E.ON is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Earth observation specialist Astrosat, capturing satellite imaging data to accurately identify areas across the UK where energy efficiency measures are most needed.
The project will use near real-time and archived data gathered from orbiting satellites – including optical sources, thermal-infrared for heat mapping and air quality and pollution tracking – which will combine with Astrosat’s ThermCERT software to help tackle issues such as housing condition and insulation, air quality, and even traffic management.
When cross-matched with existing housing or data on vulnerable customers, the unique platform will provide local authorities and even entire cities with a street-level view of where improvements are most needed. This means they can better target their approaches to upgrading housing stock, optimising energy efficiency installations, improving air quality or easing congestion across communities.
Current energy efficiency programmes often rely on door-to-door visits or doorstep mailings in order to talk directly to customers and analyse their specific needs. The large amount of data which can be captured using satellite technology means a bigger and more accurate picture can be created quickly, which improves the success rate of installation works.
During the project, E.ON and Astrosat, with the support of ESA, will develop the system for around 18 months, including a city-scale trial. ESA’s ambition is for space data to unlock greater business and societal opportunities and E.ON’s scale across Europe creates the potential to roll out the project across other countries once the UK trial has successfully concluded.
The UK is a founding member of ESA and, through the UK Space Agency, invests more in its Business Applications programme than any other country in Europe.
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “This government-backed technology could boldly go where no technician in a van has gone before, with the potential to pinpoint households in fuel poverty or those at risk. Matched with government data, this heat mapping technology could mean less time spent on the road and more time dedicated to upgrading homes though our £6bn energy efficiency ECO scheme – the sky’s the limit.
This is our modern Industrial Strategy in motion, with our world-leading space sector showing how innovation can deliver practical solutions to real-life issues.”
Michael Lewis, E.ON’s UK Chief Executive, said: “Delivered on the doorstep but driven by big data gathered from Earth orbit, our work with Astrosat, in collaboration with ESA, is about using the almost endless possibilities of space to deliver real benefits on the ground. This truly innovative and exciting project is about harnessing the power of space, alongside our experience working with local authorities and delivering real change in terms of fuel poverty and carbon emissions, to help reduce heat loss and unnecessary energy expenditure in regional areas across the UK. This is a UK trial at this stage but all involved have the ambition to prove the benefits across countries and continents to help create a better tomorrow.”
Fraser Hamilton, Chief Operating Officer at Astrosat, added: “We’ve applied our technical knowledge to E.ON’s wealth of experience with local authorities and ESA’s space acumen to create something truly unique that will add real value to the UK energy market. Astrosat’s ThermCERT system allied to E.ON data provides a space-age solution to Earth’s energy challenges by leveraging the power of space technology to deliver real-world benefits. In a world where data is routinely generated before a problem or application is known to exist, we are able to intelligently cross-correlate and fuse that data from in-situ satellites; this solution will greatly enhance E.ON’s ability to identify communities in need of assistance.”
Nick Appleyard, Head of the Downstream Business Applications Department at the European Space Agency, said: “Our Business Applications programme is dedicated to supporting space-enhanced services with two objectives: to generate growth for the industrial partners, and to benefit society at large. ThermCERT checks both of these boxes. We have a two-pronged approach to supporting the green energy revolution. Initiatives like ThermCERT show how space assets can help to reduce costs and improve energy efficiency in existing neighbourhoods. In parallel, we are open to proposals for space services that help to create Green Neighbourhoods by improving their initial design.”
In its first iteration, the platform helps to locate and provide targeted support for the most vulnerable individuals in society. Future iterations will leverage the growing wealth of high resolution commercial data that is now coming online.
E.ON and Astrosat expect the product to be ready for use in a UK pilot by Q3 2019.
How it works
The Earth observation data can be viewed independently, layer by layer, or intelligently combined with existing data sources such as Department of Work and Pensions information at a community level, into a specific tool that focuses on helping to answer specific questions or problems.
This enables an approach that is much more efficient than existing methods and can proactively locate whole areas or communities that would most benefit from improvements, rather than relying on input from residents who might be wary of reporting themselves as vulnerable or in need of extra help.
Initially designed to focus on targeted energy efficiency measures, the tool is built to scale to any regional geography and utilise many types of data. The platform is built to allow for the development of additional layers of data that can be simply plugged in, extending the potential to other opportunities such as air quality monitoring.