tiko is the combination of a virtual power plant (VPP) and of an intelligent system which pilots energy consumption. The intermittence inherent in renewable energy sources leads to fluctuations on the grid, and solutions such as tiko, which allow stabilization, are essential if we wish to increase the share of renewable energy in the mix. Systems of demand management, or aggregation, are familiar in big companies, but tiko is original in addressing households and using the flexibility of their existing equipment to supply balance energy.
tiko’s motto is « Use technology for more responsible energy consumption, use more renewable energy, and ultimately save our planet. »
How does the tiko solution work?
By connecting residential clients’ electrical equipment (water-heater, heat pumps, solar panels, batteries, convectors, etc.) we create storage networks able to react intelligently to fluctuations in the production and balance the consumption accordingly.
To make use of this flexibility, we postpone very slightly the operating cycles of the equipment, in order to adapt consumption to production. This is very precisely managed, thanks to our algorithms and our systems’ artificial intelligence. As we have a large number of households connected, even a slight adjustment can have a considerable effect on consumption.
We utilize the thermal inertia of heat pumps, the storage capacity of batteries, and the reactivity of convectors. For example, it is possible to turn off an electric convector for up to 30 minutes without any effect on comfort.
On each appliance we install a control unit which communicates via the house powerline with a gateway connected to an internet box. Installation only takes two hours, and there is no need to replace any appliance.
What are the advantages for the user?
First of all, overall consumption will be reduced. For example, clients who have heat pumps can use an eco mode which enables them to save up to 60% of energy when they are on holiday, without even touching the pump.
For clients using electric convector heaters, the solution allows them to control and program the temperature room by room and hour by hour, according to the way they generally use each room. The system pilots all the connected radiators in a way which ensures optimal heating, guaranteed comfort and energy savings.
Our clients also have the moral satisfaction of contributing to the energy transition. This is very important for us: we are convinced that to save the planet, everybody must improve their consumer habits. And to improve our habits, we need to understand them.
We give our clients feedback on our knowledge of their system via an Energy Management System application which allows them to follow and pilot their energy production and consumption. This tool gives them tangible evidence of how their behavior affects their energy consumption.
So this is a system intended for individuals or small companies who are connected to the grid?
Yes, the majority of our clients are connected to the grid. We have set up micogrids, for example in ski stations, where they have to manage peaks of massive energy consumption when they use the snow cannon and other appliances. But these are an exception. Our main market involves working with partners: either suppliers of equipment such as heat pumps, or sonnen, our partner in Germany manufacturing residential batteries, or else energy suppliers. With sonnen, we created a virtual power plant which has been supplying control energy to the German grid since last year.
In France, we have a pilot scheme underway with ENGIE to link up residential clients with heat pumps or direct electric heating appliances such as convectors. In Switzerland we work with our own brand name, tiko, and have equipped about eight thousand homes. For other markets, we work under a white label.
We currently control over 100 megawatts, which bears comparison with a small power station. By exploiting the flexibility of households and their existing appliances, without affecting their comfort level, and for minimal cost, we actively contribute to the stability of the grids.
tiko and ENGIE: a love story?
tiko was established by Swisscom in 2012, after Fukushima. They wanted to put to good use their knowledge of algorithms, artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine systems in the creation of a solution using residential heating to give flexibility, avoid grid overloads, and progressively abandon fossil energy.
ENGIE took control of tiko in March 2019 via a capital increase.
And it really is really a love story! ENGIE is our majority shareholder, but was already a client before that. So tiko is both supplier and a company of the Group. It’s a strong but pragmatic business relationship.
Knowing that we have all the resources of ENGIE behind us contributes massively to our development. The Digital Days, Web Summit, and ENGIE Innovation Week are wonderful shared showcases which allow us to establish contact with BUs in various countries. We have started to work with ENGIE in Belgium and with Simply in Australia, we are about to open offices in Milan, and we are studying with ENGIE Italy how they can support us. It’s a really exciting experience.
What a great lead-in to your participation in the Web Summit on 4 - 7 November! What are your expectations, and what will you be showing?
Our solution is both an Energy Management System and a VPP (Virtual Power Plant). We will be showing what we do to attract developers.
Our objective for the Web Summit is of course to make ourselves known, but primarily to recruit talent, especially software developers: Frontend, ERP, Firmware, Haskell, DevOps, and quality: test engineers. We consider that the Web Summit is the ideal place to present what we do and to attract new talent.
What makes you want to get up in the morning?
Both co-founders and employees are strongly motivated by the feeling that we are doing good, the conviction that changing our energy-consumption habits can help save our planet. Better use of energy or using greener sources of energy, is only possible with a system such as tiko, which uses flexibility to stabilize the grids and allows clients to take control of their energy consumption.
Our claim is both « Digitalizing Energy » - which is what we do - and « Together we’re stronger »- the way we want to do it. Which means that by connecting thousands of homes and allowing them to change things, we can have a significant impact on energy consumption in general, and thus on the kind of energy generated.
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