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Innovate UK

Building an energy services business model

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Helping communities develop their own renewable energy

Vijay Bhopal in Semiliguda, India with client: 3 Ace Ventures
Vijay Bhopal in Semiliguda, India with client: 3 Ace Ventures

Scene began in Edinburgh in 2011 to help non-specialists to develop their own renewable energy projects. I was a co-founder and became the director in 2015, and we now have offices in Edinburgh, London and Odisha (India).

We are increasingly working on ICT solutions for the ‘energy access’ sector, for communities that seek electricity for the first time, or are newly electrified. At the core of our organisation are two beliefs;

  • that exploitation of renewable energy potential makes environmental, social and economic sense
  • there are a wide range of benefits in spreading ownership of energy generation assets over a wider population, rather than narrow corporate interests.

Working in Europe, Africa and India

Scene's Abhi, Demonstrating App to a group of solar technicians in India
Scene's Abhi, Demonstrating App to a group of solar technicians in India

Since 2013 we have been working on international projects, firstly with partners in the Netherlands, Cameroon, South Africa, and more recently in India. Each geography offers socio-economic differences that challenge our core mandate of community ownership.

For example, in India, lack of access to electricity for around 300 million people creates an environment demanding effective delivery models that may preclude community ownership. I have come to see equitable energy access through renewable energy as the priority, with local ownership as an important opportunity, though in some cases a luxury.

Building an energy services business model (ESCos)

Universal energy access will only be achieved through the use of a range of ownership models. The availability of options is crucially missing for many of the world’s poor at present. An important business model in the coming years will be the Energy Services Company (ESCo) model. Here the user does not own the equipment, but pays for the energy service that they use.

To enable the ESCo model we need to increase the functionality and oversight offered by off-grid renewable energy technologies, in turn increasing developers' ability to raise finance for project development. The ESCo model therefore requires advanced ICT solutions in what are often very low tech environments.

Cloud Solar as a business model for solar developers

We applied to Innovate UK to support our project, Cloud Solar, involving a product suite which allows the ESCo model to be implemented by solar developers. It builds on our activities in India, and includes remote monitoring, remote actuation, automated communications and mobile payment functionality.

The rationale is that those who are looking to access solar electricity services, deserve the option to do so without major financial risk. The option to pay for energy as a service, rather than through outright purchase of generation equipment, should be on the table. This risk is often better placed on the shoulders of those who can afford things to go wrong from time to time.

Compatible with a wide range of solar products

Solar installation in Cuttack, India
Solar installation in Cuttack, India

Cloud Solar is unique in that it will be compatible with a wide range of solar products, and will not be restricted to proprietary product packages. We aim to produce a product which enables the use of the ESCo model in Latin America, to the benefit of developers and users alike. The project will provide the technical springboard for a various other product ideas for Latin America and Asia.

Off-grid ambitions

We aim to be at the forefront of innovation in the off-grid energy sector, which offers great room for expansion, and is still in its infancy in many regions. This project, whilst only 6 months long, is an important step for us, allowing us to continue to develop technical solutions whilst reducing the risk of moving into a new continent.

You can follow Scene on Twitter @scenetwork (India business)

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