Global start-ups electrify Dublin with plans to shake up energy market
ESB looking to work with ‘next big player’ to empower the customer
Pictured left to right: Derek Roddy, chief executive of Climote, showcasing his product to Pat O’Doherty, chief executive of ESB and Paul Mulvaney, executive director of innovation at ESB.
Some of the world’s most innovative energy start-ups are headed to Dublin this month to pitch for investment in a competitive setting. They are participating in Free Electrons, the world’s first clean-tech energy accelerator programme that connects promising start-ups in the sector with globally recognised utilities and investors, including Ireland’s ESB.
The aim of the Free Electrons Accelerator Programme is to support 12 clean energy sector start-ups that have developed innovative products or services in areas such as clean energy, energy efficiency, electric mobility and on-demand customer services.
ESB, alongside a consortium of global utility companies and accelerators, is helping the start-ups to refine their innovative solutions, with the prospect of testing and developing them for a global customer base. Collectively, the eight utility companies involved have a combined market base of 73 million customers - located in more than 40 countries.
It is an exciting time for the industry and ESB is delighted to be in a position to support such start-ups through this programme”
The accelerator programme, which was launched earlier this year, attracted more than 450 global start-ups from 51 countries. The 12 finalists selected are participating in customer adoption modules in Silicon Valley, Lisbon, Dublin and Singapore over a six month period.
Once selected, the 12 finalists were invited to an immersion week in the global capital of technology innovation - Silicon Valley. Under the guidance of the eight utility partners and accelerators, they attended workshops and seminars that focused on commercialisation and the piloting process. For the start-ups it was an opportunity to “learn the language” of utility companies, enabling more fluent communication of their business ideas.
After that it will be on to Lisbon on June 26th, one of the fastest growing technology hubs in Europe, where the start-ups learn more about European utility companies and their operations.
From there it’s on to a Gateway to Europe programme, which takes place in Dublin later this month. As part of this, ESB will host a “Pitch Off” competition in which the 12 start-ups vie to win significant investment. This event, ESB Pitch Off, takes place on Friday, June 30th, in Trinity College’s Exam Hall and will be hosted by Storyful founder and technology entrepreneur Mark Little.
With $25,000 on offer, there will be no room for error or hesitation in a high-pressure scenario reminiscent of TV’s Dragon’s Den. Led by the Innovation team at ESB, the ESB Pitch Off will see the finalists make their case to leading members of the investment and start-up community.
Free Electrons then culminates in Singapore in September, where the 12 start-ups will once again compete, this time in a final pitching competition worth $175,000. The investment isn’t all that is up for grabs however, as the focus turns to contracting pilot projects between the start-ups and the utility companies involved.
The global energy market is proving to be the real battlefield for start-up entrepreneurs, with many lying in wait ready to disrupt and shake up the energy utility industry. Unlike many other sectors, the utility industry is welcoming these radical changes as it wants to create solutions that empower customers and capitalise on the new world of renewable energy and low carbon technologies, such as solar, wave, battery storage and data analytics.
At ESB, we believe in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs to co-create energy solutions for consumers”
It is for this reason the eight global utilities have collaborated to find and work with the best start-ups in the energy space. Thanks to the partnership between the utilities, the start-ups will drive the next generation of ideas in clean energy, energy efficiency, electric mobility and on-demand customer services.
Local hero Climote makes the final 12
Climote, the Dundalk-based maker of digital home heating controls that allow homeowners control their heating remotely, is one of the finalists. “This is a unique opportunity for us to become immersed in such a collaborative environment with like-minded entrepreneurs and companies in the energy space,” says Derek Roddy, chief executive of Climote. “During the module in Silicon Valley, I did more networking and building relationships in three days than I would have achieved in over a year by myself. This is just the start of something great for all finalists.”
For US-based participant, HST Solar, the competition has opened the door to working with ESB and Bord na Móna on a new joint venture solar power project. HST Solar uses computing power to reduce the design and engineering costs for solar projects while boosting efficiency. Indeed, a majority of the participants are working with ESB across their various business units including electric cars and Smart Energy Services.
“At ESB, we believe in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs to co-create energy solutions for consumers and deploy new low carbon technologies to support greater adoption of renewables. This event, and the wider programme, is a great opportunity for us to also collaborate with utilities from around the world to identify, and partner with start-ups to help develop and market their products and services,” says Paul Mulvaney, executive director of innovation at ESB.
Collaborating for a brighter future
For ESB and other participating utilities in this programme, there is the recognition that collaboration with start-ups and other companies is key to unlocking and driving the next generation of ideas the energy sector, he says.
It is inspiring to see so much activity in the energy start-up space. Ireland had one of the highest number of applicants for the programme”
“Such a unique programme as Free Electrons offers global utilities like ESB an insight and possible opportunity to work with innovative start-ups in the energy space. Likewise, we offer them our invaluable experience and expertise in the market with the potential of forging working partnerships. It is a win-win situation for all participants and that is why ESB are involved,” says Paul Mulvaney.
He highlighted that ESB’s retail arm, Electric Ireland, already works with Climote while its ecars business unit uses Drivz as its platform operator for its charge point management system.
ESB has its own innovation hub for start-ups in Dogpatch Labs in Dublin and last year ran Ireland’s first energy hackathon “It is inspiring to see so much activity in the energy start-up space. Ireland had one of the highest number of applicants for the programme, reflecting the level of innovation and creativity that is happening within our own energy market. It is an exciting time for the industry and ESB is delighted to be in a position to support such start-ups through this programme,’ says Mulvaney.
For more info, and to sign up for live-streaming of ESB Pitch Off, visit: www.esb.ie/free-electrons