Skip to main content

The world's first edge computing solution for SMEs enabling energy efficiency, Industry 4.0 and new business models for the energy sector

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENIT Agent 2.0 (The world's first edge computing solution for SMEs enabling energy efficiency, Industry 4.0 and new business models for the energy sector)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-04-30

Increasing energy consumption and energy transition in the context of the ambitious EU climate targets pose major challenges for Europe and the European industry. Especially SMEs, representing 99% of Europe’s enterprises offer great potential for reducing energy consumption and achieving the EU 2030 climate goals. Unfortunately, due to limited resources and intense competition, SMEs focus on their core business rather than on optimization of energy consumption and efficiency. Consequently, SMEs as well as the EU miss a huge potential of CO2 reduction. Therefore, recording and analysis of energy data and deriving of energy saving potentials is essential to reduce energy consumption and foster energy transition in Europe’s SMEs. Beside energy efficiency, digitalisation and Industry 4.0 are further trends challenging the European industry. European SMEs, in particular, are looking for efficient, digitised production processes and systems to remain competitive in the face of competition from countries with low-cost production factors (e.g. Asia).

Beyond SMEs, Europe's energy economy finds itself in the middle of a profound change. Trends – such as stagnating demand, growth of renewable energies and resulting volume risk in energy generation, as well as descending prices at the electricity exchange – affect and challenge the European energy system. As a result, European utilities have lost hundreds of billions of dollars of market value in the past decade. To ensure the future viability, a fundamental transformation of Europe's energy economy including the redesign of traditional business models, e.g. by integrating SMEs for direct participation in the energy market, is essential.

In this context, ENIT Energy IT Systems GmbH, a spin-off from Fraunhofer ISE institute, founded and established in Freiburg (DE) in 2014, developed a cutting-edge energy management system – the ENIT Agent. The ENIT Agent is a worldwide unique decentral energy management system (EMS) especially tailored for SMEs with high energy consumption, characterised by its comprehensive compatibility to energy meters, the worldwide highest time resolution of energy data recorded and by its extensive analytical functionalities for optimisations. Further relevant company data, e.g. process data, can be integrated via interoperable interfaces and transferred from and to other company management systems. With this functionality, the ENIT Agent transforms from a simple EMS to an industrial IoT-platform for Industry 4.0. Furthermore, with the unique modular software concept, by utilizing an open API (application programming interface), ENIT is able to add functionalities to the ENIT Agent. With its highly flexible concept, the functionalities of the ENIT Agent can be perfectly adapted in accordance with different customer needs.

The overall objective of the project was to develop the ENIT Agent further to make a tremendous step to revolutionise energy management and to break down three crucial barriers for SMEs in Europe by:
• Increasing energy efficiency of SMEs by data driven analysis;
• Offering interoperable Industry 4.0 interfaces to integrate energy data, industrial process data and business intelligence (ERP/MES);
• Enabling new business models in the energy sector by integrating SMEs for direct participation in the energy market (e.g. blockchain).

These objectives were achieved by adding an extended open API for third party applications and building a central/decentral IT infrastructure as well as developing further interoperable Industry 4.0 interfaces for upscaling the European rollout. For commercialisation, additional partners (industrial manufacturers, utilities, etc.) were acquired, supporting sales and using the API. Together with existing partners, ENIT developed new analytic applications e.g. for the dimensioning and calculation of the profitability of PV installations. Further, with the systematic recording and analysis of energy consumption, predictive maintenance based on energy and process data was enabled for SMEs, reducing production downtime. Overall, with the developments of the project, the ENIT Agent contributes to the reduction of energy consumption as well as to the increase of the competitiveness of Europe’s SMEs against large companies and against companies from countries with low production costs, to keep value creation in Europe.

Based on the customer feedback during the project, ENIT has already envisaged the next development step: making the ENIT Agent a key enabler for the implementation of PV in the industry by providing a sound data basis for ROI calculation for PV installation and by controlling and optimising the energy self-generation of the PV installed taking into account the industrial production planning and a forecast of the PV-generated energy.
During the project, ENIT redesigned and adapted the ENIT Agent software and implemented communication drivers and interoperable industry 4.0 interfaces (e.g. to ERP systems) for up-scaling and providing an open API for third party applications. First third-party applications as well as new applications for data acquisition, monitoring, analysis and control (e.g. annual load curves, energy performance indicator (EnPI)-analysis, multi-industry analysis) were developed and implemented by ENIT. Further, the systems architecture was adapted to enable up-scaling and big data processing. Organisational and technical improvements have been made for the ENIT Agents’ production up-scaling (e.g. automated configuration). In order to enlarge the portfolio of applications offered, ENIT started to contract strategic partners for the implementation of new applications basing on the API. A quality management and a comprehensive service concept including specific analyses and reporting were set up. For sales and distribution, internationally operating sales partners were contracted and customers with multiple sites throughout Europe were addressed. Communication and dissemination measures were implemented to promote project results to targeted audiences. The ENIT Agent was also exhibited at different external fairs/conferences as well as at ENITs own customer day.
In contrast to all other energy management systems, the ENIT Agent is the first EMS able to communicate with every meter regardless of type or make (electricity, gas etc.), with all common systems in energy technology (solar collector systems, inverters etc.) and with all common systems of industrial machines through specifically developed communication drivers and interfaces. With its high resolution of measuring every 15 seconds (vs. 15 min for competing solutions) ENIT Agent identifies much more potential for reducing energy consumption and costs. Further, the modularity of the ENIT Agent’s software allows opening an API for third party applications, laying the base for the exploitation of the full strategic value of the technology. Both industry and society benefit from the business innovation project and its outcome: energy consumption of Europe’s 23 million SMEs can be analysed and reduction potentials can be revealed, leading to a significant reduction of carbon emissions of SMEs by 5%-20% to meet EU climate objectives. Further, none of the competing solutions addresses SMEs as well as European utilities with regards to participation and new business models in the energy economy.