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Customer story

emhTrade: Sparking a new approach to energy

This article was published on Dec 18, 2018, 2:57 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Not only making trading electricity user-friendly, emhTrade is changing consumer behaviour for the better of the planet too. Supporting them in their journey has been Callaghan Innovation.

What's in this article

    At a glance

    • Initially seeing an opportunity to help behind the scenes in the technical aspects of trading electricity, emhTrade soon discovered what was needed was something that made those transactions more user-friendly.
    • Callaghan Innovation’s support, through grants, workshops and accelerator programmes, has helped the business go from traditional start-up to consumer business.
    • emhTrade’s platform creates a sharing economy for energy, helping change consumer behaviour in the process. On one occasion 35 per cent of users cut their power consumption by more than half when told the system was burning diesel.

    Stu Innes may not look like your traditional Marvel superhero. But the way he describes his company could almost come from the pages of a comic book.

    We’re a software company working to enable a better power society,

    he enthuses.

    As CEO of emhTrade, Innes is not only disrupting the traditional energy infrastructure, he’s also helping to save the planet, and it’s taking the company forward at a rapid pace.

    When it launched just over six years ago, emhTrade initially saw an opportunity to help behind the scenes in the technical aspects of trading electricity.  But the deeper they delved, the more it became apparent that what was needed was something that made those transactions more user-friendly.

    What they’ve developed is a platform that creates a sharing economy for energy resources.  It not only reduces waste in the system, it should also accelerate the adoption of new technology such as batteries, electric vehicles, internet-connected appliances and solar power.

    A front-facing app, Power Pal, quizzes consumers on their energy priorities. The app then alerts users when that sort of energy is available and allows them to access it. It also alerts them when costs are high, or less environmentally sound methods are being used.

    Since the start of 2018, the platform has allowed ‘solar share’ houses to share more than 100,000 kWh of clean local energy. And it’s changing consumer behaviour — on one occasion, 35% of users cut their power consumption by more than half when told the system was burning diesel.

    It’s clearly an idea whose time has come. So much so, that just two years after launching its platform, emhTrade is planning to expand into Australia.

    Coping with the buzz

    While the company is no longer a traditional start-up, the change to a consumer business has been quite the ride. “It’s a bit of a transition going from energy trader to entrepreneur. You suddenly have these customers,” notes Innes.

    To ease the transition, he and his team have made the most of support offered by NZ’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation.

    This has included a four-month accelerator programme specifically for ventures in the electricity industry. Innes says it was just the spark emhTrade needed at the time.

    “It really did accelerate us and we’re still involved with a lot of people we met there.”

    The company also received a Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant, and was an early participant in Callaghan Innovation’s Capital Education Workshops, aimed at early-stage projects needing investment.

    “When you’re going through that capital-raise process, it was really great to be able to chat to other people, and have a network of others - not necessarily in your industry - you can call on for their thoughts and experience.”

    One of the most useful sources of help and advice, he says, has been James Muir, a business innovation adviser with Callaghan Innovation.

    “Having someone like James come along for the ride, who you don’t have to bring up to speed every time you talk to them; who you can just bounce ideas off and have a bit of a chat with; someone’s who is both an advisor and a connector … that’s been really invaluable.”

    This article was first published in EMA Business Plus magazine (2021). 

    Lightning Lab Electric - emhTrade Pitch

    [Martin White]

    We've heard a lot today about creating efficiency in the inner power industry and this is awesome stuff but there's a piece of the puzzle that we haven't really talked about so much and that's the end consumer, with the background spanning between them several decades in the energy industry focused on complexity and optimising complexity in energy markets EMH trade are now looking at how they can create and share with consumers value from the whole supply chain they've already made a first foray into this Stu and Matthew created P2Power which is New Zealand's pioneering peer-to-peer energy retailer focused on solar this has been a great experience and they've learnt a whole heap from doing that but their goal is not to build another electricity retailer not that there's anything wrong with retailers but their goal is to build a marketplace like TradeMe, we love a good marketplace, where other retailers, distributors and consumers can work together to optimise value for the end consumer as well as each other that's going to lead to better financial outcomes but as social outcomes and better environmental outcomes, with a growing team of staff and advisors EMH Trade are on a new journey now to tap into a number of global mega trends which we've we've heard a little bit about already and use those to help solve global problems I find that really exciting and inspiring stuff and I can't wait to see how they're actually going to go about doing it so without further ado please welcome Jamie silk.

