28th November 2016
What does it take to create the energy company of the future?
Chris Roper, Writer
The world of energy is changing.
Just for a moment, let’s just skip past the next fifteen years, and stop in on 2031 to take a look at what energy supply looks like.
Unsurprisingly, no-one is waiting on hold to talk to their energy supplier. Because no-one wants to talk to their energy supplier. They have better things to do. Instead, they send a message via Facebook Messenger and get on with their day. Of course, you could already do that today.
Using fossil fuels to power our daily lives has become one of those things that is hard to believe we ever thought was okay, like drink driving or smoking while pregnant.
And, thankfully, no-one finds themselves in the freezing cold, or on tip-toes in the hallway, struggling to read the numbers on a meter, because smart meters have become much more than just the kilowatt equivalent of bean counters.
They’re now hubs more akin to traffic controllers, ensuring the most efficient use of energy throughout home and office by liaising with smart devices, local renewable generation – such as rooftop solar or community wind – and storage such as wall mounted batteries or electric vehicles.
They both draw and push power into the distribution networks as needed, and their networked, API driven nature means peaks are smoothed and managed, both on the supply and demand sides.
So. What kind of businesses survived the upheaval, and actually helped deliver these changes to the energy industry?
Was it the Big 6 dinosaurs, with their fossil fuel power plants, legions of meter readers, and enormous call centres?
We don’t think so either.
We believe the future of energy requires a new breed of supplier, one built from the ground up for the challenges of tomorrow.
What does it take to create the energy company of the future?
Alongside the vision for where energy is heading, the energy company of tomorrow will need three key ingredients: the right commitment, the right team, and the right technology.
The right commitment
Energy is not a simple market to compete in. Wholesale energy prices fluctuate on a half-hourly basis, and sharply rising energy costs have already taken out one poorly exposed energy supplier this year. That’s why sound backing is essential for any supplier looking to make a dent in the UK market.
Unlike many new companies in the energy market, Octopus Energy is backed by a major technology investor – Octopus Investments, the UK based investment firm with over £6 billion in funds under management, and market leading positions in tax-efficient investment, smaller company financing, and healthcare.
Octopus has a strong history of backing successful UK businesses driven by the brightest entrepreneurs and most ambitious business owners, including Graze.com, Secret Escapes, SwiftKey, and Zoopla Property Group.
But success throughout the tumultuous years ahead will require more than just sound backing - it will require commitment and passion for generating energy as it should be generated: sustainably.
Octopus is the UK’s largest investor in solar generation, with over £2 billion invested in renewable energy generation in general. There are only two companies who can claim more investment in renewable generation in Britain – both of which are Big 6 energy suppliers whose renewable investments are dwarfed by their investment in and commitment to fossil fuels.
The right team
The right team will be one that can take new ideas, new ways of thinking, and successfully bring them to bear on a sector that is very technical, and very stuck in it’s ways. That’s a difficult thing to do, and requires a team with a powerful, collaborative mix of outside experience and inside knowledge – and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.
Our senior team
Greg Jackson, founder & Chief Executive
Greg is an experienced entrepreneur and passionate advocate of technology-driven innovation, particularly in legacy industries. He’s founded a string of successful businesses, including most recently HomeServe Alliance which launched new businesses in connected home technology and home services delivery. Greg has also served as Director of a number of innovative businesses, including Zopa, the world’s first peer to peer lender, which has now lent almost £2bn fairly and responsibly whilst generating excellent interest rates for lenders.
Jon Paull, Director of Operations
Jon has unmatched experience at scaling energy businesses from startup into established market players. Jon previously managed customer services for Simply Energy, a new energy supplier in Australia that now boasts a 12% market share. Subsequently, Jon has overseen operations for Alinta Energy and Horizon Power. Most recently, Jon was Head of Operations at hipster renewable supplier Bulb.
Pete Miller, Head of Customer Experience
Pete brings a wealth of digital design experience to the team. Previously Creative Director of a top London digital agency, Peter has used technology and user-centred design to make complex systems simple for an extensive list of organisations including the Labour Party, Sky, and the German software giant, SAP.
Stuart Jackson, Chief Financial Officer
Stuart has extensive experience of commercial and financial strategy in regulated markets, most recently as Founder and Director of OBI Strategy, a financial services consultancy, and prior to that as Head of Customer Acquisition at Barclaycard. Stuart also worked at the leading financial services and strategy consultancy, Marakon.
James Eddison, Chief Technology Officer
James is an experienced technology leader, having spent 10 years as CTO of independent digital agency Tangent Labs delivering enterprise scale technology platforms for the likes of Tata, SAP, and Deutsche Bank. Previously, he was CEO of web-conferencing business Claripoint, and helped Unilever prepare for Y2K.
The right technology
Underpinning the vision, the commitment, and the team of tomorrow’s energy company is the foundation upon which it all will be built: its technology.
Much of the technology in the energy industry today is version 1.0. It’s cumbersome, proprietary software that’s built to manage the system as it has worked up until now. It does not play well with others. It is completely unprepared for the disruption and the data that tomorrow will bring.
That’s why we’re building our own. It’s designed at a fundamental level to work with the precision and immediacy of real-time data in a smart meter world. So while legacy systems might struggle with one meter reading roughly every 6 months, ours will truly start to shine once we start receiving half hourly – or preferably more frequent – usage from smart meters.
Today it may seem that the idea of your energy account interacting with smart devices in your home, or using locational data from your smartphone, or working together with your neighbours' accounts to conserve energy is a long way off. But that’s simply because the traditional approach to technology in energy has been to build great walled gardens that kept “competitors” out, and kept customers locked in.
In contrast, the tech startups that are creating today’s most popular modern services realise the way to create sustainable innovation is to open your platform up with an API. We believe that by allowing customers, developers, and other businesses to access and use real-time energy data will lead to far greater transparency and innovation than we’ve seen in the industry for a very long time.
This API driven innovation is essential to transforming the grid from the one-way fossil fuel firehose of yesterday into the smart, demand-managing, push-and-pull network of tomorrow.
Already clever innovations such as Reactive Technologies (an Octopus backed startup) are using networked technology to better manage the energy demands of large businesses in smarter, more efficient ways.
The future of energy is already arriving. To our minds, 2031 can’t come soon enough.
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