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Exclusive interview: Alistair Clarke, Founder and MD, eConnect

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eConnect founder Alistair Clarke, a chartered accountant who spent the past 10 years with BG Group, saw how vital it was to apply the right technology and optimal solutions to the challenges we face. In particular in the discovery, distribution and utilisation of energy. He believes that the development in the technology and inherent capabilities of electric vehicles is an excellent example of where we have an opportunity to apply a practical, intelligent approach. He talks to Blue & Green.

In 140 characters or less – what is eConnect Cars?

eConnect cars is pioneering the switch from diesel and hybrid taxis to 100% electric vehicles. We are the only operator in London to offer both a standard (Nissan Leaf) and executive (Tesla Model S) zero emission service.

What was the driver for creating eConnect Cars – what gap did it fill?

London and other major cities are struggling with the challenges of urban growth, congestion and pollution. eConnect cars is investing in a modern business model that provides a zero emission service, integrated with other forms of transport and urban mobility providers. This approach fits with the trend of car owners becoming car users and mobility on demand.

Who does it primarily serve?

eConnect currently focuses on the corporate market and offering bundled services through its arrangement with transport providers such as Great Western Railway. It also works with transport aggregators such as One Transport and platform apps such as Karhoo.

What difference does eConnect Cars want to make?

eConnect wants to drive the shift towards more sustainable transport and be part of the solution towards cleaner air. Pollution in London currently cost the lives of approximately 9,000 people per year.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

The technology to auto dispatch taxis, taking into account battery status is not available. In addition, rapid charging infrastructure in London is currently insufficient to support the large scale deployment of commercial electric vehicle fleets.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

eConnect has secured a grant from Innovate UK to undertake a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with London Metropolitan University. This project will create the technology needed to manage not only our own fleet but can also be licensed to other logistics operators globally. With respect to rapid charging infrastructure, the Government has allocated the budget but this now needs to be allocated and spent to increase the number of rapid chargers available.

Is government and automotive industry action commensurate with the air pollution issues we face?

Through the Ultra-Low City Scheme, I believe the Government is encouraging action although my concern is that the response from the Local councils etc. is not ambitious enough. The same can be said for the ULEZ in London which is a great idea in practice but has been watered down through the consultation rounds in response to lobbying by large business. As a result, we may lose an excellent opportunity to make a real difference. As a result, I expect it will be people who will demand the change that will see businesses react and government then follow with supportive legislation.

Any comment on Volkswagen and Dieselgate?

I think that people have known for a while that the emissions and performance tests do not provide a reliable guide to real world conditions but could be used to compare one diesel vehicle against another. With the revelations around VW and the availability of alternative drivetrains, a more robust scorecard needs to be introduced to better inform consumers as to the pros and cons of the choices they face. In terms of the impact on our health of the NOx emissions, I think we are only just getting to grips with this and having watched the BBC panorama show the other night, I have my doubts that VW will be the only manufacturer having to answer difficult questions.

Give a choice Tesla or Nissan?

If money was no object – Tesla.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about eConnect Cars?

Through our website www.econnectcars.com which includes a number of articles we have written in our news area. For information on the Crowdcube fund raising campaign specifically, please look here.

If they wish to give our service a try in either a Leaf or a Tesla a try – just call 0203 002 5544 and book a cash or credit card job (no account required).

 

 

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Energy

Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?

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The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?

The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.

Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.

The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.

Introducing New Technology

The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.

  • To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
  • Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
  • Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.

How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy

Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.

The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.

The Internet of Things

Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.

Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.

Blockchain Technology

It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.

“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”

Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)

The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.

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Energy

4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy

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Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.

However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?

A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.

1.     Boulder Nissan

When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:

  • Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
  • They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
  • Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.

This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.

2.     Valley Electric Association

In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.

“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”

The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.

This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.

3.     Las Vegas Casinos

A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.

“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”

There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.

4.     Boston College

Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.

Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.

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