White Space Staff’s Top 5 Energy Tie-Ups
A flurry of activity in the energy space has got our staff talking in recent weeks. Five of our staff discuss recent acquisitions, investments and partnerships that have piqued our interest.
Shell ramps up investment into domestic renewables with sonnen
An interesting and topical story in the office I came across a few weeks ago was that Shell has now agreed to fully acquire sonnen after its initial investment in May 2018. They will partner with Shell’s New Energies division, which has a focus on new fuels for transport and on generating and transacting electricity. As one of the leading global manufacturers of smart residential storage systems, the sonnenBatterie, sonnen has partnered with Shell to help drive sonnen’s growth. This acquisition furthers Shell’s ambition to penetrate the UK residential energy market, following their acquisition of First Utility (and their 825,000 residential customers) last year. The New Energies division also followed many companies, including Centrica (see below) into the demand-side response market with the acquisition of LimeJump on March 1st.
Although Sonnen has a large presence in Germany, it also offers products in Italy, UK, Australia and the USA and Shell’s international brand could help sonnen’s expansion further. Their innovative and customer-focused sonnenCommunity platform is a great proposition developed in Germany, consisting of a decentralised energy system which can be considered as a virtual battery formed by the network of sonnenBatteries. I think that this is a really exciting platform which will enhance Shell’s ability to provide grid services and offer both integrated energy services and EV charging solutions. A proposition which builds on their partnership with the super-fast EV charging provider, IONITY. This is a partnership which will see Shell deploy 500 chargers at European Shell stations by 2020 as they aim to encourage the uptake of EVs.
Considering sonnen’s reliance on solar power and storage this venture furthers Shell’s ambition of sustainable and innovative energy solutions for the future following the formation of New Energies in 2016. Shell’s New Energies division is an exciting and acquisitive venture and a place to keep an eye on for the future.
Hal Smart, Senior Analyst
Compelling smart meter use case from EDF and Howz
Research suggests that smart meters would need to be installed at a rate of 30-a-minute for the next 2 years for the 2020 deadline to be met. Energy companies have struggled to convince customers to swap out their existing meters for smart ones and given the horror stories (meters going dumb when customers tried to switch suppliers etc.) it is hardly surprising. The communicated benefits of a smart meter have been limited to the ‘meter that reads itself’ and ‘no more inaccurate bills’. For most customers this is not enough!
Back in November, EDF Energy fully launched their Howz tie-up – an offering that creates a compelling customer-centric use case. The system uses sensors to monitor the energy use of household appliances and combines this with information from the sensors that detect movement to build a picture of the occupier’s daily behaviour. If an elderly user doesn’t turn on their kettle in the morning, a phone alert will be sent to a carer or family member.
Energy companies need to create compelling reasons for customers to think twice about smart meters. And while there are still 40m+ to be installed, the EDF – Howz tie-up has me excited for what energy companies are going to come up with next!
Sarosh Khan, Engagement Manager
British Gas led the way into demand flexibility
Back in 2017, UK-based energy giant Centrica purchased REstore, a software-based demand side response aggregator based in Belgium. Being the first major acquisition of a demand response player by the Big 6, this certainly caught our eye, not to mention the hefty pricetag (~£62m). This acquisition resulted in Centrica gaining a portfolio of 1.7GW across France, Belgium, Germany and the UK that would go towards their distributed energy and power unit of their business solutions arm. Since the acquisition, one of REstore’s major projects has been to apply their sophisticated technology to manage a virtual power plant built on Tesla batteries in Belgium.
I think this tie-up shows how key demand-response capabilities will be in the future. Using algorithms and AI to manage the grid is an exciting move for the energy market. I also see DSR aggregators posing a threat to traditional players as they seek energy supply licenses themselves. We believe that an increasing proportion of energy requirements could be met by DSR, and are also excited by the carbon-reduction capabilities this technology has. Other companies have been following Centrica into this market, too – Engie acquired a major stake in KiWi Power back in November, and Shell’s New Energies division bought LimeJump last week. We receive projects looking into DSR by a variety of market players, so further tie-ups like these are something to keep your eye on!
Quinn O’Brien, Managing Analyst
Mitsubishi takes stake in Ovo – will this supercharge V2G?
I’ve talked a lot around our office about the the likelihood of energy retailers becoming facilitators of home generation, storage and related services over the last couple of years and have keenly followed Ovo’s vehicle-to-grid (V2G) offering that was announced in partnership with Nissan back in 2017. There is little doubt that there will be major (and closely linked) changes to what is demanded of the grid and to the take-up of electric vehicles in future years. V2G seems like a ‘no-brainer’ move to be making, but as is often the case with tech-based concepts there are key questions around commercial viability.
Mitsubishi taking a 20% stake in Ovo with an investment of £200 million seems to me to be both a statement of belief in the ambition of Ovo’s new technology unit Kaluza to “securely connect all devices to an intelligent zero carbon grid” and a serious financial contribution towards that ambition. It also opens up additional questions of whether this could be a springboard for Ovo to enter the Japanese market, particularly given Mistbushi and Homeserve’s recent Japanese joint venture announcement. Regardless of international ambitions however, I really do believe that we are going to see profound changes in the UK energy industry over the next ten years or so. Ovo’s ambitions over it’s role in these changes in the UK seems to be gaining a lot more interest and attention than just industry insiders and anyone in the White Space office who is willing to listen to me!
Paul Barnes, Senior Project Team Leader
Google entering the Taiwanese renewables market
Last month, Google announced they will be undertaking a 10-megawatt floating photovoltaics project in Taiwan. This caught my eye not just due to the “flotovoltaics” technology involved, but because it is an example of a considerable move by a global giant into energy. Google were the first company to make a purchase under the 2017 Taiwan Electricity Act (the act that allows non-utility companies to purchase renewable energy) indicating their intention to proactively take up opportunities in a market predicted to supply up to 10% of US energy in the future.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise though. Renewable energy has been on Google’s mind for a while: eight years ago they unveiled a plan to build a wind energy project in the Atlantic Ocean. Whilst not materialising at the time it was an indication of things to come. This solar farm, situated above fishing ponds in Taiwan, is part of the growing Asian floating photovoltaics market; a market that is striding ahead of America in terms of uptake of this technology. Keep an eye out for the two big elements of this – new international renewables opportunities, and non-energy players moving in to the industry.
Tom Crump, Managing Analyst