Watt Matters is a Brussels-based engineering consulting company specialised in the renovation and energy transition of buildings. They turned to Opinum to ensure a scrupulous monitoring of the technical installations and supervise changes that it recommends, installs and monitors for its clients while playing the role of third party investor.
Firstly named easyCogen when created in 2015, Watt Matters is a Brussels engineering consulting company specialised in the renovation and energy transition of private and public buildings. Its scope of action covers the entire value chain - from auditing to undertaking the installation or renovation work, including its financing.
The focus is to help owners and co-owners reduce their energy consumption and ecological footprint and to move towards an era where green, sustainable and responsible energy is increasingly becoming a symbol of quality and social responsibility.
If the company changed its name in 2019, it is to clearly mark the multi-energy nature of its skills and missions. In addition to the initial cogeneration expertise, a broader and more diversified expertise has been added, including the installation and management of photovoltaic panels, high-performance lighting and insulation solutions (roofs, facades, etc.).
Another particularity of this engineering consulting company lies in the way it ensures the funding of energy projects since it acts as a third party investor partner. Funding is provided via bank loans and crowdfunding campaigns.
A recent example of such a citizen-funding approach was given in mid-2020 when Watt Matters won a contract with the Iris Sud Hospitals network (Brussels). They decided to install nearly 3,700 photovoltaic panels on their four sites in order to cover about 11% of their energy needs.
The funding of the project is based on a crowdfunfing campaign organised via the Ecco Nova platform. The campaign, launched in mid-June 2020, was initially open, for two weeks, only to staff members of the Iris Sud Hospitals network before opening up to the entire population.
THE CONSTRAINTS OF THE THIRD PARTY INVESTOR
Because of the intervention model adopted by Watt Matters, the company undoubtedly has an interest in ensuring that the optimization or renovation projects that it writes and carries out in the field meets the targeted objectives in terms of reducing its energy footprint.
"We coordinate the project. We take charge of the work. We commit ourselves to an energy optimisation programme for the client over a period of 10 years - or even longer in the case of heavier work that involves larger investments, such as the insulation of the facades of large old buildings. We guarantee the suitability of the technical components installed," says Quentin Quertinmont, architect and project manager at Watt Matters.
"It is therefore essential for us that performance and yield monitoring is scrupulous. As a third party investor, we must ensure that we recover the investment made and guarantee the client that the promised savings or energy gains will actually be made."
"For 10 years, we will be responsible for the proper functioning of the technical installations and energy production. It is therefore essential for us to monitor performance and efficiency carefully." -
A PRECISE MONITORING CONSUMPTION
How to track and monitor, on a day-to-day basis, the actual energy consumption or production of the contracted buildings? The task is by no means self-evident, not only because of the number of buildings and structures involved but also because of their architectural, geographical and thermal diversity and the multiplicity of energy production equipment and systems installed.
Watt Matters therefore searched for a solution, comparing and evaluating the solutions and profiles of the various players on the market - there is no shortage of them. After careful consideration, the choice fell on Opinum for several reasons. "First of all, we wanted a service provider with a proven track record and experience. Monitoring energy consumption is not a simple task, technically speaking. It is a matter of efficiently collecting data from multiple meters and technical bodies of all kinds, reconciling them and presenting them in an intelligible way, pointing out malfunctions, identifying opportunities for improvement," Quentin Quertinmont emphasizes.
"The user-friendly nature of the Opinum platform allows for easy reading and interpretation of the data collected, while giving us the ability to make the necessary settings ourselves and to operate autonomously when justified" -Quentin Quertinmont
"The other criteria that made us chose the Opinum solution was the user-friendly nature of the platform and the ability it offers to configure it according to consumption and yield patterns, the types of visualization we wish to obtain, or the implementation of formulas for automatic comparison of production elements.
Given the diversity of the equipment (meters, panels, boilers, cogeneration units...) that we install, the idea was to centralise all this disparate information on a single central platform, with the possibility of benchmarking between installations.
