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BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 26 Jan '18
If you generate your own renewable energy, we salute you – but why export up to 80% to the grid when you could use it yourself?
This article first appeared in our winter ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Resolution Revolution. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
Most properties with solar panels or a wind turbine only consume a fraction of the renewable energy they generate; in fact, the average home uses around 20% and sends the rest back to the grid.
The National Grid has said this is an issue, warning of the complexities and hazards of managing all the exported energy from what are effectively hundreds of thousands of mini power stations. On top of that, homeowners and businesses could in most cases draw far greater environmental – and financial – benefits from microgeneration infrastructure they’ve already installed.
Supply and demand
The main reason renewable energy’s exported to the grid is the disparity between when it’s harvested and when the property needs it.
Lee Sutton, who used to be a solar panel installer, noticed the issue when he had a solar PV system fitted to his own roof. ‘I quickly realised that it was great having solar when you’re in all day and using the energy’, Lee explains, ‘but most of the time people are out and about during the day when the sun is shining the strongest, so they’re sending all their energy back to the grid.’
This was obviously great when the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) was lucrative, but in December 2015 the government announced a 65% cut in the subsidies received by householders with rooftop solar panels. From February 2016, the rate was slashed from 12.47p per kilowatt hour to just 4.39p.
Lee and Jordan Marie Brompton worked at one of the many renewable energy companies that collapsed as a result of changes in the government’s renewable energy policy. Their business, which created, released and sold over 25,000 units of a product for the UK solar market, went into voluntary liquidation when the FiT was cut.
Thousands of people went out of work and business during this period, but Lee never lost faith; he’d seen a little niche in the market that would maximise the benefit of having solar panels and increase the payback. With products in his head, he partnered with Jordan and some of the original team came back to join him. In September 2016 their new company, myenergi, was born.
Power to the people
‘We saw a pattern emerging across Europe’, Jordan tells us. ‘As the demand for electricity goes up, unfortunately so do prices – but the price of self-generation systems such as solar panels are coming down and technology is improving at a rapid pace.’
Generating electricity for use in your own property is a great way to lower your bills, and increasing a household’s ‘self-consumption’ – the amount of homemade energy it uses – amplifies these savings. Myenergi’s mission from the start was to ramp up self-consumption in order to give power back to the people, lower utility bills and reduce pressure on the National Grid, meaning there’d be fewer reasons to use coal, gas and nuclear power.
‘In using more self-generated ‘free’ energy, you’re buying in less fossil fuel supplied electricity’, Jordan explains. ‘You’re not only saving money, but also having a positive environmental impact.’
Cutting household bills
With seven years’ worth of experience, the team at myenergi put all its knowledge, expertise and experience into a new product, the eddi. It’s a clever little piece of kit that helps you consume the green energy produced by your microgeneration system.
The device acts as an automatic power controller that diverts surplus energy to a designated area to save power and minimise your utility bills. Once installed, this system, which costs £365 (including VAT), can reduce an average household’s energy bill by up to £250 per year.
It’s a standalone product that works with any size of array to heat your immersion heater, storage heater, underfloor heating, towel rail or electric radiator – all with surplus power from your solar panels or wind turbine, and irrespective of whether or not you’re at home. ‘The full potential of the eddi could mean the property uses almost 100% of the power it generates!’, Jordan says.
The eddi is fitted with a clear LCD display that provides details of the savings you’re making. It has a wired current clamp, but myenergi has also developed the harvi, the world’s first battery-free, wireless sensor, for ease of installation.
Cheap EV charging
Hot on the heels of the eddi, myenergi released a first-of-its-kind intelligent electric vehicle charger – a smart device that lets you charge any electric car with surplus energy generated by your home.
‘It does a similar job to the eddi, but the tech is very different’, Jordan says. ‘We figured why not give it a go? Lee had an electric car and it really got to him that he was unable to manage the solar efficiently when the sun was shining. We did some research and were shocked to find there was nothing on the market, so we designed, prototyped and tested the zappi.’
The zappi has three charge modes – the cleverest being the ECO & ECO+, which maximise the efficacy of your microgeneration system. You can charge your car with surplus energy, enjoy a full graphic display and view listings of your savings that date back to the time your zappi was installed.The zappi’s smart features mean it could benefit any home, not just those with solar panels or a wind turbine. The device can sense when economy or cheaper tariffs are available, meaning you get the cheapest charge possible.
The load balancing feature is also a popular one, as it slows down the charge to the car when the load’s increased in the home, which is great for the house and the grid.
The unit costs £495 (including VAT), but it’s an OLEV-approved device, meaning you could claim £500 back from the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles if you’ve just bought an electric car.
‘The zappi is the smartest charger on the market, and the only one that pays for itself in savings’, Lee tells us. ‘How quickly it pays the customer back can vary quite drastically, as obviously the variables change for each home. In most cases we predict the zappi will pay for itself within three to four years. For drivers that park their car at home a lot, or have a zappi at an office with microgeneration, it will be a lot quicker – somewhere between one and three years. Obviously if the government has paid for it under the OLEV scheme then the homeowner only has the installation costs to pay, which start at £249.’
Control your own energy
The zappi can work alone, or you can use it alongside the eddi and harvi to manage all your home’s energy and save money by diverting power, turning appliances on and off and reducing grid reliance. The devices provide total flexibility in terms of choosing and managing where your self-generated energy goes.
‘If a home only has a small array the eddi can store surplus energy as heat’, Lee explains. ‘This saves you from pulling power from the grid when you come home in the evening and want hot water. If you have a larger array you could heat two loads, say underfloor heating and your immersion, then when they’re up to full temperature charge your car, or vice versa.’
Similarly, if you have an electric car with a big battery that sits on your drive, it would make sense to slow-charge the car with a zappi to make use of home-generated energy instead of exporting it.
All of the devices can also be used alongside a battery system to mop up any surplus energy you generate on days when the battery is fully charged by midday.
Myenergi is currently developing a new app, due by summer 2018, that will let customers control their energy use from their phone. ‘You’ll be able to boost heating, increase your electric vehicle charge, switch surplus energy priorities, view data and see financial savings’, Jordan tells us. ‘Having an eddi or a zappi can only improve your return on investment in solar panels. They are classic no-brainer products.’
The time to switch
Despite the setbacks created by the 2015-16 solar market collapse, moving goalposts and inconsistent renewable energy policy, Lee and Jordan have refused to give up on their dream of a future powered by clean energy.
‘The honest drive for all of us is the sector’, Lee says. ‘What’s not to love? Promoting green, clean energy that will help save the planet and our health as a collective. Imagine a world where people generate their own electricity and support the grids to decarbonise, while driving round in electric cars and breathing clean air. That’s our ultimate goal.’
The fact myenergi’s products save people money is great bonus on the way to saving the planet; ‘Technology is improving at a rapid rate and the price of microgeneration systems and batteries is coming down just as quickly’, Jordan says. ‘This the best and most obvious time to make the switch to green energy.’