100 companies creating tomorrow's energy systems, today

Energy transitions are underway, but ambitious global climate change targets that require emissions to peak in just three years (by 2020) point to an innovation gap. This week a the SE4All Forum in New York, we launched the EPIC100 report, the result of last year's Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge (EPIC), supported by ClimateWorks Foundation, that sought 100 companies filling that gap with solutions for homes, commercial & industrial buildings, mobility, energy systems and finance.

The promise

We are seeing exponential growth in computing and communications, and energy sectors are beginning to feel the impact of this shift. New capabilities such as blockchain, Internet of Things, new materials and big data are providing new opportunities to more rapidly diagnose and tackle energy system waste and losses that can be more than 60% of the primary energy inputs. Opportunities to drive energy productivity are worth more than $2 trillion.

The business models

Though many of the 100 EPIC companies (40) were early stage pre-revenue businesses, 30 of them have attracted over 770 million in equity financing with hundreds of millions more committed in project finance. The businesses impact on a range of energy assets including HVAC, lighting and motors and grid systems, with thousands of megawatts of energy savings in their portfolios. 10 business model types were identified, including Energy as a Service, Peer-to-Peer Energy and Flexibility Services through electricity storage or demand response.  But how will these still early stage businesses scale?


During our workshop at SE4All heard from innovators in corporates (Harry Verhaar, Head of Global & Government Affairs for Philips Lighting and Vishnu Barran, Senior Business Development Manager, ENER-G Rudox Inc, a company within the Centrica Group) as well as startups at different stages (Scott Williams, Vice President, Business Development, Global Automotive Markets, eMotorWerksScott Kesslar, Director, Business Development for LO3 Energy and Asger Trier Bing, CEO, M-PAYG). For startups, the partnerships with established players with existing hardware or infrastructure help them to focus on where they can provide most value - the part of the new value chains they are creating whether in smart electric vehicle charging, energy trades or renewable payment systems -- and at the same time, to provide a more complete end-to-end service to their customers, including installation or financing. Harry Verhaar who has led a new growth area within Philips has partnered with established players in other sectors such as IT and telecommunications, and with city governments, to launch new lighting-as-a-service offers. As Scott Williams noted, 'partnerships are key' as new ambitious companies take on the challenges of rapid growth. 

Pathways to scale

Whilst the potential is there to move to an on-demand, real time energy system that rapidly decarbonises energy, the pace at which this happens is still uncertain. Governments and corporate leaders will be key drivers of demand for energy transitions, and we describe an innovation 'racetrack' to accelerate innovation ecosystems, with specific recommendations for each broad action on the racetrack. Governments and corporates can use data more effectively to support innovators, create the conditions for increasing new sources of 'demand' for innovation, enable market (not just technology) demonstrations and trials, and develop new governance strategies including digital energy services oversight.

Where we go from here

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