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Why less energy makes more business sense

Startups use Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things to bring down energy consumption, electricity bills.

Written by Priyanka Sahoo | Mumbai |
Updated: January 23, 2018 7:39:57 pm
Startups, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, energy consumption, electricity bills, tech news, India news, indian express At Smart Joules in Jangpura, Delhi. The startup helped Sant Parmanand Hospital cut energy consumption by 35% and win a national award. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

* Sant Parmanand Hospital in Delhi bagged a national award in 2016 after slashing its energy consumption by 35%, thanks to Delhi-based Smart Joules.

* Gurgaon-based Zenatix claims to have saved 2,700 Megawatt hour of energy and over Rs 2 crore annually in energy bills of clients.

* Ecolibrium Energy, incubated in IIM Ahmedabad, can help reduce 5-25% consumption at an industrial plant.

* Chennai-based Energyly uses a model based on WiFi and GPRS to help businesses reduce consumption by 3-7 percent over a three-month period.

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FROM DELHI to Chennai, these are among a host of startups that have emerged in the field of smart Energy Management Systems (EMS) over the last five years. And, what makes them different from traditional EMS firms is their ability to leverage Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Machine Learning to bring down energy consumption and electricity bills.

“Our startup was able to reduce energy consumption by 47,35,763 kVAh across customers, equivalent to the annual consumption of more than 4,250 Indians, in 2017 alone,” says Arjun Gupta, one of the co-founders of Smart Joules, which monitors, analyses and reduces consumption in buildings. Sant Parmanand Hospital, incidentally, was its first client.

Ecolibrium Energy, one of the earliest startups in the field, started operations in late 2010 to improve energy efficiency at the industrial level. Today, the company can help reduce between 5 per cent and 25 per cent of the consumption of a plant.

“In India, almost 30 per cent of the power generated is lost. So we wanted to cut down on the losses and make industries bring their consumption down. But when we started, we realised that even though industries were willing to reduce consumption, they didn’t know how. Only at the end of the month, when a bill is received, would industries know their consumption and match it with their manually collected readings from across plants,” says Chintan Soni, co-founder of Ecolibrium.

Soni’s company then developed a dashboard to monitor realtime energy consumption. “Once there was data to monitor, it made sense to analyse this data and make predictions on usage. Based on these predictions, we could make suggestions for cutting down consumption,” says the 43-year-old.

Dayal Nathan, co-founder of Energyly, which was established in 2015, agrees with Soni. “When I started, I realised that while there are energy metering devices available in the market, the reports generated were too complicated and the data was not understood. There was a huge gap,” says Nathan.

It is this gap that the startups are trying to bridge. They use technology to disrupt the traditional understanding of energy efficiency, i.e, installation of energy efficient infrastructure and conducting energy audits. Besides, they analyse the energy usage of existing infrastructure and suggest options for optimum utilisation of existing resources. Some go a step further and provide automated solutions.

Sibabrata Das and Manoj Meena at the Atomberg production plant in Mhape. Express photo by Janak Rathod

“Traditionally, energy efficiency would mean retrofits and changes in infrastructure. We are talking about data-driven efficiency,” says Rahul Bhalla, a co-founder of Zenatix, which provides solutions to the retail and banking sector.

Atomberg Technologies Pvt Ltd, a startup incubated at IIT-Bombay, has even built an energy efficient ceiling fan that can monitor realtime data on usage. “A unique algorithm drives the motors. The algorithm running on a microcontroller is responsible for logging and analysing relevant motor parameters. The data is being logged in real time, and the same is analysed to improve the performance for further energy savings,” says Arindam Paul, 28, one of the founding members.

Meanwhile, clients are happy that their energy bills are going down. More so, because for many businesses, particularly energy-guzzling ones such as manufacturing units and commercial buildings, energy bills form a major part of their expenses.

Dr S Rajagopal, director of Sant Parmanand Hospital, says that while the switch to analytics was a long process, the effort paid off well. “The switch happened in stages over a year but we were able to cut down our consumption by 35 per cent in a year. That is a significant cut down,” he says.

Almost all these startups feel that their solutions could help bring about equitable distribution of energy but need the government’s support. “There has to be more focus on energy efficiency from the government similar to the focus on solar energy. There should be a target set by the government for all industries and not just the large ones to cut down energy consumption,” says Gupta, 32, from Smart Joules.

Bhalla from Zenatix agrees that there was a need to regulate energy consumption of industries across sectors. “We need to look beyond energy audits and infrastructure changes when it comes to increasing efficiency. For this, startups will need to develop closed-loop solutions which will encompass data capturing, analysis as well as automated solutions,” he says.

Rahul Bhalla with co-founder of Zenatix in Gurugram. Photo by Manoj Kumar

Investors, too, feel that power saved can be diverted to areas where there is none.

Says Manish Singhal, co-founder, pi Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in ideas that use Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Internet of Things: “There are places where there is too much power and then there are places where there is no access. The solution to this inequity is the right usage of what you have.”

How they bring change

Ecolibrium Energy
Base: Ahmedabad
Product: Energy Analytics Platform – SmartSense enables commercial and industrial users to take crucial operational decisions for optimising productivity and asset uptime saving up to 15% energy and asset maintenance spends.
Energy saved: 5-25 per cent of a plant’s consumption.

Base: Chennai
Product: A WiFi and a GPRS Model for real-time energy monitoring helping businesses reduce power costs and increase productivity. It is a blended hardware-software solution that connects to electrical devices and sends electrical data to cloud on a minute-by-minute basis. The data is assessed by customers on mobile and desktop web app with analytics to know energy wastage points, find devices which consume more power.
Energy saved: 3-7 per cent over a three-month period.

Equipment installed under Energy saving project in St. Stephen Hospital In New Delhi. Now saving approx 30 percent energy than earlier. Express Photo by Praveen Khanna

Base: Gurgaon
Product: Wattman is a platform for retail chains and ATMs which delivers centralised governance, ensures consistent customer experience and provides risk mitigation through automated and intelligent controls.
Energy saved: 2,700 MW/hour and over Rs 2 crore annually in bills.

Smart Joules
Base: New Delhi
Product: Technology platform DeJoule that leverages a combination of self-designed IoT infrastructure and algorithms for automatic and continuous data-based optimisation of central air conditioning systems.
Energy saved: Equivalent to annual consumption of over 4,250 Indians in 2017.

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