Interview: David Helliwell, Co-Founder, Pulse Energy
Pulse Energy in Vancouver is making it possible for you to watch real-time energy consumption at the 2010 Winter Olympic venues in Vancouver. Denis Du Bois talks with the company's co-founder, David Helliwell.
January 25, 2010
This is a highlight from the Building Priorities Briefing.
TranscriptDenis Du Bois: Energy tracking at the Vancouver Olympics is made possible by monitoring software that not only shows how much energy is being saved, but how it's being saved. And, when energy is being wasted, the same system pinpoints the problem so someone can go fix it.
A Vancouver company called Pulse Energy supplies the software. The company's co-founder, David Helliwell, was involved with the 2010 Olympics as early as the bid stage in 2003.
David, was energy monitoring always in the plan? or, how did this come about?
This came about because, as the organizers for the 2010 games were trying to figure out how they could be the greenest games ever, they were trying to figure out the natural question: if we say we're going to be the greenest, how did the others perform? They found affirmative information about how they deal with solid waste at other Olympics, and other elements of running the games, but nothing really about how the building really performed. About solar panels and using renewable energy, but nothing really about how well the buildings performed.
So what we're doing is we're tracking electricity use, and in some cases natural gas use at the main Olympics venues. That's from the speed skating oval to the figure skating and the hockey arenas and the athletes' villages in Vancouver and Whistler.
We're tracking that, and we're really looking at two dimensions. One dimension is how much energy is being saved and how it's being saved. It's mostly being saved by how the buildings have been constructed, because there are a number of sites that are LEED certified, and generally they've been taking the approach to having them be as energy-efficient as possible.
Then the other one is how can find anomalies and when are we wasting energy that we can deal with right away? And that's something that will be useful during the games, but it'll be even more useful in the years and years and decades ahead when these buildings will be operating. They'll be able to stay tuned up in a way that will make them as energy efficient as possible.
And when the TV crews pull out and the dust settles, will these owners continue to monitor their facilities?
Yes, that's certainly the plan. The way the software works is Pulse is software as a service, and you just pay for you ongoing usage. Certainly the intention is to continue using it. In fact, recently the city of Vancouver who is obviously the host city for the games has just announced that they're rolling out Pulse Energy software in over a million square feet of their largest buildings.
So certainly it's something that, during the games there's certainly some PR and messaging that people like to show, but it's after the games and into the future that there are real financial benefits and operational benefits.
Power from the games comes from the province's utility, BC Hydro...
Yes. BC Hydro has a program called Power Smart that is largely recognizes as one of the leading energy conversation programs in North America. A number of the venues have been Power Smart certified. It's a little like LEED certification, but for the specific venues. Also Pulse Energy has partnered with BC Hydro, and they're helping to finance the deployment of our software in a number of these locations.
How many buildings do you monitor, and what's the typical facility for you?
Well, we monitor hundreds of buildings around North America, right now, with a lot more about to come online. And a typical facility will be anywhere upwards of 20,000 square feet, in commercial buildings.
So it could be office buildings, it could be hospitals, universities, schools, retailers, supermarkets. Anything, any type of building that uses a significant amount of energy, and that includes electricity, that includes natural gas, steam, hot water, anything that's carrying energy even cooling systems geothermal energy. It can be the production of energy, with wind, or solar energy, as well, from renewables.
So any of those, any building that needs a better hold on their energy information is what we really focus on. And probably the best buildings for us to get going quickly with are buildings that already have some form of energy monitoring in place, because it's very quick and simple for us to integrate to that. We do a lot work with buildings with existing enterprise energy management systems, although it's not to say we don't work with other buildings, as well. It just involves putting in a small amount of hardware to get the software going.
You're working on research with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. So let me ask you -- where is this technology headed?
Well, that's a good question. I guess there are a few things that are pretty certain to happen.
One is that there will continue to be more and more energy information out there that will be whether it's with smart meters or improved metering and sensors that are being installed all over all sorts of buildings so there will be a need to be able to connect to this information. More and more it will be in real time, for the connectivity.
One of our major partners, on the connectivity side, is Cisco, where we're one of the lead companies in their Smart Grid Ecosystem, and working with them on connected real estate. So that's something that's definitely coming.
Working with utilities and demand response. That's something that's evolving quickly and going from being just manual phone calls to being integrated in the software.