The Spanish company gives a brief overview of the state of the innovation projects in which is currently working on, and the progress that has been made in the difficult 2020-2021 social period. We spoke to Pablo Barrachina and Ramón Ruiz, heads of the company’s R&D department, to offer an analysis of the projects’ development, evaluating for the challenges that have arisen, and what the future holds for the company.
Innovation and development in the middle of a pandemic
Last year has been a complex period in everyone’s life, due to the social and economic situation caused by the global pandemic. It has been a year in which our company has had to adapt in order to be able to continue its “normal” daily development. Moreover, the pandemic has marked the way in which private companies and public institutions develop their research and innovation activities. All the companies that collaborate within the Horizon2020 Programme, promoted by the European Union to respond to environmental objectives, have adapted their agendas, their way of working and their internal functioning, providing an effective solution that would allow them to maintain the scheduled itineraries in the development of each project.
At an operational level, teleworking and remote management systems have been implemented, limiting direct contact with the pilot tests’ participants as much as possible, always applying anti-COVID measures to guarantee the security of all the members participating in the projects. At an organisational level, interesting progress has been made in the field of innovation management, as it has been possible to funnel all the development within the organisations of the participating entities but guaranteeing a flow of communication and cooperation between all of them to jointly analyse and develop the progress obtained in each work nucleus.
A year of challenges for research and development
This year and 2020 have been two good years for R&D investment in Spain, reaching the highest levels of investment in recent years (1.47% of GDP), but still far from the levels of other European economies. The increase in investment has not avoided the asymmetry in the application of these funds nor the regularity with which they are developed. There is still a large deficit in activity between SMEs compared to the involvement of public institutions and large companies. This issue, along with the lack of digital training of employees dedicated to these research projects, and the disparity of adequate infrastructures by region are seen as three of the main challenges still facing innovation in SMEs in Spain. It is necessary to overcome these problems in order to maximise the effect of these funds in the whole business environment.
Two points of views about MIWenergía’s research, development and innovation activities
According to Pablo Barrachina, R&D Manager at MIWenergía, “the support and funding that we receive from the European Commission is an economic and technical reinforcement to deal with the challenges face during the development of the European projects, with the final goal of implementing these innovations on the services we provide to our clients “.
On the other hand, Ramón Ruiz, Project Manager of MIWenergía comments that “there is still a lot of potential to develop in the field of energy in Spain and Europe. We are at the beginning of a process of profound transformation that will completely change the way that we consume and understand the European electricity market”.
The Horizon 2020 R&D projects in detail
The Horizon 2020 programme continues to make unstoppable progress towards achieving the research and innovation objectives set in various areas of the European context. To this end, we offer a brief summary of the stage of completion of the projects in which MIWenergía participates.
DRIMPAC project enters in its final stage. The objective was to provide a technological framework to facilitate interaction between the electricity grid and users, achieve greater flexibility in energy demand and offer more competitive energy prices for the consumer. The project will be completed in August 2022, and during this last year practically all the devices were installed in dwellings and offices. By the beginning of the last quarter of 2021, the user interface tools will be available allowing the users to control the new devices and monitor their consumption. Once it is up and running, users will be informed about how these tools work, and then the demonstration phase of the solution will start.[/vc_column][/vc_row]
Almost a year has passed since the project started in September 2020. The implementation phase has just ended in the pre-pilot at the University of Murcia, where the solutions and services that will be applied to the rest of the pilots will be tested. During the last quarter of the year, it is expected to start the deployment of the solution in the rest of the planned locations. On the technical side, work is being carried out on the acquisition of new devices to improve the SRI (Building Intelligence Indicator) and allow users further control of their appliances and to participate in the electricity market through demand response actions.[/vc_column][/vc_row]
First semester of the project’s life completed. During these months, work has been carried out on the development of the business models and use cases to be tested in the different pilots. Communication material aimed at engaging end users and collaborators has also been developed. The Murcia pilot has already pre-selected the 50 residential users that will participate in the project. The next step for the pilot will be to conduct audits of the selected users’ dwellings and then proceed with the planning of the devices purchase and installation.[/vc_column][/vc_row]
The 5th Project Meeting took place this week, where the progress made during the first half of the project was evaluated. The experiences of the 2nd Summer School for students and the first edition of the Summer Training for professionals have also been evaluated. These activities were held online last June due to the impossibility of holding it in person, as planned from the beginning, in the city of Katowice. The result of both events has been very positive and valuable information has been gathered to continue improving the final product of the project. In these courses, MIWenergia participated as a speaker at the Summer School, explaining the electricity market and the actors that participate in it; and in the Summer Training, explaining the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan for Spain, as well as participating as a student.[/vc_column][/vc_row]
April saw the end of the UtilitEE project, the first H2020 project in which MIWenergía participated as a pilot partner in this European project. The project has achieved very promising data for the first version of the proposed solution. The pilots showed great interest in the development and testing of the project, and good results for energy savings were achieved. All this was reported in the project’s Handbook.
