FUERGY brings an ecological dimension and a promise of earnings to the energy sector3.6.2019
We talked to Vladimír Miškovský about artificial intelligence in power engineering. Vladimír is a co-founder and CMO of FUERGY, a Slovak company that has developed intelligent software to enable companies or individuals to enter the energy market and produce renewable energy.
Today, the energy industry operates in an outdated, inefficient manner. Huge changes have to be made in the near future – literally a new era of electricity generation. FUERGY has responded very promptly and is now completing the pilot phase of an artificial intelligence software, which will enable “everyone“ to own a solar power plant and to sell excess electricity generated by it to the network. FUERGY is already enjoying the first real pilot installations in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
What issue does FUERGY address?
Fuergy responds to the trends brought about by the reality around us. The whole world is profiled in such a way that electricity will be the commodity of the 21st century. Basically, any innovation coming today is built on electricity. About 98% of innovations need electricity.
Then there is a trend towards improving the environment or at least stopping deterioration and renewable resources. These factors together have a major impact on the energy market. In the current state, we have no chance to handle the future.
Energy is terribly conservative and regulated, not just in the EU, but basically around the world. We respond to trends outside the energy world very slowly. The energy market faces a major revolution in the next five to ten years, which will have to move it significantly forward. It is necessary to catch up with other areas in the last 30 – 40 years.
The energy trend is decentralization, i. e. to produce electricity as close as possible to the place of consumption. Ideally, every consumer would produce energy himself from renewable sources and only pull what he could not produce himself from the electrical network.
What was your path to FUERGY?
I have been involved in marketing for approximately 15 years, I had a small advertising agency. Then I worked as a freelancer for a whil, and I got in touch with Slovak startups. I mentored them in marketing.
During one project, a bunch of people has met who understood each other quite well. There were also energy experts. I was a complete beginner in this field, I had completely elementary knowledge of electricity from physics at primary or secondary school. We have shared a number of discussions on how the energy market works, how the production, distribution and consumption of electricity works.
That part of our group, which did not have an energy background, looked at things a little from the layman’s point of view, but we started to ask questions to the energy people about why it is so, how it could be – we basically forced them to think differently than the classic energy thinkers… And it ended by formulating the principles of the solution we call today FUERGY. At FUERGY, we aim to change the way we produce, distribute and consume electricity, that’s the present :).
Where do you see the future of renewable energy resources going?
Renewable resources are a two-edged weapon. On the one hand, they are environmentally friendly and great, but in today’s situation, as the distribution network is set up, they are a huge problem. Their problem is that they are very difficult to predict and weather-based, but the system must be scheduled for at least 24 hours in advance.
How much electricity will be produced, so much must be consumed. But we do not know exactly how much the sun will shine, we can only predict it. Paradoxically, nowadays, when one megawatt of solar photovoltaic is built, somewhere else, a megawatt of fossil resources must be built as a backup… A coal-fired power plant must be available to cover the lack of solar energy. This means that today, although we have beautiful graphs of how renewables are growing, fossil fuels are also growing, so basically only the total installed power is growing.
If we do not change the way electricity is distributed and how electricity gets from production to the customer, we will basically do nothing about it. We no longer need to pull a huge high-voltage power line across half of the country to customers. The whole thing can be expressed by the marketing term “prosumer“, i. e. a classic customer who has his own production function. He owns a production source where he can generate energy to cover his consumption. Alternatively, when he produces more, he can sell it or release it to someone else and vice versa.
Brussels legislation is pushing for change, that’s good news. There has also been some positive change in Slovakia. It is already possible to plug a smaller source into the system so that prosumer can supply electricity and the more west we go, the more liberal the conditions are.
Who are your clients, what is the biggest benefit of FUERGY?
Our clients range from large factories to households. At the moment, however, we focus more on corporate clients, as they feel the network’s shortcomings more than residential clients (households) and are more open to discussing innovations and changing established practices. Residential clients are still conservative in terms of electricity. For most people, electricity is just about turning on the wall switch and not knowing what’s behind it.
The benefit is clearly saving, financially. But it is also about removing defects that are caused by the distribution network. For example, in production, a one-second outage that we don’t even notice will stop the machines. In addition, our solution has the advantage of better billing for consumed electricity by tenants and also provides backup power functionality. Today’s conventional back-up sources such as diesel generators are absolutely inefficient. When replaced by battery systems, they have much better financial efficiency.
Our system is built on artificial intelligence, on a neural network system that, based on many factors and data collected, decides how to optimize the flow of electricity, i. e. whether to pull energy from photovoltaics or from the network, or to buy electricity from a neighbour, or even disconnect the pool and other energy-intensive appliances, etc. We are also unique in that we offer the ability to intervene in this behaviour in real time, which is not possible on the network.
There are basically four different parties – we have traders, distribution and production, and then we have a customer. The customer has to communicate with all three parties if he wants to be an active market participant, in addition in real-time, and this is not possible without AI (artificial intelligence). Our solution is what brings order into these relationships and allows the number of participants in energy networks to grow.
Where do you manufacture?
