Guru Systems and FairHeat won the Innovation of the Decade Award at the Association for Decentralised Energy's Awards Dinner on 19 October 2017 for using performance data to radically improve heat network efficiency.
Guru Pinpoint was developed by Guru Systems in 2014. It allows operators to monitor the energy efficiency of networks in real time, quickly identify costly inefficiencies and reduce carbon emissions. The web-based platform is used by the operators of 75 UK heat networks. FairHeat has used the platform on its projects to inform design, commission networks, and improve legacy schemes.
Guru Systems set out to create tools that allow designers to see the real-life performance of their systems and enable operators to build and operate better, more efficient heat networks. Guru Pinpoint was the result of a two-year project funded through the Heat Networks Innovation Competition by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) now the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Using machine learning algorithms, Guru Systems analysed finely grained consumption data from more than 20 heat networks across the UK. This data was used to identify the causes of inefficiency and propose interventions to improve performance. Extensive physical interventions were then carried out on three of the networks (Elizabeth House, Stead Street and Stockwell Park), with close monitoring of results. These trials enabled Guru Systems to build the platform.
The range of data ingested by the platform is key. Pinpoint is designed to analyse data from properties and the plant room, as well as data on the volume of gas used by the central plant, power consumed by pumps, sensors for flow temperature, return temperature and flow rates in flats.
Guru Pinpoint tracks performance across heat networks from generation to distribution, with machine-learning algorithms trained to recognise patterns in the problems they discover, allowing the platform to constantly evolve and improve itself as it ingests more and more data.
The first product of its kind, Guru Pinpoint was designed to address the root causes of inefficiency on heat networks:
- Designers don’t see the results of their designs. As there is little operating data, engineers often lack confidence that their designs will meet peak demand and to avoid liability risk and potential legal action they compensate by oversizing. Through the development of the platform, Guru Systems and FairHeat saw systems designed for loads four or five times larger than required. Not only are these networks inefficient, they are also more expensive to build.
- Heat providers are unaware of network performance, meaning causes of inefficiency remain hidden. This could be oversizing, poor commissioning and design, or heat losses across the network.
- As a result of these causes, heat losses from many networks can be 70% or 80% of heat produced in the plant room.
Guru Pinpoint is now being used on more than 75 heat networks serving more than 5,600 homes, and has captured 175 million meter readings, providing crucial efficiency data on flow and return temperatures, peak load data and customer demand profiles.
Guru Pinpoint is now being used to improve sites across the UK, with energy consultancy FairHeat having used the technology on all of its projects since its launch through design, specification, commissioning and operation.
DECC-validated figures show that using Guru Pinpoint could save the energy industry over £233 million and 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 over ten years while Guru Pinpoint's own research and data suggests potential savings of just under £400 million and over 800,000 tonnes of CO2over 10 years. These benefits come mainly from the reduction in the oversizing of networks as increased fuel efficiency across the lifetime of these new systems.
Guru Systems and FairHeat have calculated the following additional benefits:
- Reduced costs: Operators can save up to 35% on mechanical and electrical capital costs by sizing networks correctly using data gathered from sites.
- Lower bills: More efficient heat networks mean lower tariffs. On one of the test sites, Guru Pinpoint saw residents’ tariff reduced from 7.7p to 3.8p per kwh.
- Increased efficiency: Guru Pinpoint allows operators to locate problems and provides costed measures for improvement. One sites with Guru Pinpoint installed improved efficiency by 68% and saw an 80% cost saving in pump room energy.
“The data is particularly useful for us at DECC, we need the real-world evidence about how we could reduce costs and improve the energy efficiency of heat networks, and to get to that point we have to disseminate all of the learning that is coming out of innovations, such as Guru Pinpoint,” David Wagstaff, Head of Heat Networks Team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
“I was actually blown away by the accuracy of the results generated. Pinpoint was able to gather extensive real-time performance data on our heat network and quickly translate it into clear and practical actions,” Gavin Pierson, Head of Mechanical & Electrical services, Network Housing Group.