BP looks to fu­ture with ‘smart home’ deal

Pur­chase of Ir­ish soft­ware de­vel­oper en­hances abil­ity to com­pete with lead­ing play­ers in en­ergy mar­ket

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Jil­lian Am­brose

BP’S new so­lar arm is steel­ing it­self to bat­tle global en­ergy and tech gi­ants for a slice of the bur­geon­ing “smart home” mar­ket with the ac­qui­si­tion of an Ir­ish tech start-up.

Light­source BP will buy soft­ware de­vel­oper Ubi­worx for an undis­closed fig­ure af­ter two years work­ing along­side the “in­ter­net of things” spe­cial­ist. The ac­qui­si­tion se­cures the group’s plans to im­ple­ment a global roll-out of its en­ergy sys­tems fol­low­ing a £150m in­vest­ment from oil ma­jor BP late last year.

The Light­source sys­tem brings to­gether a so­lar panel, bat­tery and elec­tric ve­hi­cle charger to cre­ate a dig­i­tal sys­tem which re­sponds on a sec­ondby-sec­ond ba­sis to changes in the power mar­ket.

By us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and al­go­rithms, Light­source cus­tomers are al­ways us­ing the cheap­est pos­si­ble power with no up­front tech­nol­ogy costs.

The dig­i­tal en­ergy sys­tem is also set to cre­ate “vir­tual power plants” by si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­leas­ing stored power from groups of bat­ter­ies and ve­hi­cles to help Na­tional Grid meet cus­tomer de­mand when ca­pac­ity is in short sup­ply.

Ka­reen Bou­ton­nat, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Light­source BP, told The Sun­day Tele­graph that the UK is at the fore­front of reg­u­la­tory de­vel­op­ments which could mean “we are not far off ” cus­tomers earn­ing money by switch­ing their en­ergy use from the grid to their car and so­lar bat­ter­ies when de­mand is high.

In a ma­jor vote of con­fi­dence for the boom­ing home en­ergy space, BP bought a 43pc stake in Light­source late last year for £150m. It was the oil

‘We can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the power of the home and its vi­tal role in shap­ing this new en­ergy fu­ture’

ma­jor’s first sig­nif­i­cant so­lar power in­vest­ment since turn­ing its back on the sec­tor in 2011.

“We can­not un­der­es­ti­mate the power of the home and its vi­tal role in shap­ing this new en­ergy fu­ture,” Ms Bou­ton­nat said.

Ms Bou­ton­nat added that the elec­tric ve­hi­cle mar­ket is likely to drive de­mand for smarter home en­ergy so­lu­tions by tripling the en­ergy use of an av­er­age house­hold. Many house­holds are still ap­a­thetic about their en­ergy use, she said, “but the minute they have an elec­tric ve­hi­cle their be­hav­iour changes”.

“This is be­com­ing a very com­pet­i­tive mar­ket and a very at­trac­tive space,” she said.

The Ubi­worx deal will also give Light­source BP ac­cess to sys­tems which are used by large in­dus­trial users, open­ing a wider mar­ket to the en­ergy-tech com­pany, she added.

The com­pany struck the deal with Ubi­worx amid a ris­ing num­ber of ac­qui­si­tions in the smart home tech­nol­ogy space.

Cen­trica, the owner of Bri­tish Gas, said last week it will be­gin a trial of the blockchain tech­nol­ogy com­pany it bought last year.

LO3 En­ergy sys­tems will be used to cre­ate a lo­cal en­ergy mar­ket in Corn­wall, where users can buy and sell en­ergy di­rectly with each other through peer-to-peer trad­ing.

Mark Hanafin, of Cen­trica, said: “The pro­lif­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies is hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the en­ergy in­dus­try, al­low­ing us to find new and bet­ter ways of de­liv­er­ing en­ergy and ser­vices to our cus­tomers.”

Ms Bou­ton­nat added: “More con­nected, in­tel­li­gent, ef­fi­cient and sus­tain­able en­ergy sys­tems will turn or­di­nary homes into ‘self-learn­ing smart homes’.”

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