By Impact4All (Author: Nick Rice) February 19, 2018
…Here’s What He’s Doing About It:
Australian startup Evenergi is on mission to help people think about how they are using energy. Their vision is, “For every car and home to be powered by sustainable energy” and to empower customers in supporting the digital, energy efficiency and renewable energy revolution.
The company has just partnered with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to launch “Charge Together.” The US$280,000 initiative aims to find out why Electric Vehicle (EV) uptake has been so slow in Australia and what measures can be taken to boost adoption.
In an exclusive interview, Daniel Hilson, founder and CEO of Evenergi, speaks to Impact4All.
Daniel, what are the biggest environmental challenges we face at the moment?
We are altering the mechanics of all of our ecosystems in ways that are, in many cases, irreparable. We have broken the natural chains of stocks and flows of resources and as we consume with an ever-increasing speed, we push our waste into the sea, land and air with greater velocity.
The challenge of declining biodiversity, large-scale pollution and shortages of clean air, clean water and arable land are all serious. The way some of these issues reinforce each other and intersect may have consequences that are beyond our current capacity for prediction.
Clearly, climate change is one of the biggest challenges in terms of the scale of potential consequences and the fact that it adds fuel to the fire of many of the issues above.
What are the best signals of change in the electric vehicle sector?
Electric vehicles are slowly entering the mainstream consciousness in the United Kingdom and globally. This is a combination of industry and political momentum as well as increasing demand from customers.
An incredible statistic is that more than 50 per cent of drivers in the UK would now consider at least a Plug-in-Hybrid.
How do you think we can accelerate electric vehicle adoption?
While all the signals are positive, there are still some practical issues on the ground in terms of the current affordability of vehicles, the education of customers and installing the infrastructure required to service them. There is really positive action on all these fronts, however the actual month on month sales need to increase exponentially to meet the UK Department for Transport targets of 1.2 million electric vehicles and 350,000 plug-in hybrids by 2020.
While there are strong incentives currently, you need only look to places like Norway to see policy that really moves the needle. 50 per cent of people are actually buying electric vehicles and that is due to generous tax benefits, whereas the reality in the UK is that it is still only 3.5 per cent of people buying. It will need to shift to around 16 per cent to meet these targets.
With specific regard to the electric vehicle sector, what would your company recommend as strategies for successful innovation and adoption of renewable energy sources?
We are currently very focused on electric vehicle owners who want to power their Electric Vehicle with local renewable generation. Right now, the payback on local solar generation in the UK is far too long for the average person to feel comfortable investing in it. There are a lot of progressives and environmentalists who will buy solar regardless but, to continue to grow as a sector, home solar needs to have a better return on investment.
The innovations in building integrated solar and the general reductions in PV prices is important, as is the search for ways to ensure that we maximise the local use of solar power generated, rather than feeding it back into the grid. Owning an EV is an ideal way to maximise the capture of local generation for self-consumption. This local consumption can be further increased using plug share arrangements, where people can use someone’s plug when they are at work to capture the benefit of local generation.
I am also a believer in microgrids emerging in the future where communities can benefit from local community generation with fair and proportional allocation of distribution charges. This works well with the future of mobility where you may see more centralised charging “hubs” for shared electric vehicles which would be ideal for larger scale local generation.
Another key area for innovation is linking electric vehicles with grid scale initiatives. There is a lot of talk about the potential for Electric Vehicles charging at night to interface with large scale wind projects as a grid balancing alternative – when there is nothing else to soak up excess generation. Lots of assumptions and complexity to work through – but a good avenue for innovation for sure.
What are your thoughts about how the Internet of things will affect environmental sustainability?
Innovations such as IoT will have significant potential benefit for the environment. For example, low-cost monitoring will provide the evidence base to make sensible policy decisions around management of environmental stocks and flows.
In the Electric Vehicle world, likely IoT applications will be in the operation of batteries and charging stations as a single grid resource. This can also be extended to home solar and storage to develop virtual fleets of stationary and mobile batteries and generation with bi-directional power flow.
The more co-ordinated this is, the better it will be for managing the additional strain on the grid, and for coordinating with large-scale renewable generation to help manage intermittency issues.
What are the best ways in which your business can contribute to a long-term positive transformation and expansion of the renewable energy market?
Our ambition is for every car and home to be powered by renewable energy. The electrification of transport is fantastic for so many things – including reducing localised pollution, but has multiple environmental benefits if those vehicles are powered by renewable sources.
We are creating tools so that when customers buy an electric vehicle they can very accurately understand the benefits of solar and batteries. We are also trying to develop ways to streamline the value chain so that people can minimise what it costs to install renewable energy when they buy a vehicle, and to ensure that it is set up to maximise the potential savings. We believe that owning an EV can reduce the payback on a solar investment by around two years.
I know you can’t predict the future but what impact do you think electric vehicles will have on the renewable energy market 10 years from now?
The convergence of eMobility and the energy market is going to create massive disruptions to business models and technology and can have incredible benefits for renewable energy if managed correctly. You may see autonomous vehicles driving into charging depots powered by centralised and decentralised renewable energy for example.
As mentioned, personally owned and shared fleets of electric vehicles will come together as a massive smart grid resource with transport as a service ensuring that no-one ever has issues charging – even if their vehicle has been used as a grid resource that day.
Guaranteed service levels underwritten by a combination of energy and automotive market players will mean that regardless of how vehicles and the grid interact – you will always get where you want to go, when you want to get there.
The Internet of things and blockchain will mean that no matter where you pull up – your home, someone else’s home, a hotel or workplace, you will charge with local renewable energy and the right person will receive the income in real time.
What are the things which give you cause for despair and what are the things that lift you up and allow you to think – we’re going to be OK?
It troubles me that while the challenges are so huge, we are faced with political environments in the US, in particular, that are pulling away from the policy settings required to solve these issues.
What lifts me up is the fact that private industry and the public have formed a pretty strong understanding of where things are going, and that has given things a momentum which sits far above any one political actor in the long term. There are so many great minds working so hard to solve these environmental issues and it is finally becoming an economic as well as a social imperative for business to solve them.