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Q&A: Good Energy MD David Brooks discusses ‘big plans’ for Selectricity

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Yesterday Good Energy formally launched Selectricity, the peer-to-peer renewable energy matching service it developed with Open Utility. Formerly known as Piclo, a pilot programme earlier this year matched business customers with local, renewable generators and allowed them to create a bespoke energy mix from preferred sources.

David Brooks, managing director of Good Energy’s supply business, spoke to Clean Energy News at yesterday’s launch about what the company learned from the pilot, how the product has been received and Good Energy’s ambitious future plans for it.

What did Good Energy learn from the Piclo trial before launching Selectricity?

The key part of the trial was ‘does it work?’ and ‘does it provide value to businesses?’, and I think originally everyone wasn’t quite sure how it worked. Sometimes there can be suspicion about who’s trying to do what, and what we’ve been trying to do is bring to life where our energy comes from and the stories that sit behind that energy. To me, that’s really powerful for a business in terms of CSR. Businesses are really very engaged with it and the power of the information this is giving them goes beyond where their energy is coming from, it’s when they’re using that energy because of our matching routine.

Has it been a difficult sell to businesses, and have you had to think of different ways to pitch it to them?

There’s now a lot more interest. Whenever a pilot starts everyone sits there and asks whether it’s going to be more money, does it really work and are you really matching. There is a very clear algorithm that knows exactly how much has been generated and how much has been supplied. Now we’re able to go out and approach businesses in a much larger way. There are many businesses that are now interested in it across a wider group than we expected. Now what we’ve got to do is get the generators signed up and interested too.

Has any one generation technology been more popular than the others?

There are really different flavours. Many people have tried to go as local as they can, which is clearly very powerful, but to give an example of [The Eden Project], they actually want to go with communities so sometimes it doesn’t matter what the technology is, it’s who’s behind that technology, and that fits with their wider social programme.

How does Good Energy pick up any shortfall, and is there any discrepancy in the price?

[The shortfall] comes from other sources, and it’ll tell you that – for example – 85% in that particular half-hour has been matched to one of your selections and the rest has come from our other 1,200 generators. There’s no discrepancy in price.

Are you looking into storage systems as another potential generator?

We certainly are looking at storage, as I think you’ll find anybody in renewables is. We’re looking at it very holistically and in multiple different ways. We know that the growth of renewables means that, from our perspective, being able to shift that load and to do that through storage has huge advantages in terms of all sorts of things. It can help with development costs, where you can supply, all sorts of things.

Do you feel something like Selectricity is just another way in which independent suppliers can outfox the Big Six?

We want to find ways to make renewables a part of people’s business. There are some great stories and if you, as an organisation, can buy your power and share that story with your team it can be incredibly powerful. It’s touching people and connecting people. We’re not trying to wrong-foot anybody, what we’re trying to do is to demonstrate that you can connect with and support a wide range of people. It’s quite a powerful story.

What are the next steps?

Now it’s about getting scale. It’s about getting more people onto the platform, and then from there how we develop it. Are there ways in which we could put consumers in touch but obviously with smart metering – it was really important to us that [the service] didn’t look like tokenism and we could prove we hadn’t oversold an energy supply – in the domestic market we’d have to do that without smart meters because we couldn’t do that matching. We don’t know what a consumer’s usage is other than on a monthly or quarterly read, and we’re not able to truly match to what’s happened. I think there are lots of things we could do to show the power of independent generation here in the UK. We’d like to grow our business significantly. 

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