DOES a London tech firm hold the answer to the UK’s green energy troubles?
Some say it does. Certainly, Arenko - it has 25 brain boxes based in Chancery Lane - is a nifty bit of kit.
Today, Ofgem unveiled a plan to push a £25 billion investment in green energy over the next five years and to cut fuel bills.
The National Grid and SSE complained loudest, since it forces them to cut returns to shareholders, which may in turn make them less willing to invest in the greenery Ofgem, and the rest of us, want.
Arenko CEO Rupert Newland think Ofgem have it upside down, telling me that “technology and innovation should support the end customer rather than forced price cuts”.
What’s his plan? What Arenko does is drive wind, solar and wave power to the National Grid.
It uses Artificial Intelligence to predict when demand will emerge and collects the power in gigantic batteries, ready to unleash.
Last week it sold the battery bit to Gresham House Energy Storage Fund for £20 million, money it can use to improve what it calls the “balancing mechanism” – the way the renewable power can move reliably though the grid. (Currently the grid has to reject a lot of renewable power as it doesn’t come steadily enough).
So Arenko has stopped being an asset owner to focus on being a software provider.
The Grid has a plan to be carbon neutral by 2025, and potentially Arenko could play quite a big part in that. Arenko reckons its AI can be used in grids over the world, with America next up.
I thought, in my ignorance, that the problem with renewable power is that you can’t store it.
Newland corrects me, but his point is that we need to get to the point where it is being used immediately so that we don’t have to fall back on dirty coal. (The UK recently recorded a record number of days when it didn’t use coal, so there is hope.)
Newland, 33, a recently married, dog walking National Hunt jump racing fan, says of green power: “If you’re storing it, you’re doing it wrong.”
Is Arenko the next FANG? Probably not, it’s a bit too niche besides anything else.
But it’s a British invention with global possibilities. We’ll need more of that to get to where we want to be.