When Google decided to shift to 100 percent renewable energy back in 2010, the search giant began negotiating deals directly with wind and solar farms. Now, a London-based startup called Squeaky is offering to smooth the way for small businesses that want to do the same thing at a lesser scale, according to a February 23 report by Fast Company’s Co.Exist: Business owners can choose a wind farm to support, and then start buying renewable electricity at the same price they were paying for energy from fossil fuels.
In the past, Squeaky Founder and Managing Director Chris Bowden told the business magazine, buying directly from a clean energy generator in the local area was not an option for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
But in 2007, he and his team had “a big idea” that they thought could change the way in which commercial customers buy energy.
“The U.K. supply market is dominated by six very large integrated suppliers, and, typically, they haven’t offered a renewable tariff because they are primarily fossil fuel generators, so it’s pretty difficult for them to allocate specific renewable generation from their portfolio to specific customer supply,” explained Bowden, who has 27 years of energy industry experience – most recently at Spenceram (an energy management service) and Utiliyx (an energy portfolio manager).
Indeed, he claims, “Squeaky is the first platform for growing businesses to buy direct from renewable energy generators, opening up access that has previously only been available to large businesses able to negotiate major contracts. We provide the infrastructure for generators and aggregators to supply business customers directly in an efficient, cost-effective way using a unique combination of know-how, software and contracts.”
And Squeaky does not charge a premium. Its site asserts:”Most suppliers charge extra for green electricity. There is no valid reason for this, if you buy directly from the generator.”
“The typical margin between a generator and customer might be 20 percent to 50 percent, depending on the size of the transaction – and much of this margin is lost on intermediaries, credit costs, trading costs, and high-legacy industry costs, including inefficient systems and processes,” Bowen told Fast Company. “Squeaky is able to cut this margin in half so both sides benefit.”
Customers can choose to buy electricity from a specific wind or solar farm and pay just for the amount of energy they use. Squeaky plans to begin to use blockchain technology to track the energy supplied on the platform.
If a particular wind farm isn’t generating enough energy at the time that it’s needed, the platform automatically sources it from another generator. The startup currently works with five wind farms and one solar farm, the magazine said. If it needs more supply, it also has a partnership with Europe’s largest renewable generator, which uses sources such as hydropower.
“We install smart meters as standard for all our customers so we have the data to enable us to predict these pinch points, and in time we plan to introduce battery storage into some of our customers’ premises to cover these gaps in supply, and also coordinate generation and supply on the platform,” said Bowden.
“Fifteen years ago, when 50 power stations in the U.K. supplied nearly all of the [nation’s] electricity needs, Squeaky couldn’t have existed, but now there are a few thousand distributed generators, so you now have the building blocks of a true marketplace,” he told the news outlet.