From the engineers designing wind farms to the mechanics installing solar panels, there are few people working in the renewable energy industry that doubt the importance of clean energy.
But what about the people funding it? While investors may accept the science of climate change, the question of how money can be made from renewable sources can be slightly harder to prove.
“If we are going to be fighting against climate change, we need a lot of capital,” says Hanno Schoklitsch, CEO of the energy asset management company Kaiserwetter. “That means one of the biggest tasks is convincing capital to invest in renewables energies on a global scale.”
At present, Schoklitsch says the industry suffers from an information deficit, meaning the technical and financial data required to make sensible, informed clean energy investment decisions can be hard to find.
Digitising renewable energy
For Schoklitsch, the key is to make use of advances in digital technology, specifically the internet of things, big data analytics and digital infrastructure in the cloud. This, he says, has been a neglected area when thinking about renewable energy.
“It is still quite a young area,” he says. “A lot of people have been talking about it but the question is how will it work? How can you make a business out of it? I experience this every day trying to sell the services of our platform: people need convincing, they need to see the benefits. Currently I think we are in a transition period. There are enormous benefits but of course you need to understand how to use it.”
Kaiserwetter’s latest solution to the conundrum is a digital portfolio management tool called Aristoteles, which takes advantage of the possibilities offered by the internet of things and big data analytics and puts it at the service of investors.
“It is all about collecting data and using data aggregation,” Schoklitsch explains. “Our tool uses aggregated data and performs analytics out of that. Take for example a wind farm or a wind turbines. What we are doing is taking all the meteorological data from the farms – say what the power curve is telling us in respect to the wind speed or which turbine is working properly and which isn’t. There is a need for everyone to understand how these things are working. So we collect the data and relay it to a dashboard to show precisely what it is going on.”
This has two benefits, Schoklitsch says. First, simplicity. “We currently have 160 million data points in the cloud,” he says. “That’s a lot of data. With our tool, it is very easy to understand what is happening. We can help minimise risk by simply showing whether or not an asset is performing at the optimum level.”
Second, the tool allows for transparency. “On a daily basis you can see the relevant financial data,” Schoklitsch says. “Are you losing revenue or energy production? Do you have access to the financial figures from the banks accounts? Is there a deviation between the revenues on the books and the cash in those accounts? Our tool provides a very easy way of doing that risk management. It brings proper transparency.”
The tool can also be used anywhere in the world, Schoklitsch adds. “It doesn’t matter where you are. If an investment is going to Africa, even if there is no internet it doesn’t matter. We are taking the data from the wind farm from a satellite and getting it into our system. Again, this is how we can show real transparency to investors and financial institutions.”
Keeping executives informed
While Aristoteles isn’t the first tool to attempt this, it has two unique selling points, according to Schoklitsch. First, it integrates different data in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“You have one digital platform and you see in your dashboard on your table, all the relevant technical and financial data,” he says. “A lot of people talk about technical data, others talk about financial data: we are combining both. It’s an advanced platform.”
Second, Aristoteles is a tool specifically designed for executives. “Everything we are doing is at the executive level,” Schoklitsch says. “We are not building a daily operations tool, this is about how executives can view the performance and make sure their assets are providing a return on investment.”
A year after it was launched, Kaiserwetter won “Best Renewable Energy Asset Managers 2017”. For Schoklitsch, it is a strong vindication of the work the company has been doing.
“I think this a great achievement,” he says. “It shows we are convincing people, which is one of the things we really have to do if capital is going to raise investments. We have also been participating in an innovate climate finance tool competition, which has been sponsored by the United Nation’s environmental programme.”
The company is now working on the next version of Aristoteles. “The future will be Aristoteles 2.0,” Schoklitsch says. “We are currently building our algorithms and plan to release the tool in the second quarter of 2018. It will involve predictive analytics and I think we’ve made some great achievements already. We want to keep pushing things forward.”
Almost a year after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, which Schoklitsch attended, the CEO also says he is optimistic the world is finally waking up to the dangers of climate change.
“I am confident in the commitments different countries are taking to push things ahead,” he says. “Even if you are talking to Americans, who have an administration which doesn’t believe any of this is necessary, a lot of people still know it is a must. We have to do something and it is our generation that has to do it.”