Thames Valley Investment Network (TVIN) members have invested £250,000 in energy-efficiency monitor developers Green Energy Options, as part of an £800,000 funding round. The investment by TVIN’s members was matched by an investment of £250,000 from the Bank of Scotland Corporate’s Growth Capital team under the unique Co-Investment Programme arrangement between the Bank and the TVIN Network. TVIN is a business angel network that helps growing companies to raise funding and operates in Reading and the Thames Valley. The balance of the new funds came from high net worth individuals.
Green Energy Options (GEO) has developed sophisticated monitoring devices that make energy use visible. While the public is becoming more aware of energy use - in the home, at work or in schools - people remain largely ignorant about energy use patterns. GEO’s Chief Executive, Patrick Caiger-Smith, said: “Our products can provide real-time meaningful information about energy use, right down to individual rooms and appliances, that clearly demonstrates where and when people are spending most on their energy.”
With ever-rising fuel bills, and pressure on businesses and homes to improve energy efficiency, GEO’s devices can solve a lot of problems at once. Caiger-Smith said: “We identified that while people want to lower their carbon footprints, they will be spurred on to doing this if they can see clear cost benefits for doing so.”
In developing the company’s monitoring devices, GEO has addressed the three basic ways in which energy use can be reduced: behaviour change, energy wastage and appliance efficiency. “If you can persuade people to change the way they do something - such as doing their laundry at a lower temperature - then cost savings of between 10% and 20% are possible,” Caiger-Smith said. “Secondly, if you can alert people that devices have been left on when not in use - such as a television in standby mode, or a light left on in the attic - then not only are you warning them about of energy wastage they were not aware of, you will change their behaviour as well.” And because GEO’s systems give real-time information about appliances and energy use, they can be run at optimal efficiency.
GEO has a number of products that are aimed at the home, business and school markets. The Home Energy Hub comes in three models: Solo, Duet and Trio. On a simple LCD display, the Solo device provides information about current energy use, daily consumption levels and total environmental impact of the energy consumed. The Duet has an additional display that can monitor energy use of up to six individual appliances and a home’s hot water and central heating system. The Trio provides a more sophisticated level of monitoring, including linking into GEO’s central systems via the internet, which allows for detailed analysis of a household’s energy use profile.
The Home Energy Hub has already been tested in field trials, and the company is working with energy suppliers, developers and housing associations to get the devices into homes and so start cutting energy bills and domestic carbon footprints.
GEO’s Business Energy Hub is designed to engage members of staff in energy efficiency - in much the same way as people have embraced recycling. Displaying results on office computer screens, the hub monitors appliances and overall energy use levels like the Home Energy Hub. It can be used alongside building management systems, which control major factors such as heating, to generate significant cost savings at the same time as raising overall awareness of energy efficiency issues among members of staff.
In schools, GEO’s systems are primarily aimed at education and developing awareness among students about the importance of efficient energy use. Teachers and pupils can monitor classroom energy use and, for example, devise simple contests between classes to improve efficiency of monitored devices.
The new funding round will allow GEO to invest in its supply chain and further develop routes to market for all its products.
Patrick Caiger-Smith said: “We have most of our suppliers in place and will be investing the new funds in securing the final remaining links in the chain as we step up production. We will also continue to secure channels to market, particularly via energy suppliers, housing associations and as an essential element of the forthcoming introduction ‘smart metering’ in the UK.”
Commenting on the funding round process, Patrick Caiger-Smith said: “It was very easy working with Thames Valley Investment Network, and we were delighted to be able to introduce some of our existing contacts to the Network as part of the deal process. The matching funds from Bank of Scotland’s Growth Capital team were obviously very welcome.”
Leo Dunne, Investment Network Manager at TVIN, said: “GEO’s products are clearly going to be increasingly in demand for consumers and businesses looking to save on energy bills and deal with their carbon footprints, and we were very pleased to be part of such a significant investment.”
The Co-Investment Programme was launched by Thames Valley Investment Network and Bank of Scotland Corporate’s Growth Capital team in early 2008. Through the £2 million programme, the Bank will match investments by TVIN’s members in growing companies.
Malcolm Kpedekpo, Associate Director at Bank of Scotland Growth Capital, said: “GEO is an exciting addition to our portfolio, and this investment demonstrates the help that the Co-Investment Programme can bring to genuinely innovative companies.”