Greg Jackson, boss of Octopus Energy, says the sector was ripe for an Amazon or Uber-style disruptor, but that his version will also boost the UK’s green revolution. Octopus is a new breed of energy supplier, built on cutting-edge technology and unencumbered by the creaking billing systems and fossil-fuel plants that plague the UK’s “big six”. Set up just five years ago, it has been free to view the energy market as a tech startup would: ripe for disruption. This has made Octopus Britain’s fastest-growing energy supplier, and helped it agree that Japanese deal – under which it will supply energy to homes in Japan, while Tokyo Gas takes a near-10% stake in Octopus. The beating heart of this ambition is Octopus’s energy software, now known as Kraken, which helps it run a super-efficient energy operation, and has helped unlock the future benefits of low-carbon energy. “When we set out, we knew a lot about technology,” said Jackson. “We didn’t know about energy, but we could see that the sector had not yet had a digital revolution. From windfarms to household, it ran on systems that were two decades old.” Octopus made headlines earlier this year by paying its customers to use electricity when Britain’s renewable energy reached record highs. It’s one example of a future hi-tech energy system that empowers individuals. “Electricity is becoming a tech sector,” said Jackson. Kraken’s “elec-tech” software could facilitate a new way of using energy, and underpin Britain’s green industrial revolution. “When a customer comes home and plugs in their electric car,” he says, “Kraken will automatically charge when electricity is cheap, and sell energy back to the grid when it’s expensive. By morning you’d have a fully charged vehicle at the lowest possible cost.” In future this could be extended to entire districts: neighbourhoods full of batteries quietly acting as virtual power plants. Already 17 million customers are plugged into Kraken software. British energy suppliers including E.ON and Good Energy use it to run their own businesses and there are Octopus Energy outposts in Germany and the US. Earlier this year it struck a deal with Origin, Australia’s leading energy supplier, which agreed to take a 20% stake in Octopus and license the Kraken software.
Observer 2nd Jan 2021 read more »