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NZI SBN AwardsNovember 30, 2018

Power to the people: The app that lets you choose your energy source

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Want to avoid using electricity when the generators are burning environmentally unfriendly fuel, and save money at the same time? You now have that option.

How much solar energy does it take to make five million cups of tea?

100,000kWh, in case you’re asked at the next pub quiz.

It’s also the same amount of solar energy contributed by Solar Share customers to other, non-solar power consumers since the beginning of 2018 via a ground-breaking, energy sharing platform created by emhTradeThey were recognised for the platform’s role in giving consumers a chance to clean, affordable power via their personalised app.

The company won the Revolutionising Energy category at this year’s NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards, and the sharing of solar energy is just one way the platform is allowing energy consumers greater flexibility over how much – and what kind of – energy they use.

Via the Power Pal app, it quizzes consumers on their energy priorities. Do they prefer it clean, sustainable, local, and/or cheap, for example? The app then alerts users when cleaner, cheaper energy is available in the system and allows them to access it. It also alerts them when costs are high, or when less environmentally sound electricity generation methods are being used.

It’s clearly an idea whose time has come. In one instance, 35 percent of Power Pal users cut their power consumption by more than half when told the system was burning diesel.

“When people change their power use like that it’s called a ‘demand response’ and in the energy sector that’s like gold dust,” says emhTrade CEO Stu Innes. “It’s not about the five cent difference in line charge. We’ve found if you start informing people about impact in a way they can relate to in terms of their individual values, they will change their behaviour.”

Ultimately the idea is driven by a desire to see more consumers using cleaner, more sustainable energy, and recognition of that at the Sustainable Business Network Awards was a good moment.

“We were really stoked,” Innes says. And not just for themselves. “It gives you some hope for the future to be a in a room with 700 or so people at the awards, across all industries, all thinking about sustainability.”

Martin White, emhTrade Chief Product Officer, and Stu Innes, with Eddie Christian, group manager market engagement, at the NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards. (Image: supplied).

The award caps off a big 2018 for emhTrade, in which it raised a healthy $1.3m in capital largely from investors familiar with the energy sector. “That was a good point of validation for us,” Innes says.

Among the investors were some from Australia, which Innes says was another validation of demand for the product as the company is eyeing a launch across the Tasman within the next 12 months.

Most of that capital raise however will go towards ongoing software development to keep up with the intense pace of change in the world of smart tech.

“You could argue the product that we’ve got is still a minimum viable product. We are still doing research on how we best integrate the smart home devices that are coming, like electric vehicles. How do we automate this stuff?

“Already today we help people use energy at the best time to meet their objectives, whether that’s cost or environmental cost savings. Pretty soon that’s going to be automated.

“I’ve probably gone in the last six months from thinking, ‘we’re early to that party’, to ‘we might even be late’. It happens so fast. We’re just really excited to be a part of that change.”

The app in action (Image: supplied).

When emhTrade launched six-and-a-half years ago it was all about electricity market derivatives trading and applying tech in the form of data architecture and predictive modelling. But the deeper the company delved, the more it became apparent that what the industry needed was a transactive energy platform.

Put simply, that’s a digital sharing economy for energy resources.

The shift from energy trader to consumer business has had its challenges. “You suddenly have these customers,” Innes says.

Taking part in Lightning Lab Electric last year, a four-month accelerator programme for ventures focusing on the future of the electricity industry, helped the transition, he says.

The result is it’s now helping consumers cut their power bills by as much as $90 a year.

This content was created in paid partnership with NZI. Learn more about our partnerships here

This content is made possible by NZI. The NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards are the pre-eminent and longest-standing sustainability awards in New Zealand. The awards recognise and celebrate companies and organisations that continue to revolutionise the business landscape.

Image: Tina Tiller

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