One of the really amazing privileges of being in the venture world is that you get an insider peek into so many industries and fields that you’d otherwise never know anything about. Take drinking water. Did you know that anywhere between 30% and 40% of your water bill at home is made up of the price of electricity needed to purify and pump the water to you?
I learned this, and many more insights into the fascinating world of utilities and industrial installations, through our investment into GridMetrics, a team that implements cutting-edge artificial intelligence and digital twin technology to analyze and improve efficiency in energy-heavy industrial applications.
GridMetrics is made up of Bozhidar, Zi, and Tony, who got to know each other as they were graduating as engineers and business majors, through extracurricular activities at a student society. Instead of pursuing careers at large tech companies, they decided to set up an agency that helps businesses solve operational challenges through the implementation of artificial intelligence technology. After a few gigs in different fields, they pitched successfully to a water utility company, and that’s when they realized they were on to something.
Zdravko Zdravkov and Bozhidar Yovchev
If you think about countries that have abundant potable water, you probably wouldn’t first think of Bulgaria. You’d probably think of The Netherlands and the eternal struggle against the rising water levels there, or Germany with its big rivers and reservoirs, or Finland and Sweden with their hundreds of thousands of glacial lakes. Yet, interestingly, Bulgaria is second in Europe (after Iceland) in terms of mineral water reserves, and tied up with Norway and Sweden when it comes to the most man-made reservoirs per capita. With a total of 2,600 lakes and reservoirs, there’s a lot of water management in Bulgaria, surprisingly.
Combined with relatively ageing infrastructure, and one of the highest European energy production per capita indicators, in Bulgaria there’s a lot of room for improvement of energy consumption efficiency, and reduction of carbon emissions in the business of water treatment and distribution, as Bozhidar, Zi, and Tony found out.
And that’s when the team decided that applying their methodology to specific industrial installations verticals is the way to go, and GridMetrics was born.
With GridMetrics, the team successfully went after one of the biggest water utility companies in Bulgaria, who let them pilot the product on one of the local installations in a small town of approx. 20,000 inhabitants. After realizing energy savings, and consequential emissions reduction, of 30% in the town’s water utility plant, the team now has a green light to roll out the solution to other installations of the water firm.
The secret sauce behind GridMetrics is based on a methodology whereby digital twin models of industrial installations are created jointly by the team and the client, after which they get processed by the GridMetrics engine that identifies the most energy-heavy elements in the process, correlating this data with the entire operational model of the business and the pricing system of the power supplier. In its logic it’s comparable to the household model, where you have a day tariff and a night tariff, so you end up doing your laundry and charging your car in the off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper. Take that, and multiply it by an exponential number of moving parts and elements, and you get GridMetrics.
After graduating our Vitosha ACCELERATE program and joining the Vitosha portfolio, GridMetrics is now racing at full speed towards growing its team, building a customer front-end to its solution, and most importantly, expanding the product not just to larger European utility providers, but also to other power-heavy industrial applications, where AI-backed model analysis can yield similar results in cutting emissions and power usage.
The team is currently testing its product with some of the largest sugar producers in Latin America and Africa; another vertical that is surprising in its heavy power use in a way that you don’t think about when you put a spoon of sugar in your coffee. From what I learned from GridMetrics, the savings there could be considerably higher than the already more-than-impressive 30% that its product saves off the cost of water distribution in Bulgaria.
With the European Green Deal about to pivot the angle of innovation, and its funding in Europe in the next decades, towards dramatically increased sustainability and the ultimate goal of full EU climate neutrality by 2050, it’s solutions like GridMetrics that are the wheels and cogs in the machine that will get us there. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the road that lies ahead of GridMetrics, as it grows into a powerful tool that will make the basic necessities that we use every day more friendly to our environment and our wallets.