3rd July 2019
Powering the future of the food industry
Eugene Costello, Journalist-in-Residence
Zoisa Walton, director of Octopus Energy for Business, and her team have overseen a meteoric rise in the number of business accounts switching to Octopus' 100% renewable electricity. When she joined in January 2018, there were a healthy 300 accounts; today, that has grown to 6,000. But they have no intention of resting on their laurels; she has a clear vision and strategy for continued growth. And that growth will be vertical, in more ways than one.
Great business advice is always to play to strengths, says Zoisa, who expands. “I looked at what we had, and first, we are possibly the greenest energy provider in the market today, and that’s great, it means we will naturally attract forward-looking business owners who share our values, our vision and our aims.”
Zoisa Walton, Octopus Energy for Business
We are possibly the greenest energy provider in the market today, and that’s great – it means we will naturally attract forward-looking business owners who share our values, our vision and our aims.
But when it came to what was really unique about Octopus Energy, one overriding fact stood out. Octopus Energy is the only UK energy provider that can offer real-time, or dynamic, time-of-use tariffs that bill clients based on what their electricity costs per half-hour of use.
“Tariffs such as Agile and Go mean we are at the very cutting edge of harnessing technology to provide renewable electricity,” says Zoisa. “The clear benefit to the customer is that there is no reason apart from tradition as to why they consume energy during the day when it is most expensive, when it can be so cheap in the small hours of the morning.”
Zoisa and her team then set their minds to thinking about which vertical markets could make most use of these time-of-use tariffs that offer super-cheap electricity. The first one to strike the team was congestion charging companies – a car doesn’t care what time of day (or night) it’s charged, so long as it’s charged.
But it was arguably their second kernel inspiration that showed great creativity.
“We became aware of vertical farmers, that is, farmers who grow vegetables indoors using lamps to create the effect of the sun,” says Zoisa, such as Octopus client Lettuce Grow in Bristol. From this husk of an idea, the green shoots of a clear strategy emerged into the sunlight.
“Growing vegetables indoors consumes a lot of energy to power – around 40% of operating costs,” continues Zoisa. “Since we’re the only supplier offering dynamic time-of-use tariffs that are calculated half-hourly, I realised we could really help these kinds of businesses.”
Zoisa Walton, Octopus Energy for Business
Growing vegetables indoors consumes a lot of energy to power – around 40% of operating costs. Since we’re the only supplier offering dynamic time-of-use tariffs that are calculated half-hourly, I realised we could really help these kinds of businesses.
By encouraging this sector to buy their electricity in the small hours of the morning and avoid peak early-evening tariffs, the business team worked out that Octopus could shave 8-12% of a client’s operating costs, a substantial sum.
“Vertical farmers were being billed using average energy pricing, but by using the principles of Agile, which allows customers to consume energy when it is cheapest, we were able to show that by turning day into night, we were supporting the sector’s growth.
“After all, it shouldn’t matter to a carrot if it is day or night outside so long as they are getting light where they are growing,” she says.
This fits with her strategy of targeting SMEs instead of large industrial and commercial partners. With 6,000 business accounts already on the Octopus books, Zoisa is confident that this sector will yield 20,000 further accounts in the coming two years.
Zoisa concludes, “By playing to our strengths, and championing new technology to help make a sustainable future a present reality, we’re confident that we are the right fit for these exciting and innovative new companies. It’s what we do.”
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