Global startup WePower has exploded onto the Australian energy scene, using blockchain to champion renewable energy providers Down Under. According to chief business development officer Mantas Aleks, not only is this an environmental milestone, it’s a savvy pathway to investment.
In February, the Lithuanian-founded company raised $US40 million ($53.3 million) in the largest ever initial coin offering (ICO) in the energy space. Around the same time, it was accepted into Energy Australia’s Startupbootcamp, and became one of three startups selected for further testing with the power provider.
WePower chief business development officer Mantas Aleks suggests the startup’s two core products are simply reacting to market demand.
Its renewable energy financing tool allows customers to buy upfront from facilities that are yet to be built. This way, Aleks says, they help fund the building of renewable energy sources, while also purchasing energy at a lower cost that going through the regular market.
The second product is an internal marketplace allowing those customers to trade contracts online.
“If you’ve bought a contract and end up moving to another place or consuming less energy, you can sell those contracts,” Aleks tells StartupSmart.
The unique selling proposition here is the use of blockchain to provide a transparent account of exactly where investment ends up.
“Today, energy is bought from a pool, and it’s hard to trace where the energy you bought came from, and where the money goes,” says Aleks.
Working with Energy Australia, WePower will test the products with Energy Australia’s customers, both commercial businesses and private households, and will simulate the onboarding of a sustainable energy provider and trading on a blockchain.
Renewable energy and green initiatives are oft-cited as ares in which blockchain could have an impact, but Aleks is not concerned about any competition, saying other projects tend to focus on different use cases.
“As far as I know, we’re uniquely focused on the finance aspect,” he says.
“We’re very much customer-driven, developing our solutions towards their needs, we don’t spend too much time worrying about what others are doing.”
At its core, WePower simply provides a transparent decentralised database – something that’s becoming more and more important to an increasingly environmentally-aware public.
The transparency afforded by blockchain means WePower customers can see and understand exactly which renewable sources the energy they’re using comes from.
“You don’t need to trust our label that it’s produced by a renewable energy company, you can actually see.”
In theory, Aleks says, WePower would be applicable to the traditional energy sector, but to focus on oils, gas and coal would not make economical sense.
“That’s a legacy we have to deal with,” he says.
“But, when it comes to the energy sector, we look at where most of the investment is going right now.”
He adds: “The focus on renewable is not only the right thing to do, it’s where the world is going.”