Energy Unlocked launched at COP21

Clare Saxon Ghauri
Reading time: 5 minutes
5 December 2015

PARIS: Today Energy Unlocked was launched by The Climate Group with UK start-up Tempus Energy on the sideline of UN climate talks. The new not for profit organization will accelerate energy system transformation around the world.

In a room at the Museum of Modern Art covered in a mural painted by Raoul Dufy celebrating the pioneers of electricity, Molly Webb, Founder of Energy Unlocked addressed an audience of government, investment and business leaders. Pointing out how little progress has been made in global energy systems since the room's mural was painted in 1937, she stressed the current fossil-fuel based system has “too high an environmental and economic cost” and still leaves 1 billion people without access to energy. “Climate change is an unintended consequence of the energy system that was set in motion a century ago.”

“If we want to tackle climate change we need to change incentives and innovate. Energy Unlocked is a market builder and will ensure that the exciting companies and innovative business models that are already out competing fossil fuels, are not locked out of today's energy system because of the policies that were created to support energy systems of the past. We are here to level the playing field,” Molly Webb said. 

Acknowledging Steve Jobs who said he would "give people things they didn’t know they needed yet", she said policymakers must level the playing field to set "competitive conditions necessary to drive resilient, renewable, low carbon outcomes. We need to embrace disruptive innovation. This transition can happen faster than we think.”

The inspiring evolution of energy must continue, said Jim Walker, founder of The Climate Group. “We are surrounded by energy innovators through the ages. Today's challenge is to unlock innovation in the energy system." He told the audience that The Climate Group's 2008 SMART 2020 report valued the opportunity for smart grids, smart transportation and buildings at EUR 600 billion in 2020, and with progress since then, for instance in storage and microgrids, there is even more at stake.

Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner, DBL Investors and an early support of electric vehicle and storage pioneer Elon Musk, said venture capital must disrupt our grandfathers' energy systems still in use today, “so we’re able to move from the past to the future, and from incumbents to new interests.” She reminded the audience that Twitter and Google were innovations that came from venture backed companies. “Impact investment really is a powerful tool to move society forward in a lot of different ways. Now this disruption and advancement is happening in energy with companies like Tesla, SolarCity and Nest, who are disrupting centuries of incumbents and giving us power and convenience in the fight against climate change.”

But the leading impact investor warned that this transition will bring challenges of its own, identifying the rapid success of companies like Tesla being a "postcard from the future".  She cautioned: “There will be companies both old and new that won’t survive, and others that can grow and force industry to rearrange a way forward. We are going beyond, to shared solutions.”

Sara Bell, CEO, Tempus Energy, seed funder of Energy Unlocked, explained how her start-up embodied this disruption. While only small, the UK energy company is already out-competing every electricity supplier in the UK by putting customers at the heart of its innovative business model and using “system innovation to get to a lower cost space”. Last week, she explained, Tempus Energy had bought wholesale power at minus £60 MWhr. You can imagine what we can offer the customer with these sorts of market conditions.”

The investors, policymakers and business leaders in the room also heard from Anil Raj, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, OMC Power whose pioneering company brings micro power plants to rural communities where there is no reliable grid and Dr. Aileen McLeod, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land ReformScottish Government, who said Scotland’s low carbon transition is a key priority and vital for generating jobs, trade and economic growth. 

In the coming weeks Energy Unlocked will finalize plans for a series of market challenges. These will set the conditions for competition to meet the most renewable, zero carbon, most resilient outcomes, and enable companies to compete to deliver these outcomes at the lowest cost. 

Speakers today represent the forward-thinking actors needed for positive disruption in the sector, governments, investors and businesses; together they will accelerate our unfolding renewable and resilient future.

Image: Jim Walker (co-founder, The Climate Group), Sara Bell (CEO, Tempus Energy), Molly Webb (formerly Head of Smart Technologies, The Climate Group and Founder, Energy Unlocked) and Nancy Pfund (Managing Partner, DBL Partners) launching a new not-for-profit to spur innovation in global energy systems at the UN climate summit, Paris. 


By Clare Saxon Ghauri

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