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Pharaon reaches the halfway point of its implementation, which is entering the final period of adaptation and development of the individual technologies for their integration into the overall solution. MIWenergía is adapting its monitoring and service solutions (uGRID and MIW+) to process information from IoT devices in real time and extract information from it, always with the main purpose of improving the care and attention of the elderly. By analysing electricity consumption along with other data, alerts and events related to possible health problems will be generated to inform caregivers and healthcare staff of the Murcian Health Service. The pre-pilot is scheduled to begin in September, with the rest of the technologies to be deployed in November. This will test the complete solution for the remainder of the project, validating the correlation of the energy domain with the health domain.
The PRECEPT project is nine months old. In this initial stage, the systems to be used for the global solution has been explored, and now the partners-providers will select the participants who will take part in the study in each of the pilot tests to be carried out in Greece, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine and Spain. In addition, the current building stock of the buildings participating in the pilots has already been analysed and solutions to achieve reductions in energy consumption have already been proposed. Furthermore, work is being done to digitise the residential areas in BIM models, which will be used in the collaborative platform to know the energy situation of the pilot in real time.
Personal data are becoming increasingly important to their true owners. During this first phase, work has been done on the definition of the platform, the elicitation of needs for both data-providers and data-seekers, and the functionalities of each pilot. Next step will be launching the first version of the platform that will allow to carry out the initial tests without users to check the functionalities of the platform. MIWenergía has developed an API to connect users’ energy data with the platform. Thanks to this, users will be able to enjoy the design of their photovoltaic installation free of charge, together with energy saving recommendations.
What does the immediate future hold for MIWenergía R&D&i?
The energy company continues its path of integrating innovations in all processes that affect the company’s operations. MIWenergía is working on both European innovation projects and internal innovations, making efforts in two directions: upgrading the services currently offered to customers and collaborators, and creating new synergies to bring new products and services to the market that will complete the comprehensive range of energy services offered in the company’s portfolio.
Among these implementations we can highlight:
- MIW+. Good progress is being made to bring the second version of the energy management platform to the market. This platform has already demonstrated its good performance and usefulness for customers. In fact, last April it was recognised as the best energy management platform of the year at the VIVIENDA 2021 awards presented by the newspaper La Razón.
- uGRID. A new version of this energy manager is being finalised, which will be very useful to optimise energy consumption and help you save almost 20% more on your electricity bills thanks to multi-point monitoring.
Pablo Barrachina, R+D Manager at MIWenergía
“Our objective for this year is to tackle new R&D projects within the Horizon Europe Programme and continue to provide our knowledge of the electricity market in the many facets it addresses. We must focus our efforts, as an energy retailer, on helping the energy transition process and accelerating the process of decarbonisation of the European economy as much as possible. This will also require the active participation of consumers, companies and local institutions involved in creating the right framework to promote this change of the electricity market”. He also added that “this is a process whose strategy must involve all participants. The global strategy must structure properly the different local strategies so that the transformation process is not implemented at different speeds”.
Ramón Ruiz, Project Manager at MIWenergía and Specialist in Photovoltaic Self-consumption
“There is still a lot to be done in the digitalisation, monitoring and optimisation of PV self-consumption. Over the next few years, we will focus on continuing to innovate in these aspects, also addressing management strategies with energy prosumers”. To which he adds, “prosumers are a key figure within the future scheme that will shape the Spanish energy system, on which MIWenergía will focus a large part of its developments, both internally and by cooperating within the programmes encompassed in Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe. The use of storage technologies is already being encouraged by the government. Distributed generation and storage are key to improving the electricity grid and transforming it into a smart grid which, together with the current reform of data access and the evolution of the electricity metering system, will be key to meeting the current challenges facing the sector”.