Utility Week’s Meet the Innovators: Somayeh Taheri, CEO, Urbanchain

After celebrating energy tech firm Urbanchain’s fifth anniversary and signing off an AI and blockchain-driven energy exchange partnership with Rebel Energy, Dr.Somayeh Taheri discusses the ability of new energy technology to drive ‘seismic’ sector change

What was your first job in the utilities sector?

Prior to founding Urbanchain in 2017 I was a research scientist at the University of Manchester working with data and models on climate change and fuel poverty.

What is the most significant way that today’s utilities sector differs from the one you first joined?

Different forms and sizes of renewable energy are very much coming to the fore now – from large off-shore wind to micro EVs and battery storages. While there’s still a long way to go, a lot of positive movement towards true decarbonisation is happening. The further movement towards local grid, local supplier and local pricing will have significant impact on the industry.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your time in utilities?

Despite a significant amount of innovation happening around the industry, there is a need to renew our mindset, approach, risk management and practice in the retail energy market.

What do you think is the key to creating the conditions for innovation within the utilities sector?

Collaboration and knowledge sharing – and the enabling of them. We have been sharing our business model with Ofgem Innovation Link since 2016 and with Elexon since 2020. We have spoken to hundreds of stakeholders in the market since 2019. All of these knowledge sharing activities have made us stronger, and we have contributed to the growth of other stakeholders.

Which other industry do you feel that utilities can learn most from when creating the conditions for innovation?

This might be a bit of a surprise, but team sports like football. I always wanted to create a company that works like a football academy – getting future stars and training them to be number one in what they do.

Creating a hub of experts is what UrbanChain is and can become better at during our journey and there’s no reason why this ‘football academy’ approach can’t be utilised in utilities. When the best talent comes together and their ability is supported a lot can be achieved when it comes to overcoming challenges that will always exist.

To read the full Utility Week interview click here.