Category Archives: Technology

Soon your car will be cooking your dinner

Can you imagine using your car to power your kitchen appliances? Steve Abbott, business development manager at clean tech company Hyperdrive Innovation, envisages a greener future where consumers will harness energy from electric vehicles to power their homes…

The colder autumn weather will soon see us swapping BBQs outdoors for nights in watching boxsets, and it won’t be long before we’re all cranking up the heating. Naturally, household energy usage will begin to creep up and so will demand on the grid. But with our reliance on energy bound to increase over the next few months, how can we ensure we keep lights on, bills affordable and carbon emissions down?

With climate change continuing to be a pressing issue, the need to become more energy efficient and reduce reliance on fossil fuels has never been more important. You only have to look at the growth in electric vehicles to see a global shift towards creating a greener future. In the UK, the need to develop a smart grid for ensuring a resilient, clean and lower cost energy network is particularly prevalent. Tech companies are seeing the issues around balancing power supply and demand as an opportunity to develop smart energy solutions to build fewer new conventional power plants in the UK.

Thanks to advances in technology, energy storage at a domestic level is one concept that is fast becoming a more widespread possibility. Already we have seen the hype around Tesla’s Powerwall, the battery which allows homeowners to harness energy from renewable sources and make it available for household use. However, given its hefty price tag, alongside switchgear (electrical equipment) and installation costs, a Tesla Powerwall isn’t yet a viable solution for every homeowner.

Smaller British tech companies are working to make energy generation and storage a more affordable possibility for homeowners. In the future, consumers could generate solar and wind energy at home, store it and sell it back to the grid at times of peak demand using lithium-ion batteries. This would not only provide added flexibility for network operators but also create an additional revenue stream for homeowners, therefore reducing payback of renewables systems and providing an incentive for more homeowners to invest in distributed energy generation and storage.

Electric vehicles could take this concept even further. The batteries in EVs could be used to store energy and pump it back into the system at peak times when consumers need power most. They could be charged over night when there is excess capacity available and be ready to discharge power to the grid by the morning. This means that when everyone switches on the oven at dinner time, energy stored in the batteries could smooth out those peaks in demand and allow the network to run more efficiently.

The potential for harnessing energy from renewable sources is very significant. With access to energy storage technology, consumers can not only generate improved returns on their solar and wind installations but help to develop a cleaner, lower cost energy network. With question marks still hanging over investment in new nuclear power, and fossil-fuel fired generation out of favour, consumers adopting the latest energy storage technology could really make a difference as we look towards a greener future.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Hyperdrive Innovation.

UK woos South Korea’s tech industry in wake of the Brexit vote

In the wake of the Brexit vote, the UK’s relationship status with the rest of Europe remains in the ‘it’s complicated’ category. So it is no surprise that our government is sweetening our relationships in Asia.

Our new chancellor Philip Hammond is in China today promoting British business, while the Treasury has just announced a new “FinTech bridge” with the Republic of Korea (better known as South Korea – the less scary one).

The South Korea deal includes a regulatory co-operation agreement between the two countries, so that FinTech start-ups can easily operate in both. The idea is that it will encourage South Korean investment into UK businesses and vice-versa. The government says it will promote information sharing about new technologies and help scale up FinTech businesses in both countries.

Hammond said: “The newly established FinTech bridge between the UK and the Republic of Korea is an important step for one of this country’s most exciting industries.

“The government is determined to help the UK FinTech sector to innovate and grow and to ensure that Britain remains the location of choice for FinTech start-ups.”

This can only be a good thing for the UK and its hugely significant FinTech industry, which employs around 60,000 people and last year generated £6.6bn in revenue.

While South Korea may be a relative newcomer to FinTech, it is certainly a veteran in the tech/IT space (Samsung, SK Hynix, LG) so is well-placed to provide innovation for our home-grown tech start-ups.

Conversely, there are areas of UK FinTech that could potentially benefit South Korea – such as our peer-to-peer finance industry, which has lent £5bn since 2010.

“Whilst the level of cross-border international lending to date has been limited, a number of countries have looked to the United Kingdom as an example of how an appropriate regulatory regime can be constructed which facilitates innovation and growth in the alternative finance landscape,” said a spokesperson from the Peer to Peer Finance Association, which represents the UK’s fast-growing peer-to-peer finance industry.

“As developments in the FinTech sector gather pace, more partnerships – such as the FinTech bridge with the Republic of Korea – will enable other countries to follow the path which has made the United Kingdom a global exemplar in peer-to-peer finance.”

With the UK’s status as a financial hub at risk if we fail to secure a decent agreement with the EU on passporting, it makes good sense to improve relations further afield and remind the world about what we have to offer.

Many years ago, Qatar hoped to become the financial hub of the Gulf, competing with the likes of Bahrain and Dubai. Dubai won, in part due to its swiftness in developing a friendly regulatory regime. So what did Qatar do? It created a ‘three-pronged plan’ to offer niche areas of finance that would set it apart from the rest of the Gulf: asset management, reinsurance and captive insurance.

Now I’m not comparing the UK to Qatar, for many reasons – one being that we already have a highly developed financial centre – but it would not hurt to turn a potential disaster into a positive opportunity by using our newfound independence to innovate. And FinTech should certainly be a key part of that.