How This Hackathon is Inspiring More Smart Energy Start-ups in Southeast Asia

Energy solutions are particularly needed in the region

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 07 Sep 2017

smart energy startup

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

“In Chiang Mai, Thailand there is a very innovative and unique solar-hydrogen solution. Phi Suea house is a 100% self-sustaining 24-hour solar powered multi-house residence,” says Pavel Laletin, one of the organizers of a Smart Energy Hackathon running in Bangkok between September 8 to September 10.

The self-sustaining, solar-powered house is a microcosm for what Laletin, co-founder and COO of TechGrind Incubator & Venture Capital, and co-organizer Thomas Chrometzka, Director of Renewable Energy at GIZ Thailand, want to achieve with their hackathon.

“There is no lack of promising innovations that can help to reach a transformation of the energy system and thus stop climate change. The energy sector, with its deeply ingrained centralized and top-down structures, is likely to be disrupted by start-ups that deliver new enabling software solutions at speed,” says Chrometzka, adding that these solutions are particularly needed in Southeast Asia.

Even if smart energy may not draw as much of the headlines as other segments of the tech industry, it stands to help improve the lives of many people in the region.

“Digital home solutions can visualize energy consumption and allow the customer to be in more control of their consumption. They will empower mere consumers to become ‘prosumers’ that produce their own electricity (solar), store or share it with their neighbors. IoT and Blockchain will bring significant if not disruptive innovation to electricity payment systems or energy distribution. And the list goes on,” says Chrometzka.

In terms of their hackathon, the organizers are looking for solutions that fall within smart energy or “new energy,” terms which are often used interchangeably.

“We refer to an intelligent integration of renewable energy sources for low/no-carbon generation (solar, wind, sustainable biomass, and hydro), efficient distribution and transmission (smart and cross-border grids, energy markets, infrastructure etc.), and efficient and optimal consumption (demand side management, storage, smart meters, and prosumers) forming the future energy ecosystem,” says Chrometzka.

A jury of experts and thought leaders from software development, energy, entrepreneurship, and science will choose four winners, who will be given the equivalent of USD$10,000 in cryptocurrency, which was selected to highlight the hackathon’s affinity for the bleeding edge of tech.

The multidisciplinary range of the judges highlights the fact that the organizers believe the best teams at the hackathon will also be composed of people from a variety of different fields, industries, and backgrounds.

“Urbanization, automation, digitization and energy efficiency in general are the main challenges nowadays. We believe that innovative software solutions created by combining variety of skills and experiences of engineers, data scientists and energy experts can get us to sustainable, profitable and bright future,” says Laletin.

The Smart Energy Hackathon is only a precursor to an even bigger initiative toward promoting new energy in Southeast Asia. According to Chrometzka, the accelerators TechGrind, KX and CU in Bangkok, together with the German Development Agency (GIZ), and the California Clean Energy Fund are launching a support program for smart energy entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia.

“The program will invest in and connect start-up accelerators throughout the region to facilitate the creation of new innovative smart energy start-ups that will build Southeast Asia’s clean energy economy, and fasten the market introduction of these start-ups in their countries and across the region,” he says.

If these partners are putting so much effort into smart energy, it’s because they believe it’s a major stakeholder in the fight against climate change.

“We believe that Southeast Asia will play a crucial role when it comes to succeeding in our efforts to avoid climate change. We also see that the region is tech-savvy and aims to host innovative start-ups. We therefore think that Southeast Asia is a perfectly suited environment to create a smart energy ecosystem that produces urgently needed solutions with global aspiration while creating local value,” he says.