Is total energy market disruption right around the corner?

Written by Rebecca O'Connor on 6th May 2016

It’s highly likely that you’ve never heard of peer-to-peer energy matching, because it doesn’t quite exist yet. And yet, a six-month trial of a scheme that delivers renewable energy from local, often community-owned suppliers directly to households and businesses has concluded that the system could: “unlock billions of pounds of additional revenue for renewable generation technologies in Great Britain and overseas”.

That would be a pretty big achievement for a simple system that essentially cuts out the middle man – the energy company. It also has the potential to reduce bills, as suppliers can apply discounts. Cheaper, cleaner, local energy – tick tick tick.

Tech company Open Utility today released the findings of its six‐month trial of Piclo, the Britain’s first  online peer‐to‐peer marketplace for renewable energy, allowing consumers and generators to buy and sell renewable energy directly.

One giant leap for energy

It is early days and there are several hoops to jump through before such a system becomes a reality, but findings from the trial suggest that local markets are the future of a decentralised energy economy and that significant savings can be achieved by making grid charges fairer through local matching.

If Piclo is widely adopted alongside Open Utility’s proposals to Ofgem for fairer grid charges, it could be one giant leap for the industry.

The Piclo trial was a collaboration between Open Utility and  green energy provider Good Energy with funding from leading tech for good investor Nominet Trust and The Energy Entrepreneurs Fund scheme  run by The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It gives consumers and generators the tools and data needed to allow them complete choice and control,  whilst also providing electricity retailers groundbreaking insights into their customers purchasing decisions.

James Johnston, Open Utility chief executive and co‐founder, said:  “Open Utility believe peer‐to‐peer local energy matching could unlock billions of pounds of additional revenue for renewable generation technologies in Great Britain and overseas, heralding an age of decentralised and clean electricity.

“And now, following the release of our six‐month trial we are in a perfect position to maximise the benefit from the smart meter rollout to 30 million households and businesses across Wales, Scotland and England by the end of 2020.”

Vicki Hearn, director of Nominet Trust, said: “At Nominet Trust, we’re passionate about the potential of the internet and digital technology as a force for social good. It’s been exciting for us to support Open  Utility’s growth through our funding for Piclo, building a fairer renewable energy marketplace for consumers and producers and also helping to preserve vital resources for future generations. We’re now thrilled to see the results of the Piclo trial and its potential to unlock value in local energy markets.”

Piclo takes in all the price and preference information and matches electricity demand and supply every  half an hour. Good Energy helps ensure that the marketplace is always balanced, purchasing surplus power or providing 100% renewable top‐up when required.

Juliet Davenport, Good Energy chief executive and founder, said: “Good Energy’s vision is of an energy system where control is in the hands of people, harnessing the awesome power of the UK’s natural resources, and electricity is generated by the communities who use it. The Piclo trial has provided a glimpse of what a future powered purely by renewables could look like, with everything from rooftop solar to community wind turbines playing a role”.

The trial generator participants included community energy groups, private developers, family‐owned  and  charity sites run by City of Cardiff Council, National Trust, Westmill Solar, Community Power Cornwall and Brixton Energy. Consumers included sustainable businesses, charities and a co‐housing association ‐ Eden Project, Watergate Bay Hotel, Lancaster Co‐Housing, Benson Signs and BDP.