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Published on September 30th, 2020 | by greentechheadlines


Global Cleantech 100 Company Profile – SOLshare

Global Cleantech 100 Company Profile – SOLshare

The Global Cleantech 100 is an annual list of the most innovative companies poised to make a significant commercial impact in the next five-to-ten years. On the list, you’ll find the most promising ideas in cleantech – the ones best positioned to help us build a more resource-efficient, decarbonized and digitized future. SOLshare made the list in both 2019 and 2020 and we talked to Sebastian Groh, SOLshare’s Managing Director, about solving problems now and in the future.

1) What inspired the creation of  SOLshare?

“There’s $1 billion of excess energy value lying dormant in the mud roads of rural Bangladesh. The country has set the world record in the dissemination of solar home systems with an installation base of 6 million systems. This is an incredible accomplishment for the government of Bangladesh, IDCOL and many partner organizations, such as Grameen Shakti. At SOLshare, we looked a little more closely at this success and found that about 30% of the energy produced by all those solar PV systems goes completely unused because the batteries are full and yet the sun is still shining. The idea, in part, results from our founder’s PhD research work in 2014. Since neither bigger nor additional batteries were a good option, we suggested  interconnecting them to form a grid. “

2) What is the most significant issue you see for the 2020’s?

“While there is increasing convergence in opinions that were previously polarized, climate change has always been a topic people have had difficulty grappling with. But I am not sure whether we all have the same sense of urgency. We don’t need promises anymore, we need action now.  Climate change has become a cultural issue where people even take offense in just being challenged to renounce their age-old beliefs. I hope that instead of promises we will see action. COVID-19 could open the floodgates for the #BuildBackBetter banner, but there is also a threat that the momentum that was mounting to address climate change gets lost. COVID-19 will drag on and it is critical now that the momentum returns  even stronger and demands more action.  

As for the energy sector, I expect that the megatrends which are often referred to as the five D’s -Decentralization, Decarbonization, Digitization, Democratization and Disruption- will hit hard for the first time in more and more countries. They will fuel the future of energy in the 2020s, which is where we are trying to play our part as a pioneer. Moreover, COVID-19 has reversed certain trends in many countries, such as migration. Look at Bangladesh. A lot of overseas workers are coming back, but don’t stay in Dhaka. Instead they return to their villages. We see similarities with  urbanization, where we see increasing demand (and household size) for our grids due to people resettling in their ancestral villages where their social support lies. It is critical to offer those people a platform in their rural villages where they can thrive.”

3) What innovation does SOLshare bring to the market?

“In some ways,  we are already fully living  the five D’s in our “off-grid” villages in Bangladesh. SOLshare’s technology is comprised of our energy trading platform (the SOLgrid) and a peer-to-peer (P2P) solar micro-grid that interconnects households and microbusinesses with and without solar home systems. This allows users the freedom to become producers, prosumers or consumers. The SOLbox is an integrated, direct current bi-directional power meter that is the point of interconnection within the P2P network. The world’s first solar peer-to-peer grid was installed by us here in Bangladesh in a remote village which, though it is hard to believe,  is actually a homegrown innovation. If you think about it, a solar home system already embraces the first two D’s (Decentralization and Decarbonization). Once you start interconnecting them, building a grid bottom up, where prosumers can exchange electricity seamlessly through a mobile money network, you get to the remaining three (Digitization, Democratization & Disruption). And you skip the national grid, which has never reached many of our customers in the first place and shouldn’t. It is  bit of a paradox that the future of energy is coming from Bangladesh.”

4) What initially drew you into the energy sharing space? What was the market like when you started?

“There were over 4 million solar home systems already installed when I first started off around 2014. On one hand, as  I mentioned earlier,  there was an exorbitant amount of energy going to waste every day, and on the other, everybody needed more power but was constrained by their respective system designs. It became clear to me that access to electricity is critical for a remote village, but it is the flexibility and profitability of energy usage that provides the key ingredient for innovation and change leading to sustainable development in a wider sense.”

5) Where is the company focusing  its efforts today?

“Our main goal is to create an energy exchange platform that, in the long run, will be able to sustain itself through the improvements to livelihood and services it provides. SOLshare is working to create resilient energy infrastructures that can cope with extreme climate conditions commonly affecting the South Asian region. The platform is aligned with the community, so as the community grows, so does SOLshare’s revenue.

Our focus is not to just provide energy access. We want the people within our grids to have all the benefits available to those in urban areas. That is why we have expanded our technology to include billable Wi-Fi and electric vehicle charging pit stops. As the energy demand amongst our users goes up, so does our creativity in the services we provide. Ultimately we hope that our users will be able to have the life they want, using the energy they need with the appliances and services they wish to have.”

6) Can you talk us though some of your example projects?

“With the financial support of Energising Development (EnDev), an energy access partnership currently financed by six donor countries (The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Sweden), SOLshare has started developing solar charging pitstops for the local Teslas. When I say local Teslas what  I mean are the roughly  1.5 to 2 million electric rickshaws in Bangladesh, the majority of which operate in rural areas. The interesting part of this project is that once such a rickshaw comes for its lunch break to one of our SOLgrids, it can stop and get a boost-charge from the adjacent solar home systems. This money then enters the village economy and the rickshaw rider can now travel further or longer, so his service area and time available to work expands to areas where before few, or even none, could go given that there is no national grid. We also work together with a dynamic start-up based out of Barcelona called BIA that helps us to figure out how far we could reverse this as well, meaning not only is our focus on grid-to-vehicle charging but also vice versa, because at the end of the day these 1.5 million+ rickshaws  represent are 1.5 million+ moving storage units and can interconnect our SOLgrids without using any cables. This in combination with our recent experiments on dynamic pricing will become really interesting.”

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