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EDF Energy: Blue Lab

As EDF Energy is the UK’s largest producer of low-carbon electricity, biggest supplier of electricity and the largest supplier to British businesses, EDF Energy needs to constantly innovate.

The integrated energy supplier engaged with L Marks to create Blue Lab to uncover energy related technology solutions to help customer gain greater control over their energy use.

Blue Lab has completed three successful iterations in collaboration with L Marks from 2016-2019. All the programmes have introduced value-adding technologies with the potential to impact both EDF Energy’s business operations and customers.

Enabling EDF Energy to identify its customers challenges and opportunities for improvement and source talented entrepreneurs developing solutions to meet these, Blue Lab has helped to bring over 400 new ideas to the EDF Energy business of which 22 are in development.

EDF Energy has accessed a far wider range of technology-enabled innovative suppliers through the programmes than would have been possible through traditional procurement channels. The scouting, tailored to EDF Energy’s specific customer needs, has surveyed hundreds of startups working globally on products and services that align with EDF Energy’s transformation strategies.

“The Innovation Lab provides a great opportunity for us to get a different perspective on our business and generate new ideas more quickly.”
Jean-Benoit Ritz, Director of Innovation and Blue Lab, EDF Energy

Nine startups have been accelerated through Blue Lab, working with EDF Energy to coordinate Proof of Concepts to validate the impact of their products or services on EDF Energy’s customers during the 10-week accelerator programme. Over 50% of these solutions have been developed and commercialised by EDF Energy in direct collaboration with startups

Results

Howz

Howz helps families look out for one another. The system learns the person’s daily routine, such as when they brew their morning coffee and when they prepare a meal. If the Howz system senses a change in someone’s routine, it will notify a family member so they can check on their loved one.

Howz wanted to partner with EDF Energy to offer its IoT solution alongside energy packages to promote sustainability and wellbeing for the elderly.  During Blue Lab, Howz refined their algorithm and developed their solution to ensure both the sensor and app where easy-to-use and non-intrusive.

EDF Energy trialled more than 200 of the original Howz home monitoring systems with its network of elderly customers and worked with Howz to develop the product ahead of national rollout. EDF Energy and Howz explored how data from smart meters could be integrated into a home monitoring systems, demonstrating the wider benefits of a national rollout.  In addition to being crowned winner at EDF Energy’s Innovators’ Day receiving a £30,000 grant cash prize, Howz were the victors of the EDF Pulse Awards in France, surpassing over 500 of Europe’s elite startups.

“Energy and technology are a huge part of our everyday lives, from putting the kettle on in the morning to switching the television off at night. In working with Howz, we have developed a truly transformative solution that establishes users’ everyday energy routines so that their families can stay connected with them, wherever they are, and be alerted if something doesn’t seem quite right.”
Béatrice Bigois, Managing Director, Customers, EDF Energy

Since the programme, EDF Energy partnered with Howz to deliver integrated smart homes, tracking the wellbeing of elderly customers through appliance usage and routine recognition.  The Howz home monitoring system is now in hundreds of homes and being trialled within the NHS.  Following these successes, Howz has partnered with Royal Mail to offer residents in Greater Manchester a free Howz monitoring starter kit and six-month free access to their service.

Powervault

Powervault is a home electricity storage manufacturer whose mission is to help all segments of the GB electricity network reduce costs and enable the roll-out of renewable energy technologies. Powervault enables the transition to a smart grid, which decentralises generation and reduces the dependence on coal-fired power stations. Powervault is able to charge from sources of embedded generation or from the grid when there is excess supply and discharge when it is under stress and there is not enough supply.

Powervault entered the programme with a product on the market. They were in the process of bringing to market a third edition of the awardwinning hardware. Compared to its existing models, the new model had a built-in inverter which was capable of storing and returning energy to
the grid. This opened up numerous possibilities to build a proposition which could utilise Demand Side Response and store energy based on a time of use tariff. In conjunction with EDF Energy, Powervault developed a joint proposition of how to take this product to market.

The teams identified a suitable route to market targeting two specific customer segments, each with a different value proposition. The largest of these were customers in need of an inverter replacement. Most inverters have a lifespan of 7 years. Since the boom in solar energy production in 2003, there is a need to replace the inverters on thousands of properties. Powervault’s first proposition would be to offer its product as a replacement with additional services. The second main market was to sell the home energy solution as part of a solar power package: solar with the battery for storage for flexibility offerings.

The programme achieved the strategic alignment between both parties. Powervault’s business model went from a B2B model to B2B2C. If certain unit sales thresholds were met, then EDF Energy would license the product under a white labelled solution. Powervault’s pathway to profitability on this new product was reduced from 10 years to 3 years by working alongside EDF Energy.

Grid Edge

Grid Edge provide artificial intelligence for energy systems. Its software is designed to act as a ‘bolt-on’ service that works in harmony with a building’s Building Energy Management System to diagnose the underlying causes of inefficiency, or sub-optimal performance, within the building. It can autonomously implement corrective measures by intelligently controlling energy demand, storage and generation on-site. Through its predictive load forecasting innovation, it is able to turn buildings into batteries and unlock the value of unconventional and
underutilised energy storage assets, such as a building’s thermal inertia, to create dynamic flexibility within a customer’s optimal energy profile.

EDF Energy and Grid Edge aimed to develop a joint PoC to showcase the value of Grid Edge’s technology. Initially Grid Edge showcased the current capabilities of its product based on pre-existing data from a commercial property. Over the course of the programme, additional
functionality and data was added to the simulations to showcase how a product with Grid Edge’s device installed can be manipulated based on different buy-in and buy out prices. From these, cost savings and the eventual business case was developed and later enhanced with the addition of real-life customer data from EDF Energy.

The PoC showcased the potential savings that commercial customers could gain from the added flexibility offered by Grid Edge’s proposition. Following this, a new customer facing proposition was developed which adds extra value to existing assets such as HVAC units, Electric Vehicles, Colling and heating plants. The service provided to EDF Energy’s commercial customers is packaged as part of a wider service offering flexibility on top of pre-existing assets. EDF Energy are developing a mechanism to provide this type of service to customers and Grid
Edge’s solution was the missing cog. Following the PoC, the agreement was to go forward and undertake a trial on one of EDF Energy’s office buildings to demonstrate the technology in real life.  In October 2017, BP Ventures, together with L Marks partner Goldacre, invested £2.5 million into Grid Edge.

Upside Energy

Upside Energy’s innovative platform uses advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to match energy demand with the available supply, helping the electricity grid deal with fluctuations and times of peak usage. Supporting the grid in this way, opens the doors to additional revenue streams for organisations who also benefit from significant reductions in energy costs and carbon emissions.

During the programme, Upside was tasked with understanding the requirements and appetite for its different offerings, most notably from the Trading and Optimisation teams. The team was able to identify opportunities where it could trial its platform, undertaking a PoC to optimise demand shifting and recruiting DFFR (Dynamic Firm Frequency Response) capacity.

Upside Energy and EDF Energy have a strong ongoing commercial relationship and continue to worktogether to develop new use cases for Upside’s offerings. Through this ongoing partnership, Upside Energy’s cloud-based platform is used alongside EDF Energy’s
PowerShift flexibility platform, to give customers access to markets in which to sell their excess energy. Providing real-time data and advanced forecasting, the Upside Platform will enable EDF Energy, the largest supplier to UK business, to enhance its offering to its business
customers and dispatch demandside flexibility in real-time, in the same way that it dispatches generation.  In November 2020, Upside Energy was acquired by Octopus Energy Group.

 

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