Smart agents can reduce fossil footsteps

16 April 2018
Joakim Pontén

A local marketplace where energy for heating, cooling and electricity can be traded between buildings can be one step towards a future fossil-free energy system. An extensive EU-project is now testing such a solution at the campus of Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. Automated software agents will buy and sell energy in a digital marketplace, developed by Ericsson.

“This is the most rewarding work I've done since I started working at Ericsson. The technology is very interesting using, both artificial intelligence and distributed cloud solutions. But also, to meet all the experts from the other local partners in the project brings many new insights,” says Joakim Pontén, Senior IoT Solution Architect at Ericsson. 

Fossil-Free Energy Districts (FED) is an EU-funded project run in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, where Ericsson is one of nine local partners. By connecting both cooling, heating and electricity into a single system the project is unique. The testbed of FED is campus Johanneberg, one of two campuses of Chalmers University of Technology and an area that produces a large part of its own energy through solar cells, heat pumps and a biomass plant in the area. 

To create the digital marketplace, Joakim Pontén and his colleagues is linking the existing operating systems of the buildings with Ericsson's platform for Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. On top of this a number of robotised smart agents are connected to constantly monitor energy consumption as well as weather forecasts and other factors that can affect the energy supply and consumption. 

“As the share of renewable energy from sun and wind increases, we will see greater differences in energy prices depending on the energy supply of a given time. Our system creates an economic incentive for the consumers to be flexible and consume energy when the availability is high and the price low. This could for example mean that you would heat up a house a few hours before the cold weather is predicted. The consumer saves money and at the same time we avoid using gas and oil to maintain the marginal production.”

The entire marketplace is cloud-based and automated. Agents pick up data from the system and buy and sell energy whenever it is most beneficial. They are also based on machine learning, meaning that throughout the project they become better and better at managing their tasks. The goal of FED is to cut fossil energy peaks by 80 percent and reduce the amount of imported energy into the system by 30 percent. 

A prerequisite for the project to be implemented is that the campus area is exempted from Swedish electricity law. If the solution is to be scaled up and used in other neighborhoods or cities, the current regulations must be changed. More fossil-free energy districts in Europe and around the world would mean a clear step towards reaching the global goal of a more affordable, clean and sustainable energy system.

"We are very interested to see how we can apply this globally. We work in 180 countries and believe that this may be even more relevant in other parts of the world, beyond Europe and the more traditional energy supply networks, " says Joakim Pontén.

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Joakim Pontén 
Senior IoT Solution Architect 

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