SUSTAINABILITY may be seen as costly, but local energy management company Evercomm wants to make it easier and cheaper for firms to be energy-efficient, and eventually even allow them to trade their excess energy, through its CO2 Connect platform.
Currently, CO2 Connect acts as an audit and assurance platform that works with banks to help companies secure green financing. It can track real-time reduction of carbon emissions or increase in green energy use, and justify how a company utilises a green loan.
To add further capabilities to this platform, Evercomm has a research and development (R&D) partnership with UK tech firm IONATE. The project studies how to connect power generators in factories and buildings back to the energy grid, so that excess energy capacity can be traded.
The partnership began in 2020 and was facilitated through the second iteration of the Eureka Globalstars-Singapore programme led by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and Enterprise Europe Network.
The combination of Evercomm's software expertise and IONATE's hardware expertise is what will allow for this "new expansion of product offering", allowing companies to both optimise equipment energy efficiency and trade excess energy, said Evercomm chief executive officer Ted Chen.
He expects it to be able to reduce the cost of managing energy grids by up to 40 per cent.
The IONATE partnership to develop the platform is "much cheaper" than relying on off-the-shelf hardware, added Chen.
"When it comes to sustainability related technology - clean tech, for example - the European market often is a lot more mature," he said.
"The advantage is definitely their experience, and what they have seen that is taking place in the Europe market; what is working and what is not working."
Founded in 2013 with the support of an R&D incubator in Nanyang Technological University, Evercomm has benefited from various grants and schemes by organisations such as ESG, noted Chen.
In 2018, Evercomm took part in the Singapore-Israel Industrial R&D Programme organised by ESG and the Israel Innovation Authority. It received about S$1.5 million in co-founding support for a partnership with an Israel company, Netergi, for R&D on Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.
"That (partnership with Netergi) has helped us develop our IoT capabilities. A lot of the data that we're able to get now was because of the R&D and capability we have built up during that period," he said.
Evercomm also took part in the third round of ESG's Scale-up SG programme, which helps firms prepare for growth. "A lot of changes have been made under the Scale-up SG programme," said Chen, adding: "(It) helped us really clean up our internal operations (and) documentation, and helped us prioritise in our road map how to expand as well."
The ESG experience also aided the firm in networking, with Evercomm now in talks with 3 other Scale-up SG companies that could become its partners or clients.
And Scale-up SG helped to raise the number of projects Evercomm worked on, from about 10 a year before the Covid-19 pandemic to at least 60 in 2021, Chen noted.
By adding capabilities to its CO2 Connect platform, Evercomm aims to capture new opportunities in the "demand response" energy market in Asia, as well as explore expansion opportunities in the UK.
A beta version is being tested in a pilot programme in Singapore. It aims to allow firms such as small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to make money from trading excess energy capacity, known as "demand response trading".
Using the platform, companies will be able to directly connect their backup generators into the national power grid, which is operated, regulated and funded by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Energy Market Company (EMC).
Evercomm is a technology partner for Sunseap, a licensed electricity retailer that manages the electricity grid for EMA and EMC.
When EMA or EMC faces a shortage of power, rather than opening up another power plant - which would involve costs and resources - they can instead work with Evercomm to receive the extra power they need on demand, said Chen.
Using Evercomm's platform, building operators can remotely turn on backup generators to contribute this energy, and will get paid for this contribution.
This allows firms with no prior domain knowledge to easily participate in energy market transactions, and money generated can be used to reinvest in other sustainability initiatives, said Chen.
Evercomm aims to become a major environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) assurance company here, helping companies to meet these obligations to track emissions for disclosure purposes.
It works with banks such as OCBC, acting "almost like auditors but for the sustainability space" to confirm whether companies' green initiatives are legitimate.
Being accountable is especially important with the many cases of "greenwashing" in Europe, in which a company creates a false impression that its products are environmentally friendly, said Chen.
"Traditionally, green financing has been done more in a manual approach by consultants and banks which get only one report a year . . . it's very easy to manipulate those results," he said.
According to Chen, sustainability loans are currently not easily accessible to SMEs because of the amount of paperwork and tedious review processes involved. "These loans are more targeted for the very big players instead of SMEs."
By working with banks to provide ESG assurance, Evercomm hopes to help companies, especially SMEs, secure green finance for more green initiatives.
Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.