The path to affordable energy for all

On a day when the Chancellor reveals why Britain must “face into the storm”, UrbanChain’s Somayeh Taheri sets out how energy bills can become more affordable

How does the current energy retail market work?

The energy retail market has been very rigid and has not evolved as it should have.

For example, we are seeing more renewables installed on our houses, in our communities, in our cities. But we don’t see enough of the benefits that we should see.

There is a monopoly in the retail market – and that’s the wholesale market.

Before renewables came into play 10 to 15 years ago we had only the large energy generators, such as gas stations and nuclear power stations. Power from them was sold to the wholesale market and suppliers needed to buy power from the same market.

And it was a case of selling cheap but buying high.

There was no peer-to-peer exchange between energy generation and energy consumption.

What has happened in the market since the rise of renewable energy?

Since the rise of renewables, the energy renewable assets have generated have also been sold to the wholesale market.

Because the renewable energy has been sold to the wholesale market, fluctuations affect the price of renewable power. And it is still the same old case where energy is bought cheap and sold high.

Why are suppliers selling to the wholesale market?

If it’s raining for example solar is not generating electricity. This has been seen as a risk for suppliers. And to manage that risk the energy has been sold to the wholesale market. Renewables are then mixed with non-renewables and linked to the wholesale market and are then affected by the volatility of gas prices.

Does the intermittent behaviour associated with renewable energy sources mean unpredictability?

The answer is no as you can predict the behaviour. To do so you must have a powerful strategy and powerful technological solutions.

Is there an alternative market for renewable energy and one that exists separate to the wholesale market?

Yes, us. Through the capabilities of our AI and blockchain technology we reduce prices, search cost, commodity and non-commodity costs.

So, by reducing the energy bill prices for businesses and households, we are changing the game and disrupting the energy market. This centres on the whole cost of energy provision going down significantly.

How do you do this?

We directly connect renewable energy generators with consumers. We do this through the market we created for renewables, which is called the peer-to-peer energy exchange.

Here we decouple renewables from the wholesale market and manage intermittency with stronger techniques than others use.

We link renewables directly to end users, creating an environment where energy is being bought and sold at a fair price while achieving true net zero through true green energy.

What’s unique about UrbanChain?

We are not setting the price of renewables based on the wholesale price as that is just one market where there is no competition.

In that market people and businesses and organisations accept the price because there hasn’t been other options.

They are exposed to price fluctuations.

For us, it’s about creating an environment where energy consumers are not exposed to this.

What is unique is that we created and run the alternative market for renewables. One where the consumer is paying the generator of renewable energy enough for it to be profitable, without the subsidy.

Therefore, the price of energy is affordable and the consumer is receiving true green and traceable energy.

What about UrbanChain’s Virtual Power Plant?

For us, our Virtual Power Plant is about cherry picking from different generators of renewable energy within our peer-to-peer energy exchange and matching them with consumption patterns of the end energy users.

In an office that functions from 9am to 5pm, with peak hours from 11am to 2pm, there isn’t much energy needed overnight.

In an overnight scenario they likely need a minimum amount, say 10% CHP (combined heat and power) from a solar renewable source within our-peer-to-peer energy exchange.

During peak hours we might go for 20% from a big solar asset within our peer-to-peer exchange.

During other hours we might go for some wind or some hydro and some batteries. We are therefore creating a shape of renewable energy based on the consumption of a certain business.

Can any business join UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer exchange?

The beauty of what we do is that any sized business has accessibility to different renewable energy generators once they are part of the peer-to-peer exchange.

Also, any sized renewable energy generator has a level platform in their accessibility to corporate consumers and households. And they can sell directly to them.

The price is set and not based on the wholesale market, creating a stable market for the consumer and the generator.

In traditional power purchase agreements this is not possible as they function on a one-to-one basis. We do it differently and match multiple generators with consumers.

And for consumers of energy?

For consumers, they get true green energy from a source that is as local as possible to them.

We have a merit based system where you are buying your energy from your neighbour, then from the immediate locality, then regional, then national.

As a consumer you are contributing to the prosperity of your local renewable energy generators. The price is affordable. And you are getting green energy that is not exposed to the wholesale market.

Is alleviating fuel poverty important to UrbanChain?

It’s our main mission. Fuel poverty, prior to the energy retail market turbulence and volatility of the past couple of years, was costing us £4bn a year.

Fuel poverty essentially means people living in cold households because they cannot afford to heat up their homes. The cost rolls over to the NHS which is around £1bn a year. Because people need power to be warm they choose debt and warmth over death. And the economic impact is huge.

I also believe everyone in their life has experienced fuel poverty in some shape or form. For example, when you are a student you can face some difficult choices when it comes to staying warm.

My mission is to make energy affordable for all and to turn it into a necessity so people and businesses don’t have to worry about the prices of energy bills. Energy is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.