Habitat Energy graduates from the Oxford Centre for Innovation
December 13, 2023
Habitat Energy joins a growing number of successful alumni of the Oxford Centre for Innovation. Owing to their remarkable growth over the past year, the company has moved from The Oxford Trust’s innovation centre into new, larger premises nearby.
We spoke to CEO and co-founder Andrew Luers about their time in our centre.
When Habitat Energy moved into the Oxford Centre for Innovation in 2019 as a young start-up, just over a year old, it had a small team of fewer than 10 people. Within two years, the team had grown five-fold. Andrew remarks on how valuable the innovation centre’s flexibility to accommodate growth and expansion is, especially for young companies who cannot predict their growth path. Now, four years on, as they move on from the centre, they have expanded their team nearly ten-fold, close to 90 people. This rapid growth was fueled by some key developments in the company.
Habitat Energy specialises in battery optimisation and energy trading. The growing input of renewable solar and wind energy into energy grids, in the quest for low-carbon energy systems, is consequently increasing the importance of battery assets in energy systems. Batteries add the flexibility that renewable energy lacks. For effective use and best return on investment, they require intelligent management. This is part of what Habitat Energy does.
With Habitat Energy’s ‘managed AI’ energy trading and market forecasting (combining algorithms with human intelligence and intervention), signals are dispatched to charge and discharge batteries based on determining the best times to sell or store energy, so allowing owners and investors to optimise their returns.
Energy Superhub Oxford
When first joining the community of companies at the innovation centre, a key part of their work focused on the Innovate UK-funded Energy Superhub Oxford (or ESO) partnership with various entities, including the University of Oxford and Oxford City Council. They were setting up a battery superhub in Cowley, connected to the Blackberry Lane substation and, with their intelligent energy trading software, would make the energy grid more flexible and support more renewable energy. The grant has concluded and the battery is operational.
Expanding into new markets
It is obviously a formula that works as much of the company growth has been fueled by expansion into new markets. In January 2020, Habitat Energy expanded into Australia. In 2021, it launched in the USA. The company is continuing to explore new markets globally.
Apart from receiving the Innovate UK grant for the Energy Superhub, Habitat Energy attracted some investment from industry expert angel investors. Then, in November 2021, it was acquired by investment managers Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners to become part of their portfolio specialising in low carbon and renewable energy supply, storage, grid stability and related assets and businesses. Having strongly aligned values and having worked together before the acquisition, this was the right fit for Habitat Energy, says Andrew. The acquisition has accelerated their growth in the US market.
(Listen to Andrew’s Exit Right talk in ‘a tale of two exits’ to hear more about the acquisition)
What does the future hold?
As it continues to expand into new markets, Habitat Energy also aims to broaden the scope of the type of assets it works with, and develop services for combined battery and solar energy systems as well as other energy systems which will develop as the field evolves. With this, it aims to bring to the market the flexibility it needs at scale as more renewable energy forms part of the energy grid.
Concurrently, the team is working on various structured products to help investors in batteries and energy systems understand and manage risk-returns, as well as understand evolving market policy. This, in turn, will increase confidence in investment in this type of asset.
A sense of community
Reflecting on the environment at the Oxford Centre for Innovation, Andrew says he has appreciated the camaraderie and sense of community at the centre. “It has been great meeting people in the corridors who are in a similar boat and knowing you are part of a network of like-minded entrepreneurs.”
We wish Habitat Energy all the best in the next phase of their growth!
Feature image: Andrew Luers, Habitat Energy CEO, speaking at Exit Right event