Recently, Octopus Energy launched a world-first tariff that pays consumers to use energy when demand is low, and energy is at its cheapest. Known as “Agile Octopus”, the 100% green energy tariff encourages the consumption of renewables from the grid. Already committed to sustainable energy, Octopus is the UK’s largest investor in solar farms (owning eight and investing into a further 109), and Agile Octopus allows it to further support its green mission.
Allowing users to manage the peaks and troughs of the UK energy market, Agile Octopus is a major step forward in the smarter delivery of energy. For electric vehicle users, for example, this could save a huge amount of money each year. Green Energy News spoke to founder Greg Jackson.
Octopus Energy’s ambitions feel like a real step-change for the energy sector, what originally inspired the creation of this solution?
Thank you. Many of the Octopus Energy team are from other sectors, especially ecommerce and technology, so we look at everything thinking “How should it be?” and then build the technology to make it possible.
Looking at the UK energy sector it was clear that we could use technology to be more efficient – bringing down prices for customers new and old, so we could compete on the basis of transparency.
Being more efficient and transparent would also let us move towards more sustainable energy – especially with the ability to develop an ever-closer relationship between the production of energy and its consumption.
What makes Octopus Energy different? Why should green energy enthusiasts sit up and take note?
We are backed by the Octopus Group, which has invested over £2bn in solar farms (and a few windmills too). We are passionate that the “green subsidies” are an incredible investment, not only in defending the future of our planet but in bringing down the cost of renewables.
Every year, thanks to society’s investments, the cost of wind and solar falls. We’re now getting close to the point where it’s the same price as fossil fuels. And it can fall from there…
How do you think the energy sector has changed, or is changing, and how will Octopus Energy’s solutions fit in to the UK’s energy market now and in future?
There are clearly many, many energy suppliers now. Some on a mission to bring fairer pricing and more sustainable energy.
We want to be foremost among these – evangelising for the transformation we all need, and proudly challenging vested interests and outmoded ideas.
Can you tell us about Agile Octopus and how this enables Octopus Energy to promote the use of renewables?
Agile Octopus is the first tariff in the UK (possibly the world) which varies price through the day. During the peak times of 4-630pm it’s usually quite a bit more expensive than traditional tariffs, but for the remaining 21.5 hours of the day it’s dramatically cheaper.
The inspiration was the articles over the last year talking about energy prices going negative sometimes thanks to renewables – especially in Germany and Denmark.
We thought “If customers could see the low prices renewables can deliver when the sun shines and the wind blows, will it help drive people to more sustainable lifestyles?”
Indeed, in what ways is Octopus Energy helping the UK to achieve its sustainable energy goals? For example, you’ve invested hugely in solar farms?
Yes – we are backed by Octopus Investments (hence the name!) Octopus is one of the largest investors in renewable generation in the UK – with over £2bn invested in solar farms.
It’s important to note that when the Big Six energy companies complain about ‘green taxes’ they have often actually benefited from these, as the government support has given them huge investment opportunities in renewable generation.
So, we see renewables as the right thing to do, and financially sensible. And the investment society has made in renewables has brought the cost down dramatically – solar is now 200x cheaper than it was 40 years ago!
What other green energy technologies has Octopus Energy invested in or utilised?
We’re heavily focused on technologies which enable a smarter grid, so that we can utilise solar and wind when they’re available and reduce demand when they’re not. Octopus has invested in at least two well known “smart grid” companies: Reactive Technologies Ltd and Origami. Both are already making a contribution and will only bring more as time progresses.
What sorts of consumers will Octopus Energy’s solutions be best suited? You say electric vehicle owners, for example, could save substantial amounts of money.
We have solutions for everybody – for example, our Super Green Tariff, based on renewable electricity and carbon offsetting for gas, provides affordable 100% zero carbon energy with no change in lifestyle. But for people who are electrifying more of their life, for example through electric cars and electric heating, there’s often the chance to choose when they consume the bulk of this electricity.
For these people, our 100% green Agile tariff can be attractive. The price is usually much lower than regular tariffs for 21.5 hours every day, so if customers can use less than usual during the expensive peak period of 4pm-7pm they could save a lot of money – but also help reduce the expense of overhauling the grid. Moreover, we alert them when prices are particularly low (usually due to high renewables generation) so they can maximise their savings and really help drive the uptake of renewables.
What are the company’s key ambitions as it looks to the next 12 months and beyond over the longer term?
We plan to keep growing! We are about 175,000 customers now – and are beginning to make a very small dent in the universe! But to make a real difference we need to bring millions of customers lower cost, more transparent and more sustainable energy.
We’re also trying to help customers transition to lower carbon living – so we are really excited about a bunch of stuff we are doing with electric vehicles. For example, we recently formed a coalition of seven companies to trial “vehicle to grid” technologies.
We’ll be trialling this with 135 customers, using the batteries in electric cars to store energy when there is surplus on the grid, and use this to power their home when the grid is expensive. These sorts of technologies will be a big contributor to reducing the carbon footprint of humanity, and it’s exciting to be helping make them happen.