Phoebus takes all the factors it is programmed to check and evaluates them in real time 24/7, providing constant adjustments to the way energy is used.
Since the oil crisis of the 1970s, Western nations have proclaimed their commitment to reducing oil dependency. Billions have been allocated – and spent. But for all the talk of ever-depleting sources of fossil fuels, alternative energy use worldwide remains negligible, while oil use overall has been up almost every year since the mid-1970s.
What to do? Yoav Ben-Yaacov and his team at Netanya’s Phoebus Energy have developed a system that can cut use of heating (distillate) oil or gas by large institutions – and eventually households and even entire cities – by more than half.
And the best part? You don’t even have to touch the thermostat. Phoebus’ device does all the work, regulating use of energy that provides heat and hot water, with no interruption or impact on the services themselves.
If people are going to use fossil fuels, says Ben-Yaacov, they may as well use them in as efficient a manner as possible. Energy efficiency means different things to different people: For environmentalists and government regulators, it means reducing CO2 pollutants; for business managers, it means spending less on energy; and for politicians, it means promoting energy independence.
Ben-Yaacov claims Phoebus addresses all these needs.
“With Phoebus’ device, and its built-in intelligent software which utilizes a very sophisticated set of computer algorithms, a large institution such as a hotel, hospital or factory, could cut its distilled oil use by as much as 60 percent,” he says.
The device deploys algorithms that evaluate at least nine separate parameters, including temperature, humidity, price of oil, electricity kilowatt hourly price, user demand, etc., which regulate which source – oil, electricity or both – should be used to generate heat and hot water.
“Phoebus’ system takes all the factors it is programmed to check and evaluates them 24/7, providing up to the minute adjustments to the way energy is used,” says Ben-Yaacov.
While there are rival services that can, for example, adjust electricity or oil use in heating systems once every couple of weeks based on the price of energy, Phoebus is far more responsive to environmental, demand, and cost events, ensuring maximum possible efficiency in real time, Ben-Yaacov adds.
With Phoebus, institutions save money, less oil is used and imported, and “the environment improves, since electricity is usually produced in outlying areas, while distilled oil pollutants are emitted through smokestacks,” says Ben-Yaacov. These pollute city centers and injure the health, sometimes fatally, of tens of thousands every year around the globe, explains Ben-Yaacov.
“More than three kilograms of pollutants are generated for each kilogram of fossil fuel burned. The Phoebus system reduces this by up to 90%,” he adds.
The first deployment of the system will take place at the end of this month in Kibbutz Tzora, near Beit Shemesh. Phoebus devices are set be installed in several European locations shortly afterwards.
“There are many places, even whole towns and villages, in northern and eastern Europe, that can make immediate use of Phoebus’ device, because they use a central supply model for heat and hot water,” Ben-Yaacov says, adding that he has been in touch with a number of officials who have expressed great interest in the innovation.
“We are the only company in the world that has applied computer algorithms to energy efficiency systems in such an advanced manner,” he adds.
And while word is getting out on Phoebus’ innovation, Ben-Yaacov admits “it’s a long road” to mass installations.
“Believe it or not, we’re not in this business for the profit factor, and we are not seeking a ‘quick exit’ in the manner of so many high-tech companies,” he explains. “I was raised on a kibbutz and still carry the kibbutz values. The environment is extremely important to me.”
Ben-Yaacov is not just some starry-eyed idealist though. He’s got an MBA and has worked as CFO in several high-tech enterprises. “With great help from leading VC Terra Ventures and its professional team we’ve been able to put together funding for this project, and they are not less idealistic than I am.
“Eventually, our device will catch on,” he adds. “We’ll be able to help institutions save billions of dollars, and help save the planet by significantly reducing the amount of CO2 in the air.”