SOLshare, a Bangladesh-based peer-to-peer smart grid operator, has been named the World’s Best Energy Startup 2018 by the Free Electrons Accelerator Program, a global alliance of ten utility companies that cover 76 million customers in 40 countries and have a combined turnover of $163 billion.
The startup, which was also named a 2018 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, started by developing the first peer-to-peer solar electricity trading platform for off-grid households in Bangladesh. But “we believe that the smart peer-to-peer networks we are building…. may be the future for utilities globally,” says SOLshare CEO Sebastian Groh.
The ten utilities behind the Free Electrons Accelerator apparently agree. The utilities- including Energias de Portugal (EDP), American Electric Power, Australian utilities Ausnet Services and Origin Energy, Hong Kong’s CLP, Dubai Electric and Water Authority, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board and Germany’s innogy New Ventures, Singapore’s SP Group and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (SEPCO) — awarded the company first prize and $200,000 in funding in its October startup contest. And, in September the company raised a series A investment round of $1.66 million led by innogy New Ventures LLC, the Silicon Valley-based arm of the innogy Innovation Hub, the accelerator and venture capital investment arm of the German utility innogy. Portuguese utility firm EDP, and the IIX Growth Fund from Singapore also participated in the round.
The startup’s SOLbox Internet of Things meter enables peer-to-peer electricity trading between off-grid households connected to solar panels. As more users connect over time, the SOLshare network grows in supply and allocation, empowering households to become solar entrepreneurs by selling excess energy.
The plug-and-play nature of the SOLbox allows the trading network to grow dynamically from the bottom-up as more users connect over time. The startup’s back-end aims to facilitate secure peer-to-peer electricity trading between users; integrating mobile money payment, data analytics and grid management services. As a SOLshare network grows, it can connect with the national grid, operating in island mode when the grid is unavailable, and drawing power from the grid when it is available. The solution creates last-mile power distribution infrastructure and, says the company, demonstrates the ability for its technology to integrate with expanding rural electricity grids.