To achieve this, Opinum's solution allowed us to define, for example, a fictive installation and a virtual consumption (or production) profile to compare it to the real behaviours and figures of each installation. The fictive installation allows us to optimize the calculations and algorithms to ensure that the equipment is actually operating optimally.
It allows us to compare, for example, the production of a photovoltaic panel with an ideal reference element, depending not only on the constraints of the installation and the building, but also on daily meteorological data (outside temperature, rate of sunshine, etc.)".
FLEXIBILITY AND SUPPORT
In addition to the parameterization potential of the Opinum platform, one of the expectations Watt Matters had of its service provider was its ability "to access our requests and make the settings according to our own choices. We also wanted to be able to count on highly available telephone support in case of problems to be solved", says Quentin Quertinmont.
Opinum's interventions for specific parameterization or customization of the platform have so far been deemed efficient and diligent by Watt Matters - even if, in some cases, adaptations are made on condition that several other customers also use them.
Quentin Quertinmont says he is very satisfied with the relationship established with Opinum and the solution developed: "The team is very competent and have ensured the rapid development of the monitoring platform".
The work carried out is by no means static. Developments are regularly made to enrich it or adapt it to reflect reality : "The questioning is perpetual, since the more we use the platform, the more we need to refine the parameters as new projects are added. And we have an average of 10 new projects a year..."
Watt Matters is more than just a passive customer. Not only does it actively participate in the constant development of the potentials and settings of the monitoring platform that Opinum has developed, but the company itself is also involved in further developments where necessary.
"The decision to entrust a development to Opinum or to handle it internally is a constant exercise in balancing speed and cost. We really decide on a case-by-case basis, according to our own availability."
Furthermore, adds Quentin Quertinmont, "we spend a lot of time making sure that the interpretation of the data generated by the meters and the various equipment is relevant and accurate. Automatic readings sometimes hold surprises. Sometimes some impulses are not read, which may not reveal a drift. The formatting of the data generated by the equipment is also subject to change. Any change in the formatting of a table calls into question the interpretation by the algorithms. The work of adequacy checking is therefore constant .
Upstream, the preparation work to ensure that all the equipment communicates well with each other or the work to set up the platform for automatic report generation was sometimes longer than expected...".
Buildings of a certain size
Watt Matters is involved in the renovation, optimisation and energy transition of condominium buildings with a minimum of 25 or 30 apartments. Most of these are residential buildings, some of them very old. However, Watt Matters does not ignore its professional clients. For example, the company carried out an energy optimisation project for the PepiBru business incubator, located in a former industrial building dating from the 1930s on the outskirts of the Brussels-South railway station.
The size and number of buildings involved in the projects handled by Watt Matters involves a significant amount of data collection and analysis for the Opinum platform.
The objective, on the side of Watt Matters but also on the side of its customers, is obviously to obtain the most accurate possible vision of the functioning of the deployed equipment. "The more readings there are, the finer the view will be. The frequency of readings varies according to the objectives or purposes. For example, in the context of the granting of green certificates, the standard imposed is one reading per month. But this only provides a fairly simplistic view of actual consumption or production," explains Quentin Quertinmont.
So Watt Matters pushes the cursor further. "We apply the principle of the golden mean." At the level of the equipment itself, the meters emit pulses that are aggregated every quarter of an hour. These data are compiled and sent to the centralized platform every three hours.
However, some contracts require much more reading and monitoring. Among the building stock monitored by Watt Matters there are three buildings, equipped with cogenerators, where readings are taken every minute. "The principle is one of absolute comfort for the occupants. A cogeneration unit is supposed to operate at maximum capacity but is always undersized compared to the total needs. The boiler must then intervene to compensate, but without consuming too much. This is where the finesse of the readings and the principle of the "golden mean" to be applied to the operating rate of the cogenerator and the boiler comes into play..."
And this is also where centralized and "intelligent" monitoring, such as the one provided by the Opinum platform, makes sense...