What have I been up to?
For the past few years I have been involved in district heating at Eneco. An industry I was not really aware of before I started at Eneco. I have learned a lot and have been able to apply much of my engineering and startup experience here. Besides district heating I have entertained myself with the concepts of Blockchain, finding many interesting applications for energy as a bonus. On top of that, I moved into a new home about a year ago, learning more about the actual benefits of solar panels, smart thermostats and home automation.
District heating is gaining a lot of attention in the Netherlands as more and more we realize the era of natural gas is coming to an end. Currently district heating supplies around 300.000 homes in the Netherlands with heat. The rest of the 7.000.000 are mostly supplied natural gas. With gas phasing out, there is a huge potential to make heating of Dutch houses more sustainable. The two most discussed solutions being district heating (mainly urban areas) and heat pumps.
Last year we moved into our new home and we still love it! It is properly isolated, has solar panels to generate solar and is fitted with a low temperature heating system. The panels supply just shy of our annual consumption. Tuning our central heating system for the use of low temperature supply we used about a third of what a Dutch household uses on average in natural gas.
Working at Eneco and moving into this new house finally allowed me to get our Eneco smart thermostat, the Toon. The main benefits in the first few weeks were that my girlfriend also was made aware of energy. I still consider that a great plus that people with no direct interest in energy or a tech background can understand at a glance what is happening with their energy consumption and production.
The Toon can trigger lights and smart plugs, but the engineer in me wanted to be able to do more. We recently installed a Homey, which is a great extension to our/my home automation efforts. This is still a work in progress and I will have to install quite a few switches in the wall sockets, but the scalability allows me to do this one switch at a time.
Blockchain is a concept I came across on blogs about two years ago now. Back then, blockchain was only associated with Bitcoin, which is some sort of currency. Default for most people at the time was that blockchain was also some sort of currency. Understanding the implocations of a distributed database, the peer-2-peer mechanism and the cryptography, I knew I needed to apply this to energy. For the past two years within Eneco I have done some interesting little project on the side to explore blockchain and its use cases with a strong focus on energy.
Planning next step
I am also pondering a next step within Eneco, with plenty of opportunities to apply the entrepreneur and engineer in me on. District heating is about to grow exponentially, home automation is a field Eneco is positioning the Toon in which is also a personal interest. Or blockchain, for which I see a bright future and where I have learned a lot about in two years. Or perhaps I will find a way to combine all of the above, who knows?