“We will need to develop new technology and redesign the energy system around the customer. We want to be at the forefront of that global, tech-enabled transition to a zero carbon energy system,“ according to Ovo founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick in an interview with the Financial Times.
Mitsubishi Corporation has paid $256m for a 20% stake in energy retailer and smart systems provider Ovo Energy, which plans to use the funding as the basis for an expansion from Germany and its home country of the UK into markets such as France, Australia and Spain. Ovo’s investors also include Mayfair Equity Partners, which acquired a 15% stake in 2015, but its founder and CEO remains its majority shareholder.
(For the geeks among the readers, there’s some nice symbolism around the name and numbers involved as Ovo can mean “one” in some African dialects, zero in zero-energy is the other half of binary and hence two is important to hackers and coders, of which two power eight is 256 – the amount raised. Eight is also the symbol for infinity, ie the scope of their ambition…)
Mitsubishi owns more than 6.2 GW of energy capacity worldwide as well as lithium-ion battery and energy trading assets. Founded in 2009, Ovo runs a digital energy retail business with 1.5 million customers across the UK and Germany, generating a minimum of 33% of its energy from renewables sources.
The company also produces and sells hardware products such as home electric vehicle (EV) chargers and domestic energy storage systems, and the funding will support the growth of Kaluza, its intelligent energy hardware division.
Overall, there’s energy transition in all areas, from the wellhead / wind turbine / solar cells / nuclear through the grid and storage to efficiencies in buildings, electric vehicles, fast charging.
As Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said last year: “Renewables are getting cheaper and many countries are committing to rely more on them and less on fossil fuels for their electricity needs. That’s good news, at least in places that get a lot of sunlight or wind. Everyone who cares about climate change should hope we continue to de-carbonize the way we generate electricity.
“Making electricity is responsible for only 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions each year. So even if we could generate all the electricity we need without emitting a single molecule of greenhouse gases (which we’re a long way from doing), we would cut total emissions by just a quarter.
“To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to get to zero net greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy within 50 years—and as the IPCC recently found, we need to be on a path to doing it in the next 10 years. That means dealing with electricity, and the other 75% too.”
Gates helpfully – he invests in a VC fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures targeting these areas – breaks down the main segments for energy use as:
- Agriculture(24%). Cattle are a huge source of methane; in fact, if they were a country, they would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US! In addition, deforestation—clearing land for crops, for instance—removes trees that pull CO2 out of the air, and when the trees are burned, they release all their carbon back into the atmosphere.
Manufacturing(21%). Look at the plastic, steel, and cement around you. All of it contributed to climate change. Making cement and steel requires lots of energy from fossil fuels, and it involves chemical reactions that release carbon as a byproduct. So even if we could make all the stuff we need with zero-carbon energy, we’d still need to deal with the byproducts.
- Transportation (14%). Low-emission cars are great, but cars account for a little less than half of transportation-related emissions today—and that share will shrink in the future. More emissions come from airplanes, cargo ships, and trucks. Right now we don’t have practical zero-carbon options for any of these.
- Buildings (6%). Do you live or work in a place with air conditioning? The refrigerant inside your AC unit is a greenhouse gas. In addition, it takes a lot of energy to run air conditioners, heaters, lights, and other appliances. Things like more-efficient windows and insulation would help. This area will be more important over the next few decades as the global population moves to cities. The world’s building stock will double in area by 2060. That’s like adding another New York City every month for 40 years.
- (The final 10% is a sixth, miscellaneous category that includes things like the energy it takes to extract oil and gas.)
Ovo, along with peers, such as Tesla, are taking a leaf out of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s playbook –technology is not enough. “You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.”
For those following the growing movement of school children truanting on a Friday to protest about inaction on climate change it appears the next generation of consumer wants to experience the technology that could save them from extinction.