The brightest new ideas in energy descend on Sydney, virtually

To be successful in a future energy world and deliver on our promise to make energy easier, smarter and cleaner for our customers, we recognised a long time ago that we had to harness our strengths and combine them with the best ideas and technologies from around world.

Written by Tony Lucas, EGM Future Energy & Technology

In the past, you had a meter box on the side of the house, which was read once every three months, and then you would pay your bill. Energy was a low-engagement service and not a great customer experience.

Rooftop solar, batteries, electric vehicles and smart appliances are increasingly allowing households to generate, store and trade energy. The convergence of new generation sources and the billions of data points they create means we are pivoting to technologies which allow us to utilise this rich data to provide new products and services to customers to give them more control over their energy use and a better experience.

That’s why back in 2017 we co-founded Free Electrons to connect us to the best new ideas from all over the world.

Every year, the Free Electrons open innovation program for energy start-ups uncovers the brightest and most promising ideas and technologies. There were more than 800 applications this year for just 15 places. We, alongside nine other major utilities from around the world representing 40 countries and 82 million customers, work with these start-ups to deliver cutting edge solutions and co-create the future of energy.

There are usually four modules held in different cities around the world. Origin had planned to host Module 1 commencing 1 June in Sydney, but COVID-19 has changed everything.

While it’s disappointing that we can’t show off our stunning Sydney winter to the 2020 cohort, we have moved to a virtual format and we are no less excited about the connections, conversations, and game-changing innovations we will unearth this week.

It is one of the most rewarding parts of our job in the Future Energy team to work with companies at the leading edge of innovation. We know our strengths, and we recognise when we need input from others and in the past three years Origin has evaluated more than 2,000 companies. We have partnered or invested in some and trialled several new technologies with our customers.

We met OhmConnect in the first year of Free Electrons and are close to rolling out its gamified behavioural demand response technology in the Australian market. Orison participated in the second year of the program, and we continue to work with them on their modular storage system that can be easily installed by apartment dwellers, renters and homes with or without solar, giving more people the opportunity to participate in the storage revolution and control when and where they use energy in their home.

This year, we will be keeping a close eye on Australian start-up Allume, which has developed world-first technology that allows solar to be shared between residents in a multi-unit apartment block or retail or commercial tenants. With a growing number of people in our major cities living in higher density housing, we are excited about the potential for this group to access the environmental and cost benefits of solar for the first time.

Clearly the future of energy is bright and if we embrace technology and nurture start-ups, we will be well on the path to making energy easier, smarter and cleaner for customers.

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