With the future of our planet now well and truly in the public eye, the team at Piclo were ahead of the game almost seven years ago when they founded the start-up – originally known as Open Utility. Their ultimate goal – to decarbonise the global energy system. The three founders have been on a journey ever since, during which time they have pivoted their model to meet the needs of a rapidly shifting marketplace and regulations. The team subsequently launched Piclo Flex, a platform that allows energy operators to work more flexibly and make electricity grids smart and sustainable.
By opening up the energy flexibility market, Piclo extends traditional partnerships with regional Distribution Network Operators, to national operators such as the National Grid, to help manage the continually developing needs of our grid infrastructure.
Fuelled by personal motivation following his PhD in 2010, CEO and Co-founder James Johnston, overwhelmed with the scale of the energy challenge facing us globally, decided to create an ‘internet of energy’. “It took a while to work out how,” he says. “In 2009 it was a lonely place to be but I knew we needed a cleaner, bigger vision for the future.”
There are currently 13 people working at Piclo who have designed, built and operated Piclo Flex. The team is passionate, highly functional and has a shared mission. Company values include being open and collaborative, pushing boundaries and remembering that everyone is human.
Piclo has signed up the six British Distribution Network Operators who now promote their need for flexibility of supply on the platform. Just £450k of contracts on Piclo defers or avoids millions of pounds of unnecessary reinforcement of the local distribution grid, creating a new paradigm of how power is moving on networks. Essentially if a wind turbine is producing too much power, it now doesn’t need to be turned off; letting it continue to make energy to sell on Piclo is more efficient and supports decarbonisation goals.
Various funding rounds have enabled Piclo to grow to be the company it is today. These include £1.4m from investors including Green Angel Syndicate and Bethnal Green Ventures (of which Social Tech Trust is a founding partner), and grants amounting to £1.5m. Social Tech Trust has contributed £200k in total which James says was “hugely important” as it financed match funding for a Government grant. Social Tech Trust also provided media training and a valuable network of contacts.
Piclo is now involved in Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire), described as “one of the most wide-ranging and holistic smart grid trials ever conducted in the UK”. The goal is to test a local energy market at county scale, allowing more integration of local renewable energies, supporting the distribution network infrastructure and developing innovative and flexible energy systems for heat, transport and electricity uses.
According to James: “We now work with most of the relevant energy companies in the energy sector and we are making a difference – people listen to us. Decarbonisation of the electricity grid is inevitable; it’s now just a case of how fast it can happen.”
Case study published in July 2019.