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Exclusive Interview: Patrick Caiger-Smith, CEO of geo

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Patrick is a Chartered Engineer with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Imperial College and an MBA from Cranfield University. His career has been in manufacturing, where he has run several international operations. Active with Industry Groups, he currently sits on the Board of BEAMA, chairs the Consumer Committee for ESMIG and is a member of the Enterprise Council of the CBI and a Fellow of the RSA.

When the sustainability agenda was still a novelty, Patrick saw the need to generate consumer interest and understanding of household energy consumption. In 2006, he co-founded his current Cambridge-based business, geo, which helps the energy retail industry with technology and insight around consumer attitudes and behaviour change. This interest is now moving towards ‘hybrid homes’ and enabling demand response in the residential sector.

In 140 characters or less – what is geo?

The pioneering developer of smarter energy products and services for the home including smart meter in-home displays, solar monitoring and smart thermostats.


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

To make a positive impact on home energy consumption.  We wanted to provide consumers with energy data that they could use, long before the ideas of smart meters arrived.

Driven by concerns about the impact of climate change and the shortage of natural resources, we believe that technology has an important part to play in making energy visible to people enabling them to live greener, more comfortable and cost-effective lives in energy-efficient homes.

Who does it primarily serve? 


Consumers. However, we work with most of the major utility companies and heating installers helping them to engage closer with their customers.  We also sell products direct to consumers. Our Cosy smart thermostat is a good example of this.

What difference does geo want to make?

geo’s long-term objective is to reduce energy consumption in our customer’s connected homes by up to two thirds over the next ten years. We’ll achieve this by integrating data from smart meters, energy appliances and storage systems to provide smarter energy controls, simplicity and visibility.

Smart meters will help homeowners to visualise what has the greatest, or the least impact on energy usage. It’s why the Government is pushing its campaign to kit-out every home in the country with a smart meter by 2020.  Suddenly we’ll all be equipped with in-home displays, energy apps and web portals many of which will be supplied by geo. We will use this introduction as a catalyst to engage users in smarter energy devices and deliver increased benefits from the smart meter programme.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

Initially the biggest barrier was scepticism – most people couldn’t understand why we would start a company whose focus was to help utilities reduce energy consumption.  Now, consumer engagement is mainstream in the energy sector.

Our next biggest barrier is delivering network benefits to end-users.  Much of the benefit of smarter energy in our homes will be helping manage grid imbalances through demand management.  However, monetising this benefit in a way that compensates users for the expenditure they are making is proving very difficult.  The network has been set up as a centralised system where energy flows in one direction and money in the opposite direction.  The future is a consumer centric distributed energy system but it will take a long time to change the motivations and regulations to make this a reality.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

Firstly, the team at geo.  Together over the past ten years we’ve developed and delivered almost three million systems, which has allowed us to build a picture of how energy is used by consumers.   We have a number of committed and far-thinking specialists who help us turn our vision into a reality.

Secondly, consumers:  most disruptive change is driven by consumers.  If we are able to present consumers with a compelling proposition that they want then we believe that will drive the inevitable market changes needed.  That vision is for the Hybrid Home.  Like a hybrid car which halves fuel consumption and provides a better driving experience we see the hybrid home doubling energy efficiency and giving a more enjoyable living experience.

What needs to happen politically to accelerate your growth?

Sensible incentives, not subsidies, that encourage consumers to buy energy efficient systems.  For example a combination of a new Merton Rule and changes to Stamp Duty could provide the incentives for developers to build hybrid homes and people to buy them.

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

Visit our website www.geotogether.com to find out about our company and products. You can also contact us on

Twitter: @geomonitors

FB: facebook.com/geo.GreenEnergyOptions

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/green-energy-options

Feel free to add a question you’d like us to have asked!

Why is geo different?

Most businesses in our sector concentrate on one element of the consumer value chain – products, platforms or services.  Because we believe in providing an integrated consumer experience we have developed all three elements.  We are therefore able to ensure the quality, reliability and usability of our solutions.

This is a different perspective to answering the challenge of interoperability.  It is very pragmatic – delivering a working solution now to help build a market starting from the consumer rather than the technical perspective.

Similarly we have focused on the energy element of the smart home.  We have built leading propositions in energy feedback, heating and solar and are unique in having this breadth.  It is a breadth that enables us to converge these solutions into an integrated energy management system that will be the heart of the Hybrid Home.

 

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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