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The potential of individual buildings for solar in Oxford. Image: Energeo.
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Current± Disruptors: Energeo's Ian Dee on using geospatial big data to accelerate decarbonisation

The potential of individual buildings for solar in Oxford. Image: Energeo.

Energeo specialises in using geospatial big data to identify the best sites for low carbon technology, working with a number of local authorities to help accelerate their decarbonisation efforts.

The company is one of six that were chosen for the Energy Systems Catapult's Innovator Support Programme earlier this year, a scheme designed to help speed up the process of getting products to market and scaling up, built around the individual needs of the company.

Current± spoke to Ian Dee, CEO of Energeo, about how the process works, the benefits of being a digital business and how different types of data can work together to benefit the energy system.


What role does Energeo have in the energy sector?

What Energeo is doing is digitally studying the built environment, using sources such as satellite imagery, to automatically determine the most beneficial locations for low carbon technologies. Solar PV is one of those technologies, but we are also doing work with wind, ground source and air source heat pumps, and we're doing a lot of work in EV charge point siting at the moment as well.

It's a very non-intrusive approach; we don't need to go out to site to look at things because we're using digital data to do that part of the work for us, and we're using machine learning techniques to extract information from that data.

That approach really is benefiting our clients - who are predominantly local authorities at the moment - by reducing their initial surveying cost but also accelerating that intelligence gathering process. Essentially what Energeo is doing is giving local authorities an empirically observed evidence base on which to build their net zero strategies.

What characteristics do you look for when surveying a site?

With solar, our process is to automatically measure roof pitch, roof aspect, roof area, and then calculate how many modules you could install. Then we estimate average irradiance over the course of a year and run that through financial and environmental calculations to determine install costs, CO2 savings, return on investment and so on. Although we're working with geospatial big data, looking at entire towns and cities, we're doing it down to the individual property level.

Energeo's recent EV work supporting East Lothian Council. Image: Energeo.
Energeo's recent EV work supporting East Lothian Council. Image: Energeo.

With the electric vehicle work that we're doing at the moment, it is definitely more driven by policy and the funding that's available to stakeholders. For example, there’s the On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) available through OLEV, but for a local authority to access that funding they need to produce evidence that they've done the research; where are their residential areas, where is there a dearth of driveways, where is the demand, what are the potential constraints to installing charge points on street in those areas?

To that end, what we're doing with local authorities is using satellite imagery and digital mapping to automatically identify which properties do and don't have driveways - as there is no national driveway database – to determine demand and then looking at additional constraints such as footway widths and where and how people park their cars in on-street areas.

Alongside the cost of surveying, what are the problems you looking to solve as a business?

The cost of surveying is just one challenge we are trying to solve; to go out and collect data for a whole town or city is a big, time consuming and costly exercise.

The real problem we're trying to solve, however, is that the data climate stakeholders need simply doesn't exist in a lot of areas and if it does exist it's often siloed, not comprehensive enough or it's out of date. So our approach is to say to the stakeholder “if you're going to make strategic decisions about how you decarbonise an entire city, or how you transition 100,000 residents from ICE vehicles to EVs, where do you start”? Our products are that starting point, that baseline and that evidence base for action.

Open data is becoming a bigger focus for a lot of players in the energy space. How does that interact with what you’re doing?

Open data is fantastic, and more and more datasets are becoming open all the time. That is really helping foster innovation, and to answer problems and solve challenges on a neighborhood level or a postcode level.

But, getting down to granular level – such as an individual property - is a real challenge, and often can’t be achieved with open data alone. For example, a postcode covers an area that generally has an archetype of properties and people within it, but not always, so one policy or strategy for one person within that postcode is not necessarily the right one for the others. Whereas if you can get down to that more granular level, you can start to work out individually what the challenges are and what the solutions need to be. Our data agnostic approach allow us to this.

As a business with a digital focus has COVID-19 had any significant impact on you?

We started remote working a week before the lockdown was announced, and thankfully it has been pretty much 'business-as-usual'. We are servicing existing, long term anchor contracts and we are still securing new business. I think the fact that we are a fully digital business has been extremely beneficial during this period.

Additionally, we see the current pandemic presenting an opportunity for Energeo. During COVID-19 we have experienced massive reductions in air pollution, zero energy generation from coal and streets clear of traffic and congestion. Our products and services can help stakeholders ensure that once lock down restrictions are eased we don’t return to pre-pandemic levels.

Editorial

Alice Grundy Junior reporter, Current±

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