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Centrica: Residential solar-plus-batteries could mean 4.5GW more flexible capacity for the UK

Schematic of Centrica’s ‘Local energy market’ trial in west England. Image: Centrica.

Centrica has made investments in two cutting edge energy tech firms as it targets a more concentrated domestic energy flexibility business.

And the firm is backing its investments to help it capitalise on the potential for more than 4.5GW of flexible power capacity in the UK alone and a home energy management industry which it expects to be worth more than US£2 billion (US$2.58 billion) a year by 2025.

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Centrica Innovations, the business unit established two years ago to invest in cutting edge technologies, has today announced investments into home energy management solutions provider GreenCom Networks and smart hot water tech provider Mixergy.

GreenCom Networks has developed an energy Internet of Things (IoT) platform that allows consumers to reduce their energy consumption and make their demand more flexible, essentially enabling them to sell surplus power at times of high demand.

Headquartered in Germany, GreenCom’s ‘Energy Information Brokerage Platform’ professes to act as the “foundation” for an energy firm’s future service portfolio.

The firm boasts significant experience from the telecommunication market and Christian Feisst, chief executive at GreenCom, said Centrica’s track record in customer-facing businesses would help it bring innovative services to market.

Centrica pointed towards estimates that the European and North American home energy management industry is expected to worth as much as £2 billion a year by 2025 as the transition towards a smarter, more decentralised energy system accelerates.

The energy giant already has an established Connected Home business unit centred around its Hive product portfolio. Centrica has deployed more than 1 million connected home hubs worldwide, and in the first half of 2018 Centrica Connected Home reported a 31% increase in gross revenues.

Centrica has also this morning teased the future direction of that unit, pointing at the potential for rooftop solar, battery storage and domestic heat pumps to be integrated into its existing customer offering.

The company has also suggested that co-locating domestic battery storage units alongside the country’s rooftop solar installations – which number more than 800,000 – could enable more than 4.5GW of flexible power capacity.

Investments are ‘important step forward’

The firm’s second investment is in Mixergy, a spin-off company from the University of Oxford’s Energy and Power Group, which has developed smart hot water tank technology that leverages enhanced sensors and IoT technology to keep track of hot water levels.

Sam Salisbury, director of Centrica Innovations Labs, said the investments were an “important step forward” to enabling new technologies to combine and ensure energy is used in the “most effective way”.

“Our mission is to make people’s lives easier, by providing seamless, time-saving services that are easy to use, have a positive environmental impact, and help save them money. Just as we have done for our business customers, home energy management takes this a step further by giving these customers access to new products that will enable them to generate and store their own energy as part of the ultimate ‘Intelligent Home’,” he said.

The acquisition follows news at the beginning of this week that Shell is to acquire home energy storage system and energy services provider Sonnen.

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