29 Sep 2017 Upside Energy “One Year On”

Our Shell Springboard journey and why you should apply

In March 2017, Upside Energy was crowned the national winner of Shell Springboard and awarded an equity-free grant of £150,000. Founded in 2013, Upside Energy has found a cheaper and greener way to meet the demand for energy in the UK. Here, co-founder, Dr Graham Oakes, explains what winning the Shell Springboard national award has meant to his business and team.

***

Based on my experience, I have found that the UK electricity grid is increasingly under stress. Retirement of thermal power plan reduces grid operators’ control over supply, while growth in renewable generation further increases volatility of supply. All in all, this is creating an urgent need for more demand-side flexibility.

To provide this flexibility, my team at Upside Energy has developed a way to get people to not use electricity at peak times. Our product, the Virtual Energy Store™, is a cloud-based platform which aggregates the energy stored in systems that people and businesses already own – such as backup power supplies and domestic heating systems – and sells it to the grid to help it balance supply and demand, negating the need to turn on some of the UK’s oldest, dirtiest and most expensive power stations.

Financial stability

The Shell Springboard programme came at a critical time for us. The £150,000 award gave us important financial stability to quickly manage the operational costs required to help our business grow. The month after receiving the award we started delivering our first commercial service to National Grid – a frequency response service that helps ensure the grid remains stable in the face of major events such as a power station shutting down unexpectedly. We also started to roll out our service to a major operator of broadcast towers across the UK.

Industry credibility

Being associated with the Shell Springboard brand has provided us with additional gravitas and has certainly given our technology the ‘rubber stamp’ of approval. The opportunity to network with over 100 low-carbon experts, and to receive feedback from a prestigious judging panel that included engineering grandee Dame Julia King, and Roy Williamson of UKTI was invaluable. After the win, we started raising the funds we needed for further growth and international expansion and being part of the Shell Springboard programme has given us credibility with key investors and stakeholders. We opened our Series A funding round in June and are now in discussion with a number of venture funds.

Commercial connections

The connections we’ve made by being part of the Shell Springboard helped us to open up conversations with potential new customers in the energy sector with several of the Distribution Network Operators. We are also talking to a wide range of commercial organisations and owners of domestic property portfolios, who have the battery systems and backup power supplies that enable our business model to function.

Our ultimate goal is to transform the energy system by making it easier to integrate renewable generation onto the grid. As a country, we need to find ways to match our energy demand with supply, and that’s where we hope Upside Energy can come in. Shell Springboard has been instrumental in helping to provide our business with not only stability, credibility but also a literal ‘springboard’ to help us accelerate our plans for the future.

And we’re starting to see regular results. Recently, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Ofgem published their Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan in July, and included Upside Energy as one of their positive case studies. This gave us the confidence to believe that what we’re doing has the potential to form a core part of the new type of energy system in the UK. Winning Shell Springboard remains one of the biggest milestones for Upside Energy and we’re optimistic about what is to come.

Applications for the 2017/18 Shell Springboard programme open on Monday 2nd October 2017. To be in with a chance of winning £150,000 and business support to help take your business to the next level, find out more and apply here: http://www.shellspringboard.org/apply