5 Mins With ... Origami CEO Peter Bance
Tell us about yourself, current role and career?
I was born in Canada to British and Czech immigrants and grew up surrounded by nature, so caring for the environment is as much a part of my DNA as my parents’ special brand of resilience: finding ways to succeed when there’s no obvious path. That’s essentially my M.O., and it’s served me well as an entrepreneur. In hindsight, it’s no wonder my love for the great outdoors led me to a career in sustainability.
My background is in technology commercialisation, primarily in the clean tech sector, but before that I studied physics and chemistry. As business becomes more technology-driven, the trend is now for entrepreneurs to have a background in the physical sciences - geeks rule the world!
I was CEO of an electrochemistry business, Ceres Power, which I took public, and then became Entrepreneur in Residence at Octopus Investments, working with their venture capital team and renewable energy business. I realised that smart technology was the key to a joined-up, scalable renewable energy system. I founded Origami to provide the ‘Digital Glue’ between physical assets and increasingly complex and dynamic energy markets.
Having worked as an entrepreneur and an investor in clean energy technology, I’ve essentially worked on both sides of the equation, and I’ve fused these perspectives together at the heart of my company.
What is Origami and the major challenges it solves in the energy industry?
Origami's solutions enable companies to diversify their green energy portfolios to participate in short-term power and energy markets.
Energy demand and energy prices are accelerating at a rapid pace, and, as we decarbonise, traditional energy grids around the world are experiencing more volatile loads than ever. Our solutions enable energy companies to maximise returns in these increasingly complex markets by making it quick and easy for them to understand what assets, markets and other external forces are doing in real-time and act swiftly upon that information. In essence, this is about the ability to harness data to make faster and more informed decisions on a wide scale.
With more solar panels, wind farms, and batteries than ever before, energy companies need to be able to handle this volatility to remain competitive. We need intelligent solutions to ensure that a renewables-dominated energy system can be balanced in an efficient and commercially viable way.
What is your technological USP?
We build open technology solutions that put customers in control of the shifting opportunities of the energy transition.
As an independent technology company, and not an optimiser, our focus is on building and investing in the best open, modular, and configurable solutions for the energy transition. We don’t take positions in energy markets that risk compromising or competing with our customers.
By embracing the digitalisation challenge in partnership with Origami, customers can take increasing control of their own destiny.
An alternative that many customers initially find attractive is to build their own solution in order to stand out in the marketplace. These solutions can be expensive and inflexible to the continuous market changes inherent to increasingly green energy systems.
Origami enables companies to remain competitive in the long term, whilst providing the ability to plug in their own data / forecasts / algorithms, in order to retain their own “secret sauce”. The interoperability and scalability of our technology allows customers to deliver exciting and transformational market offerings to their customers.
We’re also proud to have a highly experienced team with deep knowledge of the energy industry and software engineering, both of which play an important role in our ability to respond to individual customer requirements and carefully package our services into the right solution for them. We try to combine thought leadership with product leadership.
Who are some of the key partners you work with?
Our customers are all owners or operators of diversifying green energy portfolios. This may include investors, project developers, utilities, energy services companies or IPPs – anyone building out and managing large, increasingly diverse, asset portfolios.
We offer them all the same benefit: to “See, Decide & Do”, in an increasingly complex and volatile energy transition marketplace.
Our core energy data platform gives customers greater transparency and control over portfolio performance. It synthesises the asset, market, and contractual data they need to succeed in short-term power and energy markets, while our powerful digital tools orchestrate and help customers interrogate data to inform decision-making.
With high quality, reliable real-time data that is prepared and ready-for-use, they can better decide which strategies and market opportunities to pursue, directly or via route-to-market partners.
Our technology also provides customers with actionable intelligence, from the simple automation of workflows to the creation of truly differentiated market positions. By setting the right digital infrastructure in place, we catalyse customer innovation, from pricing and trading strategies to longer-term ESG business models.
We’re also proud to have Barclays among our strategic investors, and we’re grateful for the support and belief they’ve shown in our company’s mission.
Any major clients or projects you’d like to share?
It’s one example of many, but we recently worked with leading asset investment manager Gresham House to move 50MW-worth of their batteries from enhanced frequency response mode (EFR), a National Grid service for energy storage assets which has been in place since late 2016, into dynamic containment (DC), which is one of the services that will be replacing it.
With the imminent scrapping of EFR by the Grid, it was essential that Gresham kept its assets competitive and in play, and able to access emerging markets as soon as possible. We were able to solve this problem, working in close partnership with Gresham’s route-to-market partner, Habitat Energy. The versatility of our platform has also futureproofed the batteries from further changes of this kind.
What's next for the business?
We have established strong foundations in our UK home market. We’re building a great product; delivering to early adopter customers; refining our operating model. We are now planning a more systematic international roll-out. Over the next year or two we will raise fresh capital to fuel this expansion and sign multi-year customer agreements which will help de-risk our regional market entries.
However, many of our existing customers are already global businesses - we’ve simply focused initially on working with their UK subsidiaries in advance of a more global deployment. To enable this next phase of expansion, we’ve developed technology that lends itself to becoming a global solution. We don’t need to start from scratch every time we enter a new market.