Production is in Slovakia, as it is ideal for producing such a solution. Thanks to the automotive industry, anything we need can be produced here. We have a designer, a very smart guy who works in a prestigious automobile factory, so we’ve taken good care of the design. It is not a device that is designed for the lowest price, so we do not need to manufacture parts in China or similar countries. We would like to produce in Slovakia as long as possible.
How long have you been involved in the project? At what stage are you up to date?
We started in May last year and today we are at the stage when we have finished prototypes. As part of our product portfolio, we are already testing business solutions by customers and also by an electricity supplier in Slovakia. We’d like to test FUERGY Home, the home version, in the second half of 2019.
We can reduce the electricity bill for our business customers by 40-45% without using photovoltaics or other renewable resources. As far as the price for our solution is concerned, it is really very specific and depends on the requirements and conditions of the particular customer, but the framework price of the business solution is from 50 thousand EUR to 1 million EUR.
Can you make real money from this solution?
The principle of conventional battery systems is that when a person is not at home during the day, the battery is being charged, and when he returns home in the evening, he exhausts it. In our solution, we also take into account how the sun shines and how the system behaves, but basically the system and battery always decide how to behave.
Is it profitable? Under underestimated conditions, when the battery life is about 12 years, in 6 years this device is paid and it generates free energy for 6 years. Usual house consumption in Slovakia is about 10 megawatts a year, which means 1,400 to 1,500 EUR per year. Talking about a 6-year return on a 15,000 EUR device – Fuergy earns 2,500 EUR a year. If the customer pays 1,500 EUR per year for electricity, 1,000 EUR is the profit each year.
Why have you opted for transactions exclusively through blockchain?
Basically, we use Blockchain purely as a transparent database. We want every trade participant to believe in the data he receives – so that there is no need for state or commercial authority. However, the customer does not even know that we are counting data on blockchain, he sees transactions in euros as usual.
Are you financed from your own resources or do you have investors?
We had penny stock investors, we are currently doing Security Token Offering (STO), which is something like an IPO, a public offering, only an investor does not get a paper but a security token, a digitised action. The pilot phase required an investment of millions of euros.
How did you manage to gain trust and a great investment in projects?
Certainly, the credibility of the team’s composition and project ideas have been weighed. We have addressed people who are not from the energy sector, but understand where energy should be headed in the coming years. They understand that the energy market must undertake some changes. In fact, nowadays, if one does not have hundreds of millions available, one cannot become part of the energy market. It is a very conservative market where it is very difficult to get in today. And if there is a solution that can bring a change, it is a way for the investor to become part of the energy market today.
What would you advise to other start-ups in this field?
I would certainly be looking for private investors for the first phase. It’s about chemistry and whether they can cooperate, understand each other and whether they can explain their project properly. The more the start-up people understand the field, they will be more interesting for a private investor. Money can now be obtained quite easily for good relevant projects. So, when someone wants to start a start-up, I’d probably do it now…
Even if it doesn’t work out well, it’s an experience. Sometimes the journey is the destination and one needs to try until it works out. I would advise you to get a relevant team, friends from the neighbourhood are not always the best team members :). Partners must be able to say things straight, that is very important and they need to know what they are doing. I think it’s ridiculous when people try to create start-ups in diametrically opposed areas every year. Once your product solves a problem, the door is open for you.
Which job success or lesson are you the proudest of so far?
People move forward thanks to failures rather than successes. I generally learned from my failures that it is very important to be able to communicate, to know how to share with others what we do and show them the right view. Do not rely on people to understand what you think they will understand it, but ensure that it is really said, so that people understand it :).
How many members does your team have? Why did you decide to work from coworking?
Our team has 38 members. We have offices in Bratislava and Žilina. We have a project and marketing team in HubHub in Bratislava, which is currently 10 people and the rest is in Žilina, there are our energy engineers, programmers and hardware engineers. In my opinion, there is no better city to do IT development for energy than Žilina. I don’t know if there are so many skilled and experienced developers anywhere else in Slovakia.
We wanted to be in coworking right from the start, leaving us with fewer responsibilities and cheaper costs. The community is also a benefit. From co-workings in Bratislava, I think HubHub is at the highest level.
What is the biggest benefit to you as far as working from HubHub is concerned?
In the beginning, when one really wants to succeed in business, he needs to hear a lot of ideas, whether ideological, factual or business, from people from different backgrounds. And why run around Bratislava when they are concentrated in one place. In my opinion, HubHub has the liveliest community and it feels like real coworking the most. It is a networking centre and has also helped us with the promotion.
What is the biggest myth about working in a coworking?
When somebody mentioned coworking to me six years ago, I imagined a bearded guy enjoying a cinnamon latte. This is the fundamental myth – a combination of coworking and hipsters. I still encounter opinions that, in coworking, kids of rich parents are coding the applications for their money, which is also not true.
Tell us where you spend most of your time in HubHub?
The day begins with a morning coffee meeting in the kitchen. Otherwise, we are mostly just in the office or the meeting room. It suits us because we have to talk a lot at work. We booked it for today as well:)
Article in cooperation with Daily Upgrade.