Electricity, unlike other utilities such as water and gas, has one key limiting factor. It is hard (or at least expensive) to store in any significant quantity. That’s why the majority of electricity we consume must be generated “just in time”.
While batteries are one way to solve this problem they are widely deemed as being too expensive to deploy at scale. An alternative approach to this problem is to better match demand with supply by encouraging energy consumers to make more informed choices about when and how they use electricity.
One startup looking to step in and provide some smarts around this process is PowerPal, one of the fourteen companies taking part in the Energy Lab accelerator program. Founded by Peter Neal, PowerPal uses a patented combination of IoT technologies from the telecommunications industry and an innovative business model that Peter states “will allow us to achieve scale at a rapid pace”.
Breaking this down, Peter explained that the PowerPal product is split in two halves. “A smart antenna that transmits energy consumption data from utility electricity meters and software that pulls insights from the data collected to deliver services to our users.”
The company is scheduled to launch its product in October and is aiming to hit 300,000 users of their smart antenna in the first year. It’s a target that Peter knows is an aggressive one, stating “It’s going to be a wild ride but I know it’s achievable!”
Coming from a predominately business background, with a previous exit in the telecommunications industry, Peter also spoke about the challenge in getting a hardware based product off the ground.
Like many other committed founder Peter reached out to the wider startup ecosystem. In particular, he spoke to other founders who had built similar products to seek their advice. This led to a referral to an industrial design firm called co-creators who are based in the Sydney suburb of Redfern.
Peter went on to state that “the designers at co-creators, Ted and Braden, have been invaluable in bringing the hardware side of PowerPal to life – not only are they highly skilled industrial designers but they have experience from bringing hundreds of real world product to market.” The team at co-creators then in turn introduced Peter to other specialists, such as consultants in electronic engineering and RF testing.
Peter also tapped his existing network to build out his team and the company’s internal capabilities. That’s where Rick Grundy comes in. Friends for more than 15 years Peter recruited Rick to come on board as a co-founder given his expensive experience as a Dev-Ops Engineer.
Finally, in speaking to the value of the Energy Lab program Peter noted that their “next big challenge is to find a strategic partner with a large retail customer base who can help us drive awareness of our solution. This is where our participation in the EnergyLab has been really valuable – Piers and James know everyone who is anyone in the energy industry and have made some key introductions that look like they are going to turn into great partnerships.”
PowerPal remain in stealth mode as they continue to march towards the public release of their product. For those interested in keeping up to date with their progress you can register your interest on their website.
This article is part of an in-depth series we are running on the EnergyLabs Accelerator Program. Over the next few months we will be profiling all of the startups taking part in EnergyLabs program to showcase how they are tacking some of the world’s most pressing challenges when it comes to clean and renewable energy.