    [Jamie Silk]

    Thanks Martin, that's a great intro to EMHs’ passion, a passion about empowering people and enabling the transactive grid a passion for better consumer outcomes but we know is shared by the many people here today who are also dedicated to powering New Zealand's future, through the transactive grid we tackle two big connected problems ones seen through the eyes of the consumer the other through distributors and retailers problems are resolved by connecting consumers with the industry through a transactive platform a platform that empowers people to achieve their goals whilst for the industry it delivers engaged consumers and optimised demand so as Martin says, first to the consumer, consumers feel frustrated they feel hopeless we know from many surveys that as an industry we're not loved despite our personal and corporate commitments consumers tell us they want to be in control they want to be in control to positively impact their environment their community and their budgets, from dozens of layered interviews and hundreds of survey sent out 9 out of 10 consumers told us today they don't feel they have good choices and it's not just words when we started our trials 60% of the consumers went out of their way to provide evidence to us that they actually change behaviour and 25% of those went on to change their retailer so how do we achieve this well for the consumer lens a platform is a consumer app it's a web app and connectivity that does three things it understands their personal preferences it informs how to meet those engagingly rewarding them for their action and with new technology it will help to seamlessly execute these things flip in to the industry's perspective well the flip side of the coin of the consumer problem of disengaged consumers is disengaged consumers they drive costs and they create missed opportunities we've already heard critical Peaks is a key cost driver to parts of the business integrating a new technology is a challenge and an opportunity and in the retail business customer churn are all driven by these costs so focusing on just one of these subjects critical Peaks all people use their maximum power at the same time cold winter nights that drives new investment in networks investment that is rarely used business models when frequent use, their assets are generally not the best business model to pursue 50% of the lines companies executives and directors that we interviewed had maximum demand and all the subjects electricity price and roadmaps closely related on their agendas right now and it's not surprising if you look at the many studies from overseas from many countries around the world there's billions of dollars to be saved annually from deferring or indeed avoiding capX that is arising from Peaks and through hundreds of surveys and pilots and prototypes that are running around the world double-digit consumer response and demand reductions are highly achievable so a big attainable prize is out there so from industry perspective what is our platform well it's one that's using smart algorithms to create a marketplace that optimises firstly the distributer pricing and their capacity signals secondly the energy markets and third consumer preferences together with their capacity to change and in so doing the platform engages people shift in demand to cut those Peaks to help integrate new technologies and to reduce customer churn so why now well as Marnie said, there's four megatrends, four mega trends redefining consumer energy today and how industry and businesses interact with consumers the first of this is the social and sustainable economy people want to achieve different things and they want to transact in different ways think Airbnb think Uber think peer-to-peer the second trend is people are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on electric vehicles on connected appliances on solar panels and energy storage these will change how and when people use energy the third trend it's sensors everywhere big data analytics the neighbour must understand how and when people use energy but also how it connects to the constraints in our networks and in our markets these four come together in the fourth megatrend the fourth megatrend is the internet of energy the internet energy ties up people's personal preferences, energies, needs, the devices, and the supply side and so enabling our platform to understand what people want and help them achieve their goals seamlessly and drive opportunities for system and resale efficiency and in New Zealand we've got a particular unique opportunity at the moment for a seismic shift in shape and how consumers adopt those new technologies and that's the distributor pricing roadmaps they're an opportunity to create value by engaging with people empowering consumers to act and then rewarding them for doing so, so where are we now at EMH trade we're starting out on scale pilots proving Kiwi consumers engage and we're not alone in that so big thank you and particularly to the lines companies that are helping us co-design with industry platform, a platform to optimise the industry and engage consumers outcomes through this two-sided market it's also opportunity for other leaders in retail and alliance companies to influence this design right now at EMH trade things are really hectic we've got our first external customer signed up who's brought with them 50 plus transactive consumers we've got to gear up for the pilot the retailer P2, is also already signing up customers we've got two lines companies in detail design and freemore we're at the initial stages of design and we're also trying to figure out how to do of international interest that's been expressed in the project and product we've built a team that's got electricity expertise across the value chain and bring it on digital expertise as well so the first pilot is filling up but we also know there's always room to make it better so please talk to either Matt Stew or myself later if you want to lead in empowering people and enabling the transactive grid thank you.

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