Robert Ogden, founder of Renewable Exchange, sits down with Green.org to share his mission to provide transparency, fairness and simplicity to transacting renewable electricity.
Robert, thanks for being here. Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
My passion for energy and commodities trading really started while studying towards a finance degree at the University of Bath. Upon graduating, I joined OVO Energy, as a graduate trader. OVO was a super exciting, disruptive new entrant in the domestic supply market and had a strong focus on renewable energy sourcing and generally disrupting the status quo.
The renewable energy industry at the time was slowly moving past the subsidised regimes that had been so instrumental to its foundation, and towards the unsubsidised (and thus unlimited) market, which could attract the necessary capital to help the country accelerate towards a zero-carbon future. As I learnt more about renewables and green power trading, I realised there were some serious gaps in the market which were preventing fast-paced growth. I was inspired to think about how technology and digital solutions can support renewable generators, drive efficiency and help streamline the ineffective processes. I set about building Renewable Exchange.
There are two main sides to Renewable Exchange which perfectly compliment one another and differentiate our product from anything else on the market: access to unbiased information and the easy tendering capabilities. First, information flow was absolutely critical to help bring more transparency to the market. We built an information platform, helping generators to understand the value of their electricity, their grid benefits and the value of their green certificates. This was a huge step forward as never before could an independent generator collect all this information from a truly independent source. We made it available 24/7 via our platform so generators of any shape and size could access this on demand.
The second side of the platform is the tendering capabilities. We wanted to build a marketplace which connected all players in the market and enabled generators to access the best possible value from the market. By leveraging our market knowledge and technical expertise, we turbo-charged the tendering platform to enable offtakers to bid in any way they felt they could offer maximum value, creating benefit for both offtakers and for generators!
Developing solutions that maximise results has been our foundation since day 1. We now support nearly 2,000 independent generators in the UK, and we’re expanding into new markets to provide this transparency and efficiency even further!
What is a fun fact about you?
One of my personal ambitions is to hike Te Araroa, which is a 3,000km hiking trail from the top to the bottom of New Zealand. Billed as one of the world’s toughest hikes, it should take approximately 4 months to complete and one or two pairs of hiking boots.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Frankly this topic is important because it touches every single aspect of life in general and is entirely indiscriminate in nature. Unfortunately, the world seems to be only just waking up to the impact of climate change on our day to day lives. Until the big market players feel the impact of it, the steps taken by individuals won’t be enough. It’s great to see corporates now taking more of an interest in sustainability and taking their climate pledges seriously. This could be a truly consumer-driven revolution but we still need more people to make conscious decisions in their everyday lives and continue to put even more pressure on the industry.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
The UK electricity market is on an unwavering path to zero carbon generation. To move further and to move faster we need to unlock the value of energy storage. There has been a lot of focus on super-fast response battery technology to help provide grid frequency and stability services. This type of technology has been essential as conventional generating technologies have reduced in size and scale. However, to move to a fully intermittently powered grid (wind/solar), we have to look at the role of long-duration storage to fill larger gaps associated with high pressure weather scenarios (when the renewable generation is low). These systems are being developed and improved very fast and I imagine in 10 years they will be getting implemented worldwide alongside domestic energy storage solutions and EVs used within the wider storage network, too.
I think we’ll also see continued expansion of offshore wind while PV systems on roofs will become a norm, especially for large commercial and industrial buildings (it’s great to see some governments already taking this forward with Germany introducing a requirement for new non-residential buildings to have solar panels installed). As the technologies improve and the social perception of renewables shifts further towards acceptance, we’ll see planning regulations relaxed enabling repowering, extensions and upgrades of existing projects, as well as developments of new ones.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
As consumers, we have the power to influence many industries to change their ways. As always, information and understanding is key so I believe the first step is to educate yourself, become aware and understand the causes of the problems we have and talk about the issues with others. Make your choices as you see fit but do so with awareness, not ignorance. And if you’re ready and willing to invest in the development of green energy, you can explore options such as buying shares of a wind farm through crowd-funding schemes or a community investment projects and become a proud co-owner of a wind turbine like me!