Free local markets make organic microgrids investable

Posted on May 4, 2021
Free local markets make organic microgrids investable

Swanbarton’s trading platform makes microgrid investments attractive to some of the poorest people in the world. It enables a local community to grow its own microgrid organically, adding links and energy resources as the opportunity or need arises.

Persuading households to invest in electricity microgrids needs a compelling business proposition. Households easily see the benefit of buying solar PV panels and batteries for their own use, but they have been less ready to invest the extra capital for a microgrid to share energy with all their neighbours. It would be too big an investment,

Swanbarton, with partners Scene Connect, Connected Energy and Dassy Enterprise, is enabling communities to develop microgrids with small incremental investments and direct control over returns. A new type of microgrid: a technical structure enabling organic evolution; a commercial structure making household investment attractive. The DC microgrid controller enables a local grid to be assembled one link at a time, as the need arises. Swanbarton’s energy trading platform transforms the microgrid into an attractive investment opportunity for households. The technology has been deployed in rural Rwanda since early 2021, where most household incomes are too low to pay for an all-in-one-go microgrid installation.

Swanbarton’s trading platform enables trading directly between households or small businesses, at prices that are negotiated in real time on the participants’ behalf. It’s like a real time eBay™ for energy. So a householder with a PV panel can be motivated to invest in a local DC connection with their neighbour, because they know that they’ll be directly rewarded for their neighbour’s consumption, at prices that meet their investment needs. Their neighbour gets access to power without the cost of investing in PV, at prices that are settled locally: all the people involved know each other.

Our collaborative project makes such a positive change that it’s been awarded support through UKRI’s Energy Catalyst scheme, which accelerates innovation to end energy poverty. We’re proud to be a part of that.

Scene Connect has made a concise and brilliantly clear film to explain the idea. We’ll be happy to talk about it with you.

Image from Rwanda by kind permission of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture