AZoCleantech – the leading online publication for the clean technology community – chatted to our CEO for their latest thought leadership interview.
Jason Howlett shared his insights on how GivEnergy is revolutionising the residential and commercial sectors with our cutting-edge energy storage systems.
Want to read the interview? Scroll on… 🧐
Q: Can you tell us briefly about your career so far and your role at GivEnergy?
I’ve committed my career to environmental sustainability, bridging the gap between environmental considerations and practical business solutions. My BSc was in Water & Environmental Management, which led me to a management tenure at Severn Trent Water.
From there, I’ve taken on senior leadership and directorship roles for the likes of Hoppecke, Xylem and Segen – demonstrating my ongoing dedication to contributing to the renewable energy and sustainability sectors.
Q: Can you explain how energy storage solutions work and the types available for residential and commercial use?
In the first instance, a storage battery can take its charge from renewables. (I.e., from solar panels, or wind or hydro turbines.) So, the customer can charge their battery using free, green sources. And, because the energy from renewables is intermittent, a storage battery allows the customer to harness it more efficiently for consistent use.
In the second instance, a storage battery can also take power from the grid. Here, the battery will charge using low-cost, off-peak energy. (Such as overnight, for example, when electricity from the grid is at its cheapest and cleanest.)
However, an energy storage system comprises more than this battery storage component alone. An inverter product is required to act as the brains of the system and connect any renewables, batteries, the grid, and the home. The inverter will also smoothly convert energy from DC to AC for use inside the property.
Outside of the battery and inverter hardware, modern energy storage systems also come complete with energy management software. The GivEnergy system, for example, offers an online cloud portal for advanced data monitoring and system control. Plus, a lightweight app allows for quick, easy access to the system on the move.
Though scale and specifics may vary, these core functionalities apply across residential and commercial systems alike. For example, the inverter (or “brain”) for a commercial system is a larger-scale Power Conversion System or PCS.
Then, rather than an individual storage battery with a set capacity, you’d more likely be looking at racks of high-voltage battery packs built to meet the desired power need in a commercial context. Or, you might have a neatly containerised system custom-built for off-grid or remote locations.
Whatever the details of its setup, an energy storage system provides the means for customers to power their properties cheaply, cleanly, and with less reliance on the grid.
Q: Can you tell us about GivEnergy’s residential and commercial energy storage solutions and their impact on the sector?
Our solutions empower energy freedom for all.
If you’re a residential customer, we offer a holistic ecosystem for smart energy management. Our inverter range comprises AC coupled, hybrid, single-phase, and 3-phase solutions alike. Meanwhile, our battery storage range spans everything from small scale batteries suitable for the smallest of homes or apartments, through to high-powered batteries for large properties and further through to customisable stackable batteries. We also have a game-changing All in One solution that combines both a battery and an AC coupled inverter in one integrated product, complemented by a gateway providing backup power.
Then, beyond these core technologies, we also offer a range of complementary solutions. These include, for example, the GivEnergy EV charger, smart plug, and electrical accessories. Together, our services allow any customer, in any type of home, to take control of their energy spend end-to-end.
Beyond the residential market, our commercial battery storage solutions are just as flexible. We create entirely bespoke solutions to meet the customer’s capacity needs. This may comprise a PCS, any number of high voltage battery packs in custom racking, and one or even two-storey containers.
Plus, as mentioned, all GivEnergy hardware comes with our proprietary energy management software to empower management, monitoring, and ongoing optimisation of the system.
It’s a win-win scenario for the customer, the climate, and the country’s grid infrastructure alike.
Q: What are the current limitations of energy storage, and how is GivEnergy helping to bridge any gaps in the industry?
For the typical billpayer, the most pertinent limitation of energy storage is the entry barrier to its installation. For too many billpayers, the initial investment of paying for the hardware and its installation is unaffordable – despite the cost-savings delivered in the long run.
Firstly, we do so through offering premium products at an accessible price. Our products are manufactured in our own factories, made of the finest quality materials, yet remain some of the most affordable on the market. Plus, we provide our software at no extra cost.
Beyond accessible pricing, we’re also looking to reduce the barriers to energy storage installation by educating customers on the usage of standalone storage batteries. (That is, simply using a storage battery without solar panels or other renewables, and manipulating smart tariffs to save money.)
We’re also lobbying MPs to put energy storage on the agenda and incentivise its uptake. For example, we’re pushing to remove VAT on battery purchases, and to include energy storage in the Future Homes Standard.
Q: What are the main benefits of energy storage systems for residential and commercial customers?
Firstly and most obviously, an energy storage system reduces energy bills by circa 85%. The customer can take back control of their energy spend. They have energy stored up, which means they can manage it efficiently. So, customers are less reliant on the grid, and not beholden to peak charges.
As well as these initial savings, the customer can get smarter about their energy use over time. Energy management software gives the customer all the data they need to monitor their system and continue reducing their spend month after month.
Then, for customers who have invested in renewables, energy storage systems provide the means to maximise that investment. If, for example, you’ve paid for solar panels but have no storage capacity, you can only use solar energy intermittently. Your panels won’t power your home during evenings, for instance. Adding energy storage means you can get the most from your renewables and enjoy cheap energy morning, noon, and night.
