Grid Cognition founders Fabian Le Gay Brereton and Peter Tickler

Australia’s love affair with rooftop solar has only just begun, according to Fabian Le Gay Brereton who has just launched a new clean energy start up company on the back of that optimism.

Le Gay Brereton says that we can expected fossil fuel demand to peak in the next decade which will trigger more than $10 trillion worth of investments in solar, wind and batteries to meet global energy needs. 

“What’s interesting is lots of people are looking to invest in clean energy infrastructure but aren’t sure how to scale down to distributed assets,” he told The Fifth Estate

He says all the capital that previously went into major fossil fuel infrastructure is now flowing into smaller, smarter assets, including rooftop solar and other energy property assets. 

That’s why Le Gay Brereton has joined forces again with Pete Tickler, who was also one of the other cofounders of Greensense, the Perth-based consultancy he sold a few years ago, in this new endeavour to help property companies and other energy providers squeeze the maximum economic potential from their distributed energy assets.

The company has developed a software tool, currently in pilot phase, capable of estimating the economic value of distributed energy assets, such as renewable power systems, batteries, microgrids and virtual power plants. 

With the software, property businesses, energy providers and other potential customers can make strategic decisions about distributed energy assets so that they deliver the best value.

Le Gay Brereton says the sophisticated software takes into account climatic conditions (some places are sunnier and windier than others) and how wholesale markets operate, as well  different policy settings and regulations in states and territories.

He says the technology can be viewed as an extension of digital twin technology that is typically used for asset maintenance. 

His company’s service overlays the commercial element over a robust digital twin depicting potential investments so that users can make strategic decisions.

The tool developed by the team of five energy experts, data scientists and software engineers can also provide  tracking and tuning to maximise long-term environmental and commercial outcomes once assets are in the ground.

The company is currently servicing a handful of customers, with plans to grow the customer base as the software offering reaches Beta mode. 

Negotiating a fast-changing regulatory environment and scaling a business in a pandemic

Because distributed energy is still an emerging industry, Le Gay Brereton says one of the biggest challenges of building the software was understanding the complex and ever-changing regulatory environment in each jurisdiction. There’s new regulation being explored in each state and territory, such as the South Australian government’s new rules for inverters intended to get more renewables into the grid without destabilising it.  

The company is part of both EnergyLab and Startmate accelerator programs, which Le Gay Brereton says has been helpful to meet people and spread the word given the challenges of launching a new business in a pandemic.

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