Enyway: “We want our customers to have a much bigger role in the shift to renewable energies.”

In Germany, the Enyway platform allows people to buy electricity directly from producers - making big energy companies obsolete.

German startup Enyway wants to make traditional energy companies a thing of the past. RESET talked to co-founder Varena Junge about their plans.

Author Lydia Skrabania:

Translation Lydia Skrabania, 08.13.18

Varena Junge is 30 years old, graduated in environmental science and has seen a lot of the world in the last ten years. In Stockholm, Hong Kong, Bangkok and other cities too, she worked at companies developing innovative approaches in the field of renewable energies, including solar energy and e-mobility, as well as being active for Greenpeace for many years. Recently she returned to Hamburg where she founded Enyway together with Heiko von Tschischwitz (former co-founder of Germany’s green electricity pioneer Lichtblick) and Andreas Rieckhoff.

Enyway’s platform brings green energy producers – both large and small – directly together with consumers. Intermediaries, like energy corporations, for example, are no longer required – the energy market is decentralised. In an interview with RESET, Varena Junge explains what it is that makes Enyway’s concept so special and why it’s digitalisation that makes it all possible.

Varena, Enyway has the ambitious plan to revolutionise the energy market. How do you plan to achieve that?

By turning value creation upside down. Well, not turning it upside down exactly, but expanding it where we believe it actually belongs, namely to those who have been behind the energy transition so far: the producers. By doing this we’re making traditional energy corporations – in the form that have existed up to now – superfluous when it comes to supply.

What are the benefits of this for the energy transition?

It will strengthen those people who invest in renewable energies and those who operate renewable energy plants. Our platform enables them to earn more so that they can continue to invest in renewable energies in the future. Funding is gradually being phased out, and we’ll soon see the first power plants being affected by this. They urgently need new business models so that the plants can continue to run and new plants can be built in the future.

© enyway Varena Junge ist studierte Umweltwissenschaftlerin und Mitgründerin bei Enyway.

There are many new approaches in the electricity market at the moment. What’s so special about Enyway? What sets you apart from other providers?

As far as we know, we are the only company of this kind in the world that really is a platform and not an energy supplier. That means our business is a platform business and we’re transparent about how much we have to earn in order to operate. We need the electricity suppliers – without them we wouldn’t have anything to offer electricity customers at all. That is the central difference: there are no middlemen anymore. We offer “only” services – and do that through numerous partnerships. We do this because we believe that networks and structures made up of partnerships such as these are what will hold up in the future.

However, this also means that the additional revenue and the expansion of added value lies with the electricity producers. This is how we turn them into energy suppliers. There are 1.5 million energy producers in Germany – if we manage to make them all energy suppliers at some point, then we really will have taken a huge step towards revolutionising the energy market.

What are the advantages for the energy producers who use your platform?

Those who are already on the platform are generally pioneers in the field of renewable energies, people who are passionate about pushing forward the shift to renewables in their area, together with neighbours, friends and strangers. That makes them a kind of “local hero”. Many of our customers tell us: “Our neighbours always used to ask us whether they can also get electricity from our PV system. Or from the wind turbine on the field that they drive by.”

Now that’s possible. And in this way, the producers also create local acceptance for these plants. Another advantage is obviously the monetary incentive – they can earn more than before. Of course, this is also a central incentive for many who are already investing in new plants. And we have other customers too, who are renovating old plants.

You are also committed to sustainability.

Yes, because we’re contributing to the development of renewable energies, (separate from the subsidies that have been offered up until now – and that will eventually run out) enabling new renewable energy plants to be built and financed – because they’re able to find a market and sell their electricity.

We’ve talked a lot about the energy producers. But what about the other target groups? How do you reach them?

Basically anyone who with a power supply can become our customer. We’re intentionally not just aiming our service at people who own a house and have solar panels on the roof,  but also people who are living in a rented flat and would like to choose who they get their electricity from: whether from Ingo in North Rhine-Westphalia and his wind turbine or someone with a solar panel system in southern Germany. And we even make it possible for our customers to become self-sufficient too – by allowing them to invest in their own systems from which they are then able to draw their electricity.

We’ve seen that our customers want to main things. The first thing is authentic stories and the chance to be in contact with real people instead of with corporations. And the second is to know which region the producer lives in – so that they can keep that added value in the region and promote the development of renewable energies in their local area.

You have some plans for the future – like, for example, your customers being able to put together their own mixed electricity source from different sellers, and build their own power plant together with other people. How do new technologies come into play here?

Ultimately, digitalisation only enables decentralisation because it suddenly makes it possible to scale a lot of processes and make them efficient – something which would not have been feasible or would have been too costly for the individual before. And you can give a lot of people access too – that’s something that also was not possible before. It’s the reason why our platform works – without the possibilities offered by the digital world, our electricity marketplace would not exist.

In general, when it comes to new technologies we think: is there a use case, a specific application where we can generate added value? We avoid chucking new technologies into the mix just because everyone else is doing it. When we came up with the idea of the electricity mix, we received very clear feedback from customers that it was something they would be interested in. But there are still regulatory frameworks to consider. We need to see if we can use modern technologies to develop processes that make it possible.

What is your timetable for the medium to long term?

It is important to us to continue working iteratively and agilely, but of course we have a certain goal: We want to reach at least 100,000 customers in Germany in the medium term so that our business model is sustainable and we can have a certain market power. And we also wish to continue inspiring our customers with new products and initiatives. We want our customers to have a much bigger role in the shift to renewable energies and for them to be able to express their power in an even clearer way.

Many thanks to Varena for the interview. This is a translation by Marisa Pettit of an original article which first appeared on RESET’s German-language site. The original interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

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