Start-up-Interview: “We are dusting off the energy industry”

Start-up Stories – Friday, September 18, 2020

Tibber wants to make energy supply greener, cheaper and smarter

The Norwegian start-up Tibber offers its customers green power at up-to-the-hour market prices. The company recently entered the Swedish market for primary control reserve with its smart charging solution for electric cars. In an interview, Marion Nöldgen, who heads Tibber’s operations in Germany, explains why her company first has some groundwork to do here in terms of digitalization.

A few weeks ago, we featured a report on Tibber explaining how it is now using its smart charging system for electric cars to stabilize the Swedish power grid. Can you tell us a bit more about the start-up?

Tibber is a Norwegian supplier of green power that operates completely digitally – we are dusting off the energy industry by combining sustainability concepts with modern technology and plenty of passion.

What exactly does Tibber offer?

We supply private households with energy from renewable sources at wholesale prices without hidden costs such as the margin customary in the industry. All trading is automated. Our goal is to reduce energy consumption, which is why in contrast to the major power suppliers, we don’t earn anything for the power consumed, but instead charge a small basic fee of just under €4 per month for our service. Customers can use our app to see when power is more expensive and – depending on the equipment in their home – how much energy each device consumes.

Tibber was founded in 2016 and is already well-established in Norway and Sweden. Early this year, the start-up also commenced operations in Germany. What makes the German energy market appealing, even though digitalization still has a long way to go here?

Germany is very interesting to us for several reasons. We have an opportunity here to use true innovation to function as a sort of catalyst. Digitalization must create added value, otherwise it’s not worth doing. Unless users have incentive, for example to install a smart meter in their home, why should they bother or even pay any attention to the issue at all? It only becomes appealing once rates and functions are in place that offer an advantage. In addition, while the German energy transition is well on its way, unfortunately there have been few opportunities for end users to reap the benefits thus far. Green power is often very expensive and when it comes to prices and rates, there is little transparency. Here, too, there is a lot of potential for the types of services we provide.

Smart meters are needed to take advantage of most of the services Tibber offers. But many consumers in Germany still lack this technology. What services are available without a smart meter?

For customers without a smart meter, we calculate an average monthly price based on the prices on the energy exchange. We ran the numbers and in purely monetary terms, there’s ultimately not too much difference to an hourly price calculation, provided the customer isn’t driving lots of miles with their own electric car or consuming excessive amounts of electricity. Along with affordable green power at wholesale prices, customers enjoy a flexible and transparent power supply agreement without a fixed term and they have the option of reviewing their energy consumption each month. They can also connect a wide range of smart home devices such as tado°, Philips Hue or their own solar system with Tibber and control them using our app.

Isn’t Tibber also looking to make its own contribution to the digitalization of the power supply?

Yes, in Norway, we already offer a small accessory device, the Tibber Pulse, which should soon be available in Germany as well. We describe it as being like a heart rate monitor for power consumption. The Tibber Pulse is connected to a digital power meter using a network cable. The device then transmits consumption values in real time to the Tibber app via WIFI, turning modern metering equipment into an intelligent meter with minimal effort. We are also working with various metering point operators to determine how to read meter data as easily and inexpensively as possible.

Tibber wants its customers to use less power. How do you encourage customers to save energy?

With transparency and smart control. When consumers know which device or behavior uses the most energy, they can easily consume more consciously without the need for major sacrifices. Simply being aware of consumption habits encourages savings. With our app, consumers not only see how much energy they use, they can also compare themselves to other users, much like with a fitness app. That offers additional incentive. With our power-ups, we also offer a range of products for intelligently managing loads such as heating or lighting.

How does your smart charging solution work? What are the prerequisites for the customer?

Anyone with a smart power meter can come to us to take advantage of an hourly rate, an option that is well established in many European markets. The electricity price will then be adjusted hourly to reflect current wholesale prices, with even negative prices, and passed directly onto the customer. Tibber customers who own an electric car and connect it to our app can simply plug their car into their wall box at night and tell the app when the car needs to be ready to go. Tibber will then ensure that the car is charged when power is cheapest, saving customers 20–40% depending on their previous rate.

In a test in Sweden, Tibber successfully used its smart charging solution to stabilize the power grid when surplus capacity was available. Is the reverse also possible? Can car batteries be tapped when there is insufficient supply?

That is technically far more difficult and involves a much greater intervention. It’s not inconceivable, but I wouldn’t expect it any time soon.

Which countries are you looking to move into next? And what new features or services do you have planned for the next two or three years?

We are working on developing new features as well as branching out to new countries. When the time comes, we’ll let you know what’s in the works and where.

This interview was conducted by Simone Pabst.

Further information: Tibber

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