Verv is a company intent on beefing up its offerings. Having secured £6.5 million in its latest fundraising drive, it plans on expanding its worldwide reach, developing its technology and scaling up its trials of peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading.
Since laying claim to the first P2P trading pilot last year, Verv has landed backing from the likes of Innogy and Centrica. The company has also developed an AI and blockchain-enabled smart home hub.
Peter Davies, CEO of Verv, spoke to Current± about the role of blockchain in P2P trading and what Verv’s international expansion might look like.
How much potential do you see in peer-to-peer energy trading and how integral is the role of blockchain to this?
Enabling technology will be key to decarbonising electricity supply and creating an energy system that puts the customer at the front and centre. Whilst peer-to-peer energy trading is just one such technology, I believe it could be a significant one. Not only does a system like this make green energy more accessible to the masses, it encourages uptake of domestic renewables by providing owners with payback on their investment. This is particularly significant with the removal of the feed-in tariff and uncertainty around the smart export guarantee tariff. Fundamentally, a trading system like this can open up a more competitive energy market, thus bringing down costs for consumers. It could also help with grid balancing services. The potential is huge but it’s so important that regulation keeps pace with innovation in order to pave the way for significant change.
Blockchain plays an integral role in our platform, functioning as the auditing system for our peer-to-peer network. It’s interoperable, it provides a safe and efficient means of digitally tracking and authenticating transactions, and enables lower transaction costs due to there being no middle man. With no single point of failure, there are additional security benefits too.
Some of the investment from your Series A fundraising is to be used for further expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Asia. What will this expansion look like?
Granular data underlines almost all technological advances in the energy space and as a company that’s using AI to unlock household energy data, we are seeing significant interest in how this can fuel different energy services like domestic energy management, peer-to-peer renewable energy trading, DSR and more. Dubai for example is striving to be the smartest city in the world and is interested in IoT energy tech for homes. There is a lot of interest coming from Asia for peer-to-peer trading where there are perhaps less barriers to entry from a regulatory standpoint. We have also rolled out another energy trading pilot elsewhere in Europe with a very green focus.
The investment will also be used to further develop your various technologies (energy trading, smart hub etc). What technologies and areas of the UK energy market are you currently seeing potential in?
Battery storage technology is really continuing to improve and become smarter. I believe it serves as a key component for the future energy system. The EV market is also set to boom and this will be significant in our move towards decarbonisation. The dream is a full home energy management suite where all such elements are interlinked. The smart home could decide when is the cheapest, greenest and most efficient time for you to use energy. It could make you money by selling your solar power when you’re out, and automatically turn off your fridge for a small amount of time when the grid is overloaded.
Verv is looking to scale up its peer-to-peer energy trading pilots. What are your plans for doing this and what will these pilots look like?
We are looking to expand our pilots to new countries to gain more data sets and understanding of the different commercial models that can be applied to different areas based on varying regulations and structures. Development of our three-phase electricity smart hub also provides compatibility with more geographies and buildings so we can potentially explore areas outside of just residential.
We’ve seen the likes of Centrica, which now has a stake in Verv, and EDF announcing plans to pilot peer-to-peer energy trading in the UK since Verv’s initial pilot in Hackney. Is there a sense of competition in developing this technology?
The low carbon transition is happening and it’s unstoppable, but it’s not happening quickly enough. The words of Greta Thunberg couldn't ring more true. The more people there are working to find solutions that can help to tackle climate change, the better. Centrica are actually joining phase 2 of our trial so we can determine how customers can be fairly billed when the energy source for your home is no longer just your energy supplier, but potentially your neighbour.
Ultimately, we are working towards creating a more competitive energy marketplace that benefits the consumer and the entire industry knows that this is what we must work towards.
How soon will your energy trading technology be ready for commercial application and how important is it for peer-to-peer energy trading to become commonplace?
In the UK, more needs to be done from a regulation perspective before we can see full-scale commercial application but we are already seeing progress. Earlier this year, New Anglia Energy raised the P379 Elexon modification with support from us. The modification enables consumers to buy and sell electricity from/to multiple providers through Meter Splitting so we are looking forward to the outcome of that. I think the protests that have been going on through London make clear just how important green technology is and the urgency for the energy system to embrace this.