OSO Hotwater is a leading European manufacturer of eco-friendly water heaters, and its subsidiary is fully focused on energy management. OSO Energy’s smart technology has global potential.
The family company OSO Hotwater has made water heaters for more than 90 years. From its factory in Hokksund, the company supplies Norway and other countries with energy saving heaters with long service lives. Some 65 per cent of turnover comes from exports.
In 2020, its subsidiary, OSO Energy, decided to focus solely on energy management. The smart control units result in lower electricity costs and reduced CO2 emissions.
Regional director at Innovation Norway Oslo Viken, Kristin Willoch Haugen, is very impressed by the development and restructuring of this family company. OSO is focusing on robotised production and is significantly contributing to the green transition and Norwegian exports.
“Thanks to what it calls its ‘blue batteries’, which refers to the energy storage effect of the smart water heaters, Norway will take a really big step in the right direction when it comes to energy optimisation,” she says.
Funding for innovation
The transition from manufacturing company to supplier of digital green technology is making new demands on development, business models, and customer understanding, and new expertise and opportunities are required to test the solutions.
“In an early phase with unfamiliar technology, it is even more important to receive the support necessary to take the steps required," says Kim Arild Tandberg, sales manager at OSO Energy.
“The financial support we received from the Pilot E programme in Innovation Norway has been crucial in developing the product into what it is today,” he says.
The company has received two environmental technology grants from Norway. The final one was allocated at the start of 2022 and for a collaboration between OSO, Kongsberg Digital, Epos Consulting, and Saint John Energy from Canada. The project involves developing a smart system that enables water heaters to function as energy storage devices in the power grid and help even out consumption peaks. The system will ‘learn’ the grid’s consumption pattern and optimally manage the water heater based on this.
Ready for scaling
The Nordic region, UK, and Canada are the main markets for the new initiative targeted at the consumer market and continuing sales to the business market.
“OSO has built up a larger international market with a traditional business model and finished products, although it has also used an international market to test new technology. It is now ready for scaling,” says Maria Lundstad Aulie, adviser on international initiatives at Innovation Norway Oslo Viken.
OSO Hotwater is taking part in the export programme Global Gateways. The programme has provided it with a dedicated adviser who is developing a growth plan together with it, and the company will be followed up over many years. This is how OSO became part of Norway’s national export team, and Innovation Norway offers relevant expertise, advice, and networks, at the right time. The programme helps companies mitigate risk and ensure faster access to new markets.
OSO has also taken part in Innovation Norway’s strategy work for international market development. Here, it gained access to the programme that makes it simpler and more efficient to map new markets. It has also received help from several of Innovation Norway’s offices abroad with, for example, market surveys, establishment advice, and collaborative projects.
Stores more energy
OSO Energy sells heaters and control units as a package, although it also sells control units separately for subsequent installation on customers’ heaters.
One major advantage of avoiding consumption peaks is that you can avoid using expensive, polluting energy sources such as coal, gas, and oil. This is highly relevant for many countries in Europe, where, for example, solar power is generated in the middle of the day and can be used to heat up water. With more varied energy production, there is a major need for cost-effective energy storage.
Since OSO’s tanks are produced from stainless steel as opposed to glass enamelled steel, like most others use, they can withstand more heat. Storing water at 75ºC rather than 60ºC provides a big environmental benefit. Water is usually used at 40ºC and OSO’s tanks can thus store more energy with the same volume. The service life of the product is also considerably longer.
Better cost control
In an ordinary household in Norway, 20-40 per cent of the energy consumed is consumed by water heaters. If you shower in the morning, you can manage the reheating such that it occurs at a time of day when it is cheaper. Consumers can themselves, via an app, activate price optimisation and monitor their consumption.
A minimum limit is programmed in so that the water does not get too cold, and consumers do not need to change their habits. If you go on holiday, you can put the water heater on standby such that it uses little energy when the house is empty. Since the water is heated up regularly to prevent bacteria growth and one pays for the highest price level, OSO consumption control is a smart way of reducing costs.