This notion of consistent low-cost energy also applies during outages. Customers with energy storage can potentially protect their supply from disruption, keeping their homes powered even when the grid is down.
Last but by no means least, smarter energy management is an environmentally responsible move that reduces your carbon footprint. When the demand on the grid is high, we need to rely on fossil fuels to ensure everyone can use electricity at the same time. Having energy stored cuts this reliance on using the grid during peak hours.
So, customers with energy storage can clean up the grid, cut their home’s CO2 emissions, and do their bit towards a net zero world.
Q: What is your approach to designing energy storage systems for customers? How do you ensure that the system is tailored to their needs?
We believe that everybody should have access to clean energy solutions. With that in mind, we’ve designed and manufactured our range to meet the power needs of everything from flats, to the traditional three-bed semi, to large and off-grid properties, to commercial settings, and even industrial-scale projects.
Of course, getting the right solution to the right property still remains vital. So, anyone who fits a GivEnergy system must be an approved installer who has completed our training. A key part of this installer training is matching the customer up with the system offering the optimum power capacity for their property. In this way, we ensure that every customer is matched with the energy storage solution for them.
Q: How do you evaluate the performance of an energy storage system once it has been installed? What metrics do you use to measure its effectiveness?
Our energy storage systems are designed for maximum control, visibility, and monitoring. Our software tracks what is happening right down to the individual cell level. So, we (and the customer) know not only how the overall system is performing, but the performance of each and every battery cell within that system.
Just some of the metrics available include:
- Power flows
- Home flows
- Smart tariff prices
- Estimated bill costs
- Solar, home, battery and grid usage
We also calculate carbon offsets and show equivalent savings. For example, we calculate that the customer has offset the equivalent of X tonnes of landfill, or X tankers of petrol burned, etc.
So, using our extensive UK based support team, we track both performance and benefits (in terms of savings) extensively. The depth of our data is what enables us to continue driving product innovations with every new generation of product released – resulting in ever-better efficiency, and ever-improved performance.
Q: Can you discuss any recent projects you have worked on involving energy storage systems? What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
We’re committed to ending energy poverty and improving power quality. As part of this, we integrate with energy resellers, aggregators and third party manufacturers to help improve the efficiency of social housing stock.
For an example of scale – the most recent project we’re working on is with a major social housing group on 25,000 homes. So, for one project alone, we’re helping make energy cleaner and more affordable for 25,000 families living in social accommodation.
The biggest challenge to these kinds of projects is always red tape – which only patience and perseverance can tackle. (Until, that is, the government gets serious about energy storage incentives and long term solutions!)
Q: Are there any recent energy storage advancements that you find particularly exciting?
Far and away the most exciting recent advancement in energy storage solutions is the development of our GivEnergy All in One and its companion Giv-Gateway product.
Our new All in One combines a battery pack plus an AC Coupled inverter in one integrated product, and is powerful enough to keep the average household running for over 24 hours. When paired with the Giv-Gateway, it goes beyond storage to offer a backup power supply to boot.
Outside of manufacturing advancements, the potential of smart tariffs is also gaining momentum. For example, we’re now working with Octopus on “Zero Bills Homes” – a next generation energy tariff with zero energy bills for five years, guaranteed.
The potential of such initiatives to lift billpayers out of fuel-poverty is simply phenomenal – and definitely something worth excitement.
Q: How do you work with customers to educate them on the benefits of energy storage systems and help them make informed decisions about their energy use?
Education is interwoven into our company values. For example, we have a not-for-profit organisation – GivEducation – focused on delivering better learning outcomes, and we also work with local universities to support various learning projects.
So, as you can imagine, we’re passionate about educating customers. To do so, we focus on giving the customer the data-led information they need to make their own informed decisions. For example, the customer can see which devices in their home are the most energy-hungry, and switch them on and off remotely.
They can choose when to buy and use energy at the best rates, in conjunction with their renewable energy generation. They can predict their projected solar generation for the next 7 days with SOLCAST-compatible integrated solar forecasting.
In the words of a customer: “Thanks to the visibility of the data, we are now more aware of our power use and generation. We’ve been able to change our behaviour as a result of that insight.”
Q: What are the next steps for GivEnergy? Do you have any interesting developments that you are able to discuss?
We’re seeking to establish a dominant presence in the vast European energy storage market by expanding beyond our already strong position in the UK.
As part of this, we’re building a European team initially based in the Netherlands. We’re also actively establishing partnerships with European wholesalers and engaging with installers through trade shows and exhibitions.
Linking closely to this territorial expansion is our investment in physical growth. For example, we are custom-building all-new UK manufacturing facilities. This includes a new factory forecast for completion in November, which is currently in full construction. Here, we will manufacture our commercial systems. Then, we are also building a second UK factory to produce our inverters and EV chargers, with work set to begin in January 2024. By transitioning to nearshoring our manufacturing, we can become even more sustainable in our operations.
Beyond this physical growth, we’re making exciting developments across our product line. This includes, for example, an EV charger, a range of 3-phase inverters, a stackable battery, a third generation of our leading battery products, plus much more.