal control signals for the individual energy converters," Thomas explains. 

"We make energy and resource information generally accessible and efficiently create data-based value. Because the real goal of data should be to generate real added value, not just descriptive graphics."

This concept of etalytics stands in contrast to the conventional, namely local regulation. Thomas illustrates this with the example of a differential pressure-controlling pump: "This differential pressure control is the only logic that the pump follows. To put it simply, the pump does not care about the ambient temperature or the heating and cooling requirements in production. In most cases, however, control according to differential pressure is not optimal from an energy efficiency point of view. This is precisely the gap we are bridging by looking at systems as a coordinated complete system," he explains.  

After data evaluation, the etaONE platform sends back control signals, measures and recommendations for energy trading to the overall system, among other things

In addition, unlike an Excel spreadsheet, the context between data is known in the etaONE platform. "Energy conversion technologies, such as a cooling tower, are accurately modeled in the platform. The dependencies between the individual time series of the cooling tower, such as the cooling capacity or the ambient temperature, are stored in the respective model as physical equations and are thus known from the outset. Combined with the recorded measurement data, we create a highly accurate digital twin of the power system." This kind of contextual information is another aspect that makes etalytics a full package provider.

The target and customer group of etalytics

Thomas defines the target group as mid-sized to large companies that have significant heating, cooling or air conditioning needs and a centralized energy system to provide those energy needs. "An important customer group for us is data centers, for example, because they have enormous cooling requirements. Equally relevant is the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, because processes here also require a lot of heating or cooling, which is usually provided by central systems," Thomas elaborates. 

"We finance ourselves through the sale of platform licenses as well as services related to setting up and operating the etaONE platform. This is available to our customers as both on-premises and cloud variants."

By recording, structuring, analyzing and checking the generated energy data for errors such as anomalies or gaps, etalytics also helps its customers to build up a reliable database.

Powerful know-how. What makes etalytics unique:

"We combine many years of experience in industrial power engineering, data science, computer science, automation technology and operational optimization in our team. This combination is enormously powerful in the field of supply engineering. 

The team behind etalytics

In addition, in reference projects we can demonstrate savings of around 50% compared to conventional operation in standard systems. At the same time, supply security can be increased through predictive operational optimization. The issue of sustainability plays an important role in corporate strategy, especially in large companies. Ultimately, we support our customers in achieving their self-imposed sustainability goals and bringing them into line with the Sustainable Development Goals (DSGs)."

A look into the future with new innovations  

"Currently, we are scaling, and have been able to make the first installations with paying major customers. Now we want to go into the broad market with our product and gain market share," says Thomas. "In five years, we no longer want to just serve the niche in the area of operational optimization, but to offer a complete solution for everything to do with energy management in industry. For this, we are investing a lot of time, effort and money in a strong infrastructure of our solution. 

And what do you hope to gain from working with 5-HT?

"Since one of our target customer groups is the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and we already have customers in this area, it was obvious for us to become a part of 5-HT. By working together, we hope to generate leads and leverage the 5-HT network, in addition to broadening our reach."   

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