Smart Energy Hackathon attempts to develop new digital solutions


Energy experts, coders and product designers across Southeast Asia met in Bangkok this month for the Smart Energy Hackathon – a 30-hour competition with the aim of developing new digital energy solutions.

The organisers say: “the winning team ‘SolarPi’ developed a solution that logs solar energy production data, writes it to a blockchain and uses this record to automatically claim solarcoins (a cryptocurrency that incentivizes solar energy producers).

The “SolarPi” team mates serendipitously met and matched during a team formation exercise during the opening night. Robin Clart, CTO of Thailand based blockchain startup OmiseGO and judge at the Smart Energy Hackathon said: “Given the fact that the SolarPi team formed on site on Friday night, it is remarkable that this team delivered the most innovative solution.”

According to the organisers of the competition (GIZ, TechGrind, CalCEF/New Energy Nexus, Chulalongkorn University Innovation Hub (CU) and Knowledge Xchange for Innovation (KX), the aim is to advance software solutions for energy in Southeast Asia, with an ultimate cash prize of $4,000 first place and “a chance to change the energy game”‘

“Smart Energy refers to the intelligent integration of renewable energy sources, efficient distribution and optimal consumption. We believe bringing together talent from inside and outside the energy industry, coders, and finance gurus will get us one step closer to a smarter, cleaner energy future.”

Teams were made up of “a mix of software developers, energy experts, data analysis experts, product developers and designers, and finance or project management ninjas,” combining multiple skill sets to develop sector-specific solutions. Mentors were an essential ingredient to the success of the Smart Energy Hackathon and over half of the mentors flew in from neighbouring regions to support this effort.

“We are passionate about supporting entrepreneurs bring their ideas and solutions to the Southeast Asia marketplace and abroad. With the right mix of ideas, support and capital we can accelerate the energy transition to smarter and cleaner alternatives” says one of the mentors, Jan-Justus Schmidt, Founder of BluGreen Energy.

Hackathon challenges

Comprising nine challenges, the competition ran across 30-hours of energy drink-fuelled coding. The challenges included:

PTT challenge: Going for negawatts: Create an innovative solution that can help residential, commercial and industrial sectors use their energy more efficiently.

LYKKE challenge: SDG energy and identity – Spoof-proof electricity bills: Demonstrate how a blockchain based currency/token and system can be used for mobile payments of energy and building a recordable history of payments in the wallet. For example, simulate a production schedule of energy over some period of time monthly, weekly etc. in kWhs and a rate $/KWh, create a bill record on mobile device and show how it’s paid.

ENGIE challenge: Microgrids – data sharing: Develop a software solution that engages potential mini grid users to share their data (i.e energy demand, user profile, types of uses, location) with developers, allowing the developers to identify markets and better understand the needs of their potential customers.

PEA challenge: advance solar rooftops: Develop an application that promotes, educates and encourages people to take action to use their roofs to go solar. Focus on the economic benefits, safety and sustainability.

CalCEF challenge: Electric vehicles and grid storage: Develop a business model in Southeast Asia that leverages the falling cost of storage and empowers consumers, utilities and energy stakeholders while improving air quality and renewable energy generation.

GIZ challenge: empower the crowd: The challenge is to design and program a better and less frictioned way to retrieve data regarding diesel prices from the local population. The challenge also includes how to display the data obtained (e.g. on a website) but also to feedback aggregated results to the locals from which the data was obtained.

New Energy Nexus Southeast Asia

The Smart Energy Hackathon marked the official launch of the New Energy Nexus Southeast Asia (Nexus SEA) initiative. The initiative “aims to develop a sustainable energy ecosystem throughout Southeast Asia” and will support energy entrepreneurship, corporate innovation and smart energy investment through a bottom-up approach. The initiative will include universities, co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators to raise awareness for digital smart energy solutions and catalyze action.

Picture credit: Smart Energy Hackathon