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Green Tech Heroes: Open Energi

Posted on 19 December 2016

At Co-operative Energy, we’re committed to creating a more sustainable future for everyone – and we’re not alone! There are an increasing number of businesses working to make the world a better place.

As part of our Green Tech Heroes series, we wanted to shine a light on some of these exciting organisations and their innovative products and services. We also wanted to find out how they feel about the UK’s green tech market, as well as what the future holds.

Open Energi works with leading organisations across the UK to develop Demand Response strategies aimed at delivering revenue and supporting sustainability goals. We chatted with David Hill, Strategy Director for Open Energi, about where they see the green technology market heading in the future.

sainsburys open energi

What does Open Energi aim to achieve?

“The UK is in the midst of a smart power revolution which is transforming how our energy system operates. Today, our growing ability to connect and control anything from anywhere means that instead of turning ageing fossil fuelled power stations up and down to meet our ever-changing demand, we can change our demand to meet supply. Flipping our energy system on its head in this way means we can build a system which is cleaner, cheaper, more secure and more efficient. 

“This is where Open Energi’s technology comes in. We are working with large commercial and industrial clients to invisibly adjust their demand for energy in real-time, reducing stress on the national grid when electricity demand exceeds supply, and taking advantage of surplus electricity when supply exceeds demand – on a windy day for example. By intelligently shifting demand in this way, we are supporting greater use of renewable energy generation and helping to make the UK’s electricity system more efficient. This is not just good news for the environment but also for UK bill-payers and taxpayers.

“A recent Smart Power report estimated that if just five percent of current peak demand was met by flexible energy use solutions, consumers would benefit by £790m a year. Already we have aggregated some 70MW of flexible demand from over 380 customer sites, including Sainsbury’s, Tarmac, United Utilities and Aggregate Industries.”

What do you think is hindering green technology adoption in the UK?

“The UK has a thriving green technology sector developing world-leading solutions. The key for demand-side technologies like ours is market access. Currently, the UK market favours existing power generators to a disproportionate extent. To fully realise the potential of demand flexibility to help balance the grid, save energy and lower costs for consumers, we need a level playing field.

“Without it, there is a very real risk that we will lead ourselves into multi-decade contracts for fossil fuelled power plants, paying for a system which is already over capacity and which has no incentive to get any smarter. The challenge rests with policy makers to make regulation fit for purpose in a modern age of energy technology innovation.”

What do you think the future holds for the green technology landscape in the UK?

“Green technology has economics on its side but it’s important to remember that systemic change is incredibly hard and slow moving. Even more so in the context of the global energy industry, which is built around some of the largest pieces of infrastructure humans have ever built, financed over decades. Moving to a zero-carbon system that is more decentralised and more consumer focused is going to take time.

“What’s exciting is that we are already beginning to see the fruits of work that has been 20 years or more in the making, which is a direct result of the increasing amount of investment in green technology. The cost of transmission scale and distributed renewable generation, energy efficiency technology, demand flexibility and energy storage is moving to the point where sustainably driven energy decisions are no longer uncompetitive or inconvenient, but are actually boosting productivity and enhancing standards of living.

“Businesses are leading the way, displaying best practice with regards to sustainability and building longer time horizons into their decision making than governments.  They are adopting cutting edge green technologies because they see the competitive advantage it can deliver in the long-term. We just have to keep persisting and believing that a zero-carbon economy can happen.”

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