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Can decentralized production be the answer to sustainable and affordable energy?

Can decentralized production be the answer to sustainable and affordable energy?, TheRecursive.com
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Due to the generous Green Deal investments from the European Innovation Council, the increasing need for effective environmental solutions, innovative green businesses across Europe are mobilizing to find new ways for the supply of clean and affordable energy. Even though some regional startups, such as the Greek Brite Solar that produces energy-generating glass suitable for homes and office buildings, are developing innovative ways for turning solar power into electricity, solar panels continue to be the to-go answer for sustainable energy. 

With the mission to improve the quality and affordability of energy supply, the Bulgarian startup Water and Energy Savings offers turn-key energy efficiency solutions for big energy consumption businesses. Founded in 2013 by the energy specialists Ilko Yotzev and Evgeni Stefanov, the company helps water power plants analyze the energy efficiency of their operations, determine what are their capacities and peak consumption levels, and implement measures that save between 30 to 50% of their energy consumption. Water and Energy Savings is backed by the Bulgarian VC New Vision 3, focused on early-stage tech companies, which together with a private investor financed the startup with €800K in 2020.  

Recognizing that the production and the consumption of energy go hand in hand, Yordan Zarev who is one of the Managing Partners of the fund, shared for the Recursive team that the main reason behind their decision to invest was the promising potential of Water and Energy Savings to help enterprises implement measures for efficient energy consumption and to provide consumers with energy independence. According to Zarev in the coming most of the so-called brown energy plans will be closed down due to EU Green Deal directives and the Paris Climate Agreement. This in turn will increase the price of electricity and will pose a burden for Bulgarian industrial enterprises, which are not yet ready to operate in a “green” manner. 

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Enabling sustainability across the energy supply chain

Ilko Yotzev has been engaged in solving energy efficiency problems since 2002 and this allowed him to recognize that very few companies globally provide solutions for energy efficiency of water holdings. In a nutshell, Water and Energy Savings provides solutions for decentralized energy production and decarbonization of electricity consumption, as well as reduction of the electricity prices and an increase in energy security and efficiency. Their business model follows two lines – developing software for energy-saving solutions and building independent plants for renewable energy to enable their business clients to not only save energy but also to produce green energy autonomously. 

On the one hand, their software helps water holding companies with the monitoring of energy expenses by gathering and analyzing data and conducting benchmarking between different water companies. Yotzev explains that water holding enterprises struggle with another environmental problem connected to the sludge that is left as a residue substance from their operations as it has high water content and is costly to dry. Water and Energy Savings develops a model for the drying of this sludge that is affordable and allows it to be utilized as an organic fertilizer in the agriculture industry. 

The other energy-saving services that Water and Energy Savings offers are turn-key solutions for the installation of PV systems that use sunlight to produce electricity, PVT systems, which are used for hot water and heating, as well as ESCO contracts, which ensure companies that outsource their energy performance activities to Water and Energy Savings will pay in full for the service after the guaranteed results have been achieved. Water and Energy Savings has so far partnered with the water holding companies in Montana and Vratza and a hospital in the marine town of Pomorie where by installing a renewable water heating reservoir, it managed to save around 580 tonnes of CO2 emission annually. 

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What does the future of energy savings look like?

According to Yotzev, in 2021 Water and Energy Savings will focus on finalizing their green sludge model for water holding companies and on developing new solutions for the sustainable storing of energy with the help of blockchain technology. The team of Water and Energy Savings is also looking forward to the moment when Bulgaria will have its supercomputer assembled because this will provide them with the capacity necessary for the implementation of the planned projects. Ilko Yotzev also highlights that another goal of Water and Energy Savings is to create its own R&D lab for which they have already placed an inquiry with Sofia Tech Park,  the expected home of the supercomputer.

The future looks exciting but this doesn’t mean Water and Energy Savings is not engaged in innovative projects at the moment. Yotzev shares that right now Water and Energy Savings is partnering with SoftUni to combine their energy and technical expertise for the building up of their software system. Moreover, drones are becoming an integral part of Water and Energy Savings’ operations and are currently used to collect data, detect and prevent problems in the buildings with the help of thermal cameras. 

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.
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