Energy bills on Suffolk industrial estate driven down by peer-to-peer trading

Energy bills for numerous businesses at a large industrial estate have been heavily reduced by peer-to-peer trading, says UrbanChain, a provider of peer-to-peer energy exchange services.

Bucking the long-term trend of spiralling power costs across the UK, SMEs at Mildenhall Industrial Park in West Suffolk have saved between 20% and 90%.

It comes after West Suffolk Council and Manchester-headquartered UrbanChain formed a partnership that centred on creating a local green energy market in 2021.

“It’s working and it has developed,” said Andy Oswald, who manages West Suffolk Council’s energy generation.

“It’s a great result that we are powering our own estate using UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer network. Our partners are consuming 100% locally generated renewable electricity.”

Peer-to-peer energy trading is a relatively new form of energy provision and enables people and companies to sell electricity to others directly. UrbanChain is a leading provider of peer-to-peer exchange services in the UK.

West Suffolk Council has 272 KW of solar PV installed on 10 commercial buildings based within Mildenhall Industrial Estate. It also owns a nearby 12-megawatt solar farm.

Being part of UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer energy exchange has enabled the council’s renewable generators to make at least up to 35% higher than the market offers.

Andy Oswald said: “We identified UrbanChain in 2021 and they were exactly where we needed them to be as they had developed a peer-to-peer platform.

“At first we were looking at it from a business point of view but we soon knew that UrbanChain’s platform could facilitate our long term goal of utilising our own solar farm energy for our estate.

“What they do is use deeptech (AI and Blockchain) to match local production with local consumption, which helps with any worries regarding barriers of grid capacity for example.”

UrbanChain currently manages +200GWh of renewable energy exchange and has +3.3TWh (terawatt hours) in its pipeline.

The company closed a £5.25m Series A round led by leading global investment firm Eurazeo earlier this year and has previously received significant investment from Innovate UK and the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero.

Using integrated blockchain and AI, UrbanChain matches generators of renewable energy and consumers on a half hourly basis.

Those active in the firm’s renewable energy trading market across the UK are generators of renewable energy, private companies from multiple sectors, local authorities, social housing associations, manufacturers, households and energy suppliers.

CEO Somayeh Taheri said: “We firmly believe that UrbanChain is the future of electricity markets. Mildenhall Industrial Estate is just one example of the multiple benefits our peer-to-peer energy exchange platform provides.

“Put simply, we enable reductions for energy consumers who want to meet net zero objectives by consuming 100% clean, local and traceable energy. Every energy market participant benefits.”

Andy said West Suffolk Council, headquartered at the £39m Mildenhall Hub, generates more electricity as an organisation than it consumes.

“Our solar farm, as well as some roof-mounted exported solar, is also feeding into UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer network and we are purchasing our electricity from it.

“The great thing is that we are able to bring partner organisations on as both generators and consumers, but primarily as consumers.

“I think the electricity industry is now recognising the role of peer-to-peer networks as it is all about using electricity in a smarter way.”

He added: “Consumers are recognising this as it can generate financial savings for businesses and organisations because it is a cheaper way to purchase electricity. That’s the bottom line. But it’s also 100% renewable and it is local energy.

“And UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer platform has a key central role in this. The downside of solar is it is very cyclical and requires sunshine but UrbanChain has brought on a generation of assets for night time and winter usage including wind and hydro into their mix so that a reliable source of electricity is offered.

“As a local authority signing up to it we hope that it will give other organisations the confidence to go with it too. It’s a new way of trading and purchasing electricity and we very much advocate it and hope more will take the leap of faith so to speak.”