Brisbane-based energy monitoring startup Redback Technologies has raised $9 million dollars from the federal government’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund and Right Click Capital to expand its renewable energy optimisation software.
Designed to give users the most value for money from their solar panels, Redback’s software platform uses machine learning to predict solar generation and customer usage, and then make decisions on how to best use this energy to lower a customer’s bills and reduce their fossil fuel reliance.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which manages the Australian government’s $1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund, has invested $6.4 million into the startup, having previously invested $4 million in energy-monitoring startup Wattwatchers and contributed $10 million to Internet of Things startup Thinxtra. This forms part of its broader mandate to support innovation and emerging startups in the energy sector.
Rick Click capital has also pumped $2.57 million into Redback in this funding round, and will also be using its networks to facilitate the startup’s expansion into Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Redback has already established a presence in New Zealand, providing a power backup for the city of Wellington in the case of a natural disaster by working with energy retailer Contact Energy on a two-year long virtual power plant trial. The startup is also currently working on a pilot program with the Dubai government’s Duserve Facilities Management to provide solar solutions to a new smart city expected to accommodate 1 million people.
The startup previously raised $9.3 million from EnergyAustralia in October last year, and $1.97 million from the Queensland Government earlier this year. Redback managing director Phillip Livingston says these recent funds will be used to focus on research and development of the startup’s software and bring on 30 new full-time staff in the next six months.
Livingston says Redback is “committed to innovation” and the investment will see the startup “expand our expertise in data science, software development and engineering, electrical engineering, and general business support”.
He says this forms part of Redback’s wider plan to “further cement our vision” to ensure Australian households and businesses are “entirely powered by renewables” in the future.
It’s an ambitious vision, and one that many other Australian startups share in the face of the increasingly uncertain future of energy in our country. The last few months have seen multimillion-dollar raises from renewable energy startups like Power Ledger, which raised $17 million for its solar trading platform, Wattwatchers’ $4 million raise, and renewable energy-funding platform Brighte banking $4 million in a round led by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.
This movement in the space is indicative of a wider shift towards renewables both in Australia and internationally, Right Click Capital partner Benjamin Chong tells StartupSmart.
Chong says Right Click was drawn to invest in Redback because of the team’s deep technical knowledge of their field, but also because of the global opportunities for its renewables-focused technology.
“Redback appealed to us because while it is an Australian business, it has a global application,” Chong says.
“Energy isn’t just an Australian issue, it’s an issue for many countries; the export opportunities for us and the ability to build a global business were very exciting.”
Chong observes a number of startups have recently been pitching clean and renewable-energy startup ideas, and he sees the industry as ripe for disruption in the future.
“I think there’s going to be tremendous change,” he says
“We’ve seen already the huge number of consumers interested in spending their own money on this, and I certainly expect to see more consumers and businesses taking it into their own hands,” he says.
“What I think will happen is there will be more startups that recognise that there is a volatility in energy and an opportunity to better that and take advantage of that.”
Building an energy industry sandbox
To allow for disruption of the energy sector, Chong says incumbents and startups need to work together in a sandbox environment akin to the regulatory sandbox that was introduced in the fintech sector late last year.
“Because energy is one of those things that relates to security as well as it being a highly regulated environment, there needs to be [a chance of] working with existing players and incumbents,” Chong says.
“Be it regulators or energy companies, there needs to be some kind of sandbox that the government and key players allow for this disruption to take place.
“For disruption of the energy sector to take place we need to open it up to new players … not shut them out. There needs to be some ways for [startups] to experiment in a safe manner.”