Bringing Global Innovation to the Search for Smarter, Cleaner Energy

Nov 1, 2019 8:00 AM ET
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Some of the biggest utility companies and most innovative start-up companies in the world gathered in Hong Kong this summer to brainstorm ideas for new digital technologies for the power industry with the potential to deliver smarter, cleaner energy.

Free Electrons, a global start-up accelerator programme focusing on new energy technologies, held a week-long module in Hong Kong for the first time in June. CLP was the host as Free Electrons member utilities and start-ups deepened their cooperation on energy products and services backed by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and the Internet of Things.

“As a densely populated city with the world’s highest concentration of skyscrapers, a reliable and efficient electricity supply is extremely important for us all. These unique characteristics make Hong Kong an excellent test bed for energy innovation,” CLP CEO Richard Lancaster says. “Collaboration is absolutely invaluable, not just with start-up organisations, but also with other like-minded utilities.”

Free Electrons was founded in 2017 and runs annual programmes that connect leading electricity companies with start-ups to fast-track the development of new energy solutions.

Alongside CLP, Free Electrons member utilities are American Electric Power, AusNet Services, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board, Energias de Portugal, European energy company Innogy, Origin Energy from Australia, the Singapore-based SP Group, and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The Hong Kong module in June followed meetings in Dublin and Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year. Almost 500 start-ups from around the world were evaluated before 15 finalists were selected to work with the 10-member utilities to pilot new products and technologies for possible commercialisation. The start-ups and utilities will meet again for a final module in Lisbon in September.

“Joining Free Electrons not only meant we can engage and deliver our pitch to the utilities, but more importantly we can find out more about their pain points and figure out how we can tailor our solutions to meet their needs,” says Julian Lee, CEO of Hong Kong based-Ambi Labs, one of the start-up finalists of Free Electrons 2019. Ambi Labs helps users control their indoor environment, including air-conditioning, with artificial intelligence technologies.

Established utilities with world-class capabilities in energy services and engineering can speed up innovation by leveraging the disruptive technologies offered by start-ups, says CLP Senior Director for Innovation Austin R. Bryan. “Digital tools like artificial intelligence are strategic pieces of the future of energy and are fundamental to the way a successful 21st century energy company will operate,” he says.

CLP has worked with start-ups from Asia, Europe, and North America on technologies including predictive analytics for grid management and smart homes since joining Free Electrons in 2018.

Adaptricity, a provider of power grid analytics software from Switzerland, started working with CLP during Free Electrons last year to develop solutions for tracking grid performance as renewable power is integrated into the system through the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

“Data is one of the key disrupters that will enable a greener energy future,” says Adaptricity Project & Sales Engineer Benjamin Schaule. “There is an abundance of opportunities in energy technologies right now with data.”

Smart homes technology company Howz completed a pilot project in Hong Kong with CLP as part of the Free Electrons 2018 programme. The British company’s products track the electricity use of senior citizens and people with medical needs, delivering alerts to relatives and caregivers when problems arise. “The elderly population is growing, and we have an opportunity to work with CLP to learn about the market in Hong Kong,” says Howz Chief Operating Officer Louise Rogerson.

At the CLP and Free Electrons Ecosystem Immersion Day at the Hong Kong module, the Free Electrons start-up companies presented ideas on energy innovation to more than 200 executives, entrepreneurs, technologists, business partners, investors, and policy makers. The event explored potential new energy services and business models for use in Hong Kong and beyond.

The Immersion Day was officiated by Hong Kong Government’s Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology Dr David Chung and featured speakers from businesses and organisations including CK Hutchison Holdings, the Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute, and KPMG.

“We hope to be able to connect the Hong Kong ecosystem to the ecosystem we are creating in the Free Electrons programme, exposing energy disrupters around the world to the fantastic innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Hong Kong,” Austin explains.

Smart Energy Connect – Asia’s first online app store for energy management innovations

As part of CLP’s transformation into a Utility of the Future, CLP has introduced Smart Energy Connect (SEC), Asia’s first online energy app store offering a range of innovative and practical applications to help businesses and organisations in Hong Kong and the region manage energy usage in a greener and smarter way.

SEC is a one-stop gateway for energy users to find apps developed by CLP and our partners, powered by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics to make energy systems smarter, more efficient and sustainable.

Users can access the store through www.clpsec.com.

To learn more about CLP’s connection with society, please check out the latest issue of CLP.CONNECT.