Shell invests in Sonnen to drive distributed energy aims forward

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Sonnen CEO Ostermann also disclosed that the investment would enable sonnen to pursue expansion plans predominantly in the US and Australia, but also to ramp-up the development of its domestic aggregated storage platform sonnencommunity, its nascent virtual power plant solution and its grid-related services initiative. Image: Sonnen.

Shell has continued to scale-up its interest in distributed energy by participating in a €60 million (US$70.23 million) investment round by German battery storage firm sonnen.

Sonnen’s chief executive Christoph Ostermann told Reuters that Shell Ventures, the division of Royal Dutch Shell tasked with supporting innovative energy companies, would be among those participating in its latest investment round alongside existing shareholders.

And in a statement issued to Solar Media's freshly launched clean energy site Current± this morning Brian Davis, vice president for energy solutions at Shell, confirmed the move.

“This investment enables us to combine Shell’s power business activities with sonnen’s high quality, innovative products and business model to enhance our consumer energy offerings. This is in line with our strategy to partner with leading companies to deliver more and cleaner energy solutions to our customers,” he said.

Ostermann also disclosed that the investment would enable sonnen to pursue expansion plans predominantly in the US and Australia, but also to ramp-up the development of its domestic aggregated storage platform sonnencommunity, its nascent virtual power plant solution and its grid-related services initiative. Back in 2016, Energy-Storage.News interviewed Ostermann as Sonnen netted US$85 million in a previous funding round when the CEO said expansion, internationalisation and development of innovative service and business models would be the focus for that cash.

The investment is however particularly interesting from Shell’s perspective given its recent moves into the domestic energy market.

In March this year Shell completed its acquisition of First Utility, one of the UK’s small- to medium-sized suppliers as part of a much wider consumer play.

When it first announced the deal in December 2017, Shell said its energy supply, trading and marketing expertise would enable First Utility to grow beyond its 825,000 customers and hoped to develop “more innovative” services for its customers.

“This combination will enable Shell to enter a new part of the energy market in the UK and to improve choice for customers by delivering innovative services at competitive prices,” Mark Gainsborough, executive VP of new energies at Shell, said at the time.  

If Shell were to offer sonnen batteries to First Utility customers it would follow a path well-trodden by other utilities over the course of the past year. The likes of EDF, E.On and Ovo Energy have all partnered with battery manufacturers to offer domestic services, usually alongside rooftop solar and/or home energy management solutions. 

The oil and gas major has made other recent investments into other areas of distributed energy solutions that include energy storage. The company has just invested in Axiom Exergy, a US manufacturer of energy storage units that use stored energy for cooling buildings and produce, while at the beginning of the year Shell joined European utility ENGIE were among investors putting US$20 million into Husk Power Systems, a developer of microgrids which is expanding its efforts in Asia and Africa.

Industry-watchers have been expectant on further acquisitions and major investments in the space by big fossil fuel players since the 2016 acquisition of storage and battery maker Saft by Total.

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