Dr. Alex Papalexopoulos, CEO, ZOME Energy NetworksDr. Alex Papalexopoulos, CEO
The energy industry today is witnessing a major transformation in the form of smart grids. With the burgeoning internet of things, the smart grid is soon becoming a reality that seeks to improve operations, maintenance, and planning of electricity energy system. It is also one of the major enablers of distributed energy resources (DER) technologies. As the industry is shifting from centralized power systems toward a more decentralized system, DER solutions with their ability to generate power from renewable energy sources are gaining momentum. However, to secure the most value to the grid at the least cost, it is necessary to optimize the integration of these solutions. Working towards this goal is ZOME Energy Networks, offering a compelling solution set for DER optimization and one of the leading smart energy solution providers. Under the leadership of Dr. Alex Papalexopoulos, a renowned energy expert and CEO of ZOME Energy Networks, the company enables apartment building owners to save energy, utilities to achieve sustainable energy programs, and consumers to participate in energy management programs from their local electric utilities. It also provides analytics solutions to energy eco-system players to better optimize their programs and offerings.

ZOME is solving technological and regulatory challenges currently faced by the energy industry. According to Papalexopoulos, who has co-developed much of the independent system operator (ISO) market system in the U.S. and other countries, there is not yet massive penetration of DR products in the ISO markets in the U.S. “For this technology to succeed, we need automation which will minimize or better yet eliminate customer involvement on a daily basis.”

On the technological side, scalability of DER management systems is the biggest challenge, since as the number of devices grows, monitoring and controlling these devices often becomes difficult. Fulfilling all the requirements is ZOME’s primary optimization and balancing software offering—ColorPower. Papalexopoulos defines ColorPower as the next-gen software for DER optimization because of its scalability, robustness, and accuracy.

A Holistic Approach to DER Optimization

ZOME’s ColorPower works on a device level and is cloud-agnostic. The platform comprises software, complex algorithms, and APIs and is architected to be highly specialized as micro-services with support for IoT and grid devices. One of the most critical roles played by ColorPower is automating the management and optimization of responses to condition-based energy distribution network requests.

The solution which is offered on a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) basis provides energy management and optimization for both multi-dwelling units and apartment buildings as well as for electric utilities and their customers living in single-family home neighborhoods. ColorPower incorporates the management of the full suite of DERs, including energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, distributed storage, and vehicle-to-grid. It provides a holistic approach to ‘supply-demand optimization’ while meeting the balanced needs of energy providers, the objectives of regulators while providing ease of use for end consumers of energy services.

ZOME’s objective is to create multi-revenue streams for its clients not only by saving money but by enabling them to generate money

A Unique Architecture

Delving further into the uniqueness of ColorPower, Igor Chernyy, CTO of ZOME, explains that the experts in the company are constantly improving a patent protected set of algorithms which in combination with its cloud architecture that can scale to support virtually an unlimited number of devices, gives it the unique ability to precisely monitor power distribution points for various devices. “For instance, if a customer wants to save 500 kW, our solution has the ability to save almost exactly that number,” says the CTO. The algorithm further helps to approximate power consumption of devices that don’t give any information on their energy usage. This is possible because of the cloud-based architecture that has a modular design and connects to every single device that is registered with the system. The information collected from these devices is then passed down into ZOME’s micro-services routines running in the cloud, which then figures out the exact power consumption. The data collected on a frequent basis, configurable to as short as a minute-by-minute basis, is used to create mathematical models to figure out the amount of energy consumed by the device within a specific set of internal and external conditions with a high degree of accuracy. “We started out by offering ZOME analytics to the thermostat or HVAC system but are now planning to extend our services to other devices, such as connected hot water heaters, in the market that pretty much suffer from the same problem,” states Chernyy.

The third important part of the architecture where the fundamental brain of the grid lives is the controlling service that looks into every single device in the context of the grid. The controlling service understands where every single device connects to, down to the street address, and how these addresses map to the greater electrical grid as a whole. What makes ZOME really different is its bottom-up approach as opposed to the common top-down methodology used by others. The company monitors and controls every single device continuously, which allows it to achieve greater accuracy and save energy in addition to developing benchmarks. “We believe that this bottom-up approach is a breakthrough that will soon change the demand response marketplace,” states Papalexopoulos.

ColorPower actually works better for millions of devices as opposed to, say only thousands of enrolled devices, as does the cutting-edge machine learning algorithms perform better with the addition of more devices. “In the heart of the algorithm is the distributed stochastic control of DER which makes our solution so robust and scalable.”

Amalgamation of Technology and Expertise

ZOME’s CEO also runs ECCO International, the leading energy market designer firm, and ZOME’s professional services group is staffed by ECCO’s PhD team. ECCO is helping clients across the globe to develop an organized market in the distribution grid and one such example is Centrica, an energy and services company in the UK.
Centrica has a long-term strategy to facilitate demand side response, and other DER assets, since it will be crucial in building a secure, sustainable, and affordable electricity system for the future. As part of this project, Centrica plans to use markets to mitigate overloads and lockout congestion problems to defer distribution investments that improve utilization of existing assets. ZOME’s platform can also be used to solve reverse power flow problems arising from the massive penetration of renewable resources like solar panels on the customer side.

Catering to the mass market— residential and commercial—ZOME’s objective is to create multi-revenue streams for its clients not only by saving money but by enabling them to generate money by coordinating the energy usage with rest of the energy grid and supplying excess energy back to the grid in times of need.

Another way ZOME is utilizing technology to benefit clients is by leveraging the next big thing which is believed to transform the energy industry—blockchain technology. ZOME is eyeing blockchain to reward customers who join its platform early and also people who participate in the ColorPower-enabled demand response programs. For instance, participants can help reduce electricity consumption by shifting their electricity usage during peak periods. In doing so ZOME rewards them, based on their choice, with either a straight up monetary payout, if they are in a local utility energy program, or they can get the payout in the ZOME Energy Network Tokens, or “ZENTs”—a digital asset with inherent value as a secure cryptocurrency— whether or not there are supported local energy programs.

"We believe that our bottom-up approach is a breakthrough that will soon change the demand response marketplace"

The way the ZENTs works is that when customers keep their devices connected to the ColorPower Energy Cloud and maintain high flexibility on their devices, which means allowing the company to use and adjust their devices as flexibly as possible, ZOME pays them with a certain amount of Tokens at the end of every month. In order to close the value loop of these Tokens, ZOME will list them on various exchanges so that people can buy or trade them. The step that really closes this loop is when a utility joins ZOME’s ColorPower platform and schedules demand response of these enrolled users. The utility too can reward the participants with ZENTs that they have acquired from exchanges, which ultimately decides the exact value of these Tokens. Hence, once the energy industry undergoes widespread adoption of blockchain technology and crypto-currency gains prominence, ZOME will be in a very advantageous position because it will have already established a fully functional ecosystem with its own cryptocurrency. This strategic positioning will also help ZOME fulfill its ambition of entering the transactive energy market for B2B and trade-to-trade (T2T) transactions.

By combining modern technology and years of expertise, ZOME is creating a smarter way to optimize DER and revolutionize the energy industry.