SMS enters ‘Virtual Power Plant’ market after Solo Energy acquisition
Smart Metering Systems (SMS Plc), which installs and manages smart meters and carbon reduction assets (“CaRe”) to facilitate effective energy management, has entered into the Virtual Power Plant (VPP) sector following the acquisition of energy tech start-up, Solo Energy.
The disruptive business model of Solo Energy, which SMS acquired in September 2019, includes the offer of battery storage, microgeneration, and electric vehicle (EV) charger installations at no-upfront cost to homes and businesses, with its goal to lower energy bills for consumers and help make the transition to renewables through establishing a VPP.
This is achieved through the innovative, cloud-based FlexiGrid aggregation platform that Solo has developed in-house from its offices in Cork, Ireland and Orkney, Scotland. FlexiGrid centrally controls the distributed energy assets it installs to balance renewable generation and create efficient, local smart energy systems.
After several successful and ongoing demonstrator projects in Britain and Ireland, Solo’s largest trial to date is now underway in Orkney, Scotland, forming part of the UK government-backed ReFLEX scheme. Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), ReFLEX Orkney – which in February passed its first stage gate review – aims to integrate electricity, transport and heat networks on the islands using Solo’s FlexiGrid platform and VPP model to better balance renewable energy demand and supply.
This pioneering project will help the Orkney Islands maximise the potential of its renewable production capabilities and provide a concept that could be replicable across other regions, therefore reducing the country’s carbon footprint by decreasing reliance on carbon-intensive grid electricity.
With its asset funding capability and established position in the UK energy market, SMS Plc’s acquisition of Solo Energy will allow the company to fulfil the rollout of carbon reduction (CaRe) assets at scale and at no-upfront cost to consumers – a fundamental aspect of Solo’s offering that aspires to make clean energy and its benefits accessible to all in society. Solo forms strategic partnerships with energy suppliers to offer low-cost 100% renewable energy supply in addition to the installation of fully financed CaRe assets.
Solo’s VPP business model is also dependent on the wider rollout of smart meters, an area which SMS compliments with significant expertise as one of the UK’s leading independent meter installers and asset managers.
Mark Hamilton, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Solo Energy, commented:
“We are very excited to join forces with SMS to deliver mass market decarbonisation. Moving to a 100%-renewable future will involve making significant changes to how we use energy at home and in business across power, heat and transport.
“Energy demand needs to become more flexible to respond to the intermittency of renewables, and behind-the-meter technologies such as batteries, smart EV charging and flexible electrical heating will all play a major role in the energy transition. Solo’s FlexiGrid platform controls these assets to be responsive to renewables, but for these technologies to become mass market and available to everyone, we believe the consumer shouldn’t be asked to put their hand in their pocket to cover the up-front cost. This is where asset-financing comes in.
“SMS’s recent acquisition of Solo demonstrates the strong appetite for private financing to get behind a rapid decarbonisation transition where every consumer can adopt flexible demand technologies to support the renewables transition and enjoy low-carbon, low-cost energy.”
Killian O’Connor, Operations Director and Co-Founder of Solo Energy, commented:
“We are thrilled to be part of an organisation that shares our vision and determination to decarbonise the energy sector. With the backing of SMS Plc, we are now in a position to continue scaling the business in a sustainable manner while embracing new and exciting opportunities across the energy ecosystem.
“This partnership creates the perfect balance of technology and experience required to navigate an increasingly complex energy landscape and we are looking forward to taking this next step along our journey.”
Tim Mortlock, Chief Operating Officer of SMS, added:
“The energy market is changing, and SMS continues to be at the forefront of these developments. Our recent investment in Solo Energy now provides us a cloud-based energy flexibility IT platform – FlexiGrid – to control and aggregate data and revenue from generation and battery storage assets. By integrating energy storage, renewable generation and vehicle charging into the UK energy system, FlexiGrid can help shape consumer demand to follow renewable energy supply, and help the UK transition to 100% green power – as we are now demonstrating under the pioneering ReFlex Orkney project.
“Looking forward, FlexiGrid will additionally enhance our ability to provide a comprehensive end-to-end service proposition to our established industrial, domestic and energy services customer base and will address the market disruption affecting the UK and global energy system now and in the years to come. Crucially, it also provides the technology platform to support the capital deployment of these new CaRe asset classes, as underlined by the recent partnership agreement we signed with Columbia Threadneedle European Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (ESIF) to develop such future opportunities.”