Power Shift: Energy disruptors are back and we’ll all be better off because of it

by Anya Breen

When was the last time you spoke to somebody about energy prices? 

Probably very recently. A recent survey by NerdWallet of 500 UK business owners showed that 45% were considering closure due to the energy crisis. Recent research from the AA shows that 70% of UK drivers state they have been put off buying an electric vehicle because of price hikes. In total European countries, including the UK and Norway, have spent over $800bn shielding their inhabitants from the energy crisis.

2021 was a terrible year for challengers in the energy space. It saw the collapse of 29 energy suppliers, and sparked the start of Bulb’s high profile decline that culminated in its acquisition by Octopus in December of last year. As Octopus Energy has shown as pretty much the last UK straight-up energy company challenger standing - it pays to be risk averse in a crisis, and founding CFO Stuart Jackson is largely credited with the savvy yet ethical economic management which has left the business alive and looking towards 2023 profitability after two very tough years.

Despite the doom and gloom, however, even a tough market can’t hold back the wave of disruptors that have been gradually making headway into the space. Much as consumer demand for control over their financial data, convenience, and a greater sense of ownership over their spending has driven monumental changes in the financial industry over the past 10 years (open banking, open insurance, open everything), change in energy is consumer-led. 

Some of the new frontiers include IoT in the energy sector, or ‘the internet of energy’, which combined with smart home technology has paved the way for more efficient, more trackable energy usage in households, the localisation of energy production, and at a grid level, reduced outages and improved reliability. Blockchain has enabled peer-to-peer electricity trading, and electric vehicle charging and sharing. But most importantly of all, this innovation is taking place outside of the dominant energy players and at a pace they just can’t compete with. 

Here are 3 D2C energy startups you should be keeping your eye on:

  1. Ripple Energy: Cleaner, cheaper energy through collective ownership 

Ripple is out to prove that innovative business models can be just as groundbreaking as cutting edge tech. They enable consumers to own part of their own wind farm, or solar project, through a platform technology.  With a one off payment customers stabilise their energy bills for decades and also support the construction of a renewable energy project. This saves consumers about 25% monthly and avoids price spikes, which over the past 6 months has led to huge demands for their projects, and expansion from wind into solar power.  

  1. Greenely: Your data, your usage, your bills 

Launching soon into the UK, Greenely has been making waves across the Nordics, blending IoT, connected home and cutting edge EV integrations into a D2C app that automatically saves 20% on electricity bills and connects you with green energy suppliers. They have ambitions to take over Europe and push into the ‘virtual power plants’ (worth reading the full Wikipedia on VPP if you’re interested).

  1. UrbanChain: A P2P Green Energy Market 

Urban Chain and Rebel Energy have launched a P2P energy exchange market that is rapidly gaining signups; homes within the network are supplied with traceable energy from local solar, wind and hydro projects. The platform is driven by AI and blockchain and aims to tackle fuel poverty whilst facilitating direct access to renewables.

Recent months have been full of tech-sector pessimism, but the sea-change within energy is one of the most exciting areas of current disruption. Follow-on investment remains one of the most challenging areas for these businesses; a recent Tech Nation report found that UK energy tech startups face greater later stage funding challenges than other areas. As a result, it is up to all of us to fly the green flag for Climate Tech when it comes to consumer decision making, funding and vocal advocacy to ensure that breakthrough successes like  Octopus Energy are not anomalies, but the norm.

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