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Kaluza: Powering greener, smarter energy usage with Google Cloud

August 18, 2022
Tom Mallett

Sustainability Manager, Kaluza

Editor’s note: Kaluza is a UK-based technology company that provides energy retailers with real-time billing, smart grid services, and seamless customer experiences. In this blog, Tom Mallett, Sustainability Manager, Kaluza, explains how Kaluza leverages Google Cloud to improve energy visibility throughout the company. He also explores how better emissions data informs sustainability solutions that make the world’s energy greener, smarter, and more reliable.

Consumers are facing tough times right now, with energy bills a very real and rising cost. But meanwhile, the climate crisis hasn’t gone away - and sustainability is very much still front of mind for both consumers and for businesses, as it rightly should be. In the UK, 40% of emissions come from households, which includes electricity, heating, and transport. But people often do not have the time or resources to investigate and test out myriad ways to save energy, while grappling with lots of other demands at once. That’s why at Kaluza, we’ve made it our mission to help people save money and reduce their household emissions. 

Born out of OVO Energy back in 2019, Kaluza is a software-as-a-service company that helps to accelerate the shift to a zero carbon world. With our Kaluza Energy Retail product, energy companies can put their customers at the heart of this transition, by providing them with real-time insights to help reduce their bills. And with Kaluza Flex, advanced algorithms charge millions of smart devices at the cheapest and greenest possible times. Kaluza works with some of the biggest energy and auto OEM businesses around the world including AGL in Australia, Fiat and Nissan in the UK, and Mitsubishi Corporation and Chubu in Japan.

Leveraging Google Cloud data to support 2030 carbon negative goal

By 2030, we want to avoid the production of 10 million tons of CO2, by reaching 100 million energy users and reducing our energy retail clients’ cost to serve by 50%. And that’s only the half of it. As we’re accelerating the energy transition for our customers, we also want to drastically reduce our own emissions. While the world is rushing towards net zero, we’re going one step further, committing to be carbon negative by 2030.

But we can only reduce what we can measure. That’s why we’ve developed an internal carbon footprint tool to track the impact of our cloud usage. Our technology stack spans a multicloud estate, and it’s especially easy to get emissions data from Google Cloud applications – thanks to the Carbon Footprint solution.

For every single process we run through Google Cloud, we get half-hourly electricity usage information, enabling us to point to the exact carbon emission of every process we run on Google Cloud. These insights have helped us shape Kaluza’s own carbon footprint tool, which we use to pull together information from all of our cloud providers in our multi-cloud setup, and create much more effective dashboards, which has been invaluable for our data teams.

Cutting emissions by 97% with Green Development

Today, our teams can use our carbon emissions tool to really dig down into the granularity of the data. This enables them to understand what drives their carbon footprint and how to address it. And this is where things get interesting, because better data translates into actual sustainability projects. So far, we’ve launched two large-scale initiatives.

First, there’s Green Software Development. We’ve created a Green Development handbook, which contains a list of guides and best practices our software developers and engineers can use to make their software greener. With information from our carbon footprint tool, for example, we’ve been able to consolidate a number of large BigQuery queries into a single query at a greener time of day and location, resulting in a 97% reduction of emissions. That means, we’ve reduced the amount of CO2 from 200kg to 6kg, every time we run this query. And that’s just one way we’re making a difference.

Increasing the efficiency of cloud infrastructure

Our second big initiative relates to our cloud infrastructure. Choosing a cleaner cloud and a cleaner cloud region to run workloads is one of the simplest and most effective ways we can reduce our carbon emissions. Fortunately, Google Cloud publishes carbon data for all cloud regions. This includes the average percentage of carbon free energy consumed in that particular location on an hourly basis and the grid carbon intensity of the local electricity grid.

By digging into the data, we can identify cloud waste and take action. For example, while many of our workloads have to run throughout the day, not all of them have to run at certain times. This creates potential for optimization. We’re using data from Google Cloud to understand the state of our workloads. By combining this information with carbon intensity data from the grid, we can identify and reschedule workloads to lower intensity times, and have a positive impact on Kaluza’s emissions.

Using data to help people make an impact

Many of our sustainability projects have one important thing in common: they’re bottom-up initiatives, developed by and with our team. With emissions data at our fingertips, we’re constantly organizing hackathons or Green Development days to inspire action and test new ideas.

Making sustainability actionable and accessible for everyone is part of our core mission, and we’re bringing that same idea to our own teams. The feedback has been encouraging too. At a recent Green Development day, one of our employees said he now really understands how his role can impact on the sustainability of Kaluza and the world. We’re putting sustainability at the heart of our organization, by empowering our employees to take direct climate action in their roles. And by showing employees the direct impact of their work, we can encourage them to build even stronger solutions that will result in more carbon savings for our customers.

Driving change by turning electric vehicles into green power stations

There are many ways to make a difference at Kaluza. Our internal pledge to reduce carbon emissions, and pass these savings on to our energy retail clients and their customers, is just one of our sustainability pillars. We’re also using Google Cloud solutions for many other exciting projects, for example the world’s first and largest domestic vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology deployment we are leading with OVO Energy and Nissan. 

With V2G, drivers can charge their electric vehicles when renewable energy is in abundance, and sell it back to the grid when it’s short of supply. By analyzing grid and vehicle data in real time with Google Cloud, we’re essentially turning millions of cars into dynamic batteries, to build a greener, more resilient energy system while helping drivers earn hundreds of pounds a year. In a market such as California, this could reduce the stress on the grid at peak times by 40%.

Powering the future of energy, together

From houses to vehicles and beyond, at Kaluza, we’re using technology to make the energy transition a simple and affordable option for our clients and their customers. We’re excited to keep working with Google Cloud to scale our business and bring new energy solutions to life. We’re striving to be a market leader in sustainability, and with Google Cloud, we’ve found a cloud vendor whose sustainability goals really align with ours. Together, we’re building a world where net zero is in everyone’s reach.

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