We needed an independent party, the more credible the better
Blixt Tech's smart switches in the electrical cabinet could, if used correctly, open up for real emission reductions. To demonstrate the climate benefits, the company needed a scientific evaluation of the technology's potential. Blixt Tech did it together with IVL Swedish Environmental Institute in a co-financing project.
- Standing and reporting the environmental benefits themselves does not give much. We needed an independent party, the more credible the better and who would it be other than IVL? They have the experts, they have independence and have a high reputation among our customers, says the company's CEO Trued Holmqvist. We find the company Blixt Tech's customers among large companies such as Siemens, ABB, Hager. Blixt Tech, which, among other things, develops switches that enable smarter electricity use with more renewable electricity, delivers exclusively to large international companies.
- We develop technology that is used by other companies. This is where we operate. We represent a technology, a change but not a specific product. We will never be a brand towards the end customer, says Trued Holmqvist.
Trued Holmqvist calls the electricity the last mechanical bastion. When so much else has been digitized, the electrical system still rests on well-proven mechanical technology. This will necessarily change, he says, as electricity production becomes more decentralized and consumption less predictable.
The digital switch that Blixt Tech is developing can replace today's microswitches in the electrical cabinet in the home. In addition to disconnecting power, it can remotely control the supply of electricity, measure in real time how it is used, redirect electricity to where it is needed most and reduce electricity where it is possible to save. It also makes it possible to relocate electricity consumption at times when the electricity system is not so heavily loaded, so-called load-shifting, or when renewable electricity can be used. Everything is done via software.
The collaboration with IVL Swedish Environmental Institute was a so-called co-financed project. This means that the state, via the IVL Foundation, contributes half the sum for the project. This requires that the research issue is not only of interest to Blixt Tech, but that the research has a broader interest in the industry or society, and that the results are published publicly.
Trued Holmqvist, Blixt Tech:
We would never have been able to afford this ourselves. It is tough to be a Swedish high-tech company in the phase we are in but it has a number of other benefits. Since it was an independent evaluation, we did not know what they would come up with and that was the whole point here.
Érika Mata led the project from IVL Swedish Environmental Institute. She talks about the introductory meetings.
We noticed that Blixt wanted a more solid scientific evaluation. Then we thought a co-financing project could be suitable because we would evaluate the technology behind it.
Blixt Tech wanted to understand the potential of their solutions and see what different countries look like. Is their technology climate efficient and if so in what way? Because the electricity can be moved with the help of the switch and optimized, it can make room for more renewable energy. That is where the potential climate benefits lie.
- There are a lot of things that happen at the same time in the electricity system, not least because renewable electricity is weather sensitive. With this technology, you can regulate according to production, according to costs and according to environmental impact, says Érika Mata.
IVL Swedish Environmental Institute has a deep understanding of what different building systems look like in Europe. In addition, there is equally extensive knowledge of the various energy systems in Europe.
- It was a mixture of literature study and modeling, says Érika Mata. For example, we found a study that examined dishwashers in small houses. Then we found out how many of those households with dishwashers there were in each country and then we calculated the environmental impact in carbon dioxide equivalents.
The project began with a detailed work process where each step was defined and where the boundaries of the study were drawn. The countries that were included in the survey were Sweden, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
- The challenge for us was the demarcation. Where should we measure the effect? It can be incredibly extensive. Then I suspect that IVL had quite a few challenges along the way but they solved them. Data can be difficult but it is one of their specialties.
One difficulty in such work is to recalculate all data so that the different studies become comparable.
- It's a chore to get all the pieces together. You have to tie the results together and ensure every little detail. But if you have worked with this for many years, it becomes a little less complicated, says Érika Mata.
Another difficulty was that there were different numbers of studies in the different countries. In total, Érika Mata and her two colleagues included over two thousand studies, of which 218 were read in full text. Of these, 23 studies showed quantifiable potentials and were included in the final analysis. Most studies found Érika Mata in the United Kingdom and Germany, while the number was fewer in Sweden and France.
- This does not mean that the potential is less in Sweden and France, just that with the research method we used we found fewer studies in those countries, says Érika Mata.
The research they were looking for would be geographically limited to studying the respective countries and this would show up in the title of the research article or in the abstract. Érika Mata wonders if there could be more research, perhaps in languages other than English, about the potential of moving electricity use, but which was not caught in this network.
Trued Holmqvist on the collaboration:
- It felt extremely positive from day one. IVL showed a very high and completely relevant competence. Both pieces are important here. And so they themselves thought it was an interesting area. There were no such studies and the area is important.
So what did IVL Swedish Environmental Institute's experts come up with?
Érika Mata and her colleagues calculated that between two and 18 percent of electricity use in the housing sector can be moved. If that flexibility is used to reduce the number of peak hours or to steer towards renewable sources, it could result in emission reductions of between 10 and 24 megatons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the report. For Blixt Tech, this was a welcome, albeit not unexpected, announcement.
- It shows that there are huge savings to be made. It will be particularly interesting because these are countries that are already energy efficient, says Trued Holmqvist.
The work lasted for four months in 2019. The co-financing project resulted in a report and a scientific article. The report, which has been published publicly, is widely used by Blixt Tech.
- We use the report almost daily. For our own sake and in our contacts with customers. And we also received several awards after this, says Trued Holmqvist. Some time after the report was completed, Blixt Tech participated with its switch in the international competition Startup Energy Transition, which was held in Berlin. The competition highlights innovations that accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy system. Blix Tech won the category they participated in.
A contributing reason for the award was that they were able to show that their solution had been evaluated by an independent research institute.
- I do not know if it was decisive or not, but it was not possible to argue against because they had a scientific study behind them. For me, it is great that they were able to show very clearly the potential for their solution, says Érika Mata at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.
About the project
Project leader: Érika Mata, IVL Swedish Environmental Institute
Participants: Trued Holmqvist, Blixt Tech
Project time: 2019 The project was a co-financing project where the state via the IVL Foundation, SIVL, accounted for half of the project sum. This may be possible if the research has a general relevance and the project culminates in a public report.
Project report: Solid State Breakers, No. B 2348, April 2019 SCIENTIFIC
Article: A review of flexibility of residential electricity demand as climate solution in four EU countries, Environmental Research 15 073001