The role of rising energy prices in driving up the cost of living in the UK has not been far from the headlines in recent weeks.
With the recent bankruptcy of many suppliers and the lifting of the energy cap in April, the pressure on public and business finances has never been greater.
However, a chief executive said there was a solution and it may not be too late to fix the ‘broken energy market’.
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Somayeh Taheri founded Manchester-based UrbanChain in 2017 after years as an academic at the University of Manchester, Iran University of Science and Technology and Persian Gulf University.
The company, which the CEO says is the first commercialized peer-to-peer energy exchange, uses blockchain and AI to “decouple” renewables from the wholesale market and reduce price volatility.
In an exclusive interview with BusinessLive, Somayeh Taheri revealed her plans to expand UrbanChain’s reach across the globe and help create jobs.
But she warned that energy is becoming a luxury and that action must be taken quickly to tackle growing price unaffordability.
Asked about the main objective of UrbanChain, she replied: “It is about creating a single and fair market for renewable energies.
“I have been involved in a number of research projects on fuel poverty, which means that households cannot afford to heat their homes enough.
“When I was working on projects related to climate change, I found that the market was broken.
“As a result, the market turns energy into a luxury and is therefore not affordable for everyone.
“We are using blockchain AI to fix the broken energy market and make energy affordable.
“The market is very gas-dependent – these days it’s a hot topic about rising gas prices and its impact on suppliers and consumers, but we never talk about companies and how much they Companies have to pay a much higher rate than expected.
“Even renewable energy is subject to the price of gas. This is because the people who bring renewable energy trade it in gas markets and then buy back quantities.
“It is then green washed with the green certificate. This action subjects the renewable energy to the price of gas and the consumer must pay for it.
“In addition to unaffordability and connection to gas, when the price is very volatile, governments step in to introduce taxes on green energy.
“But the consumer has to pay the tax to make green energy more investable.”
Somayeh Taheri also spoke about steps that can be taken to address what she sees as issues in the market and how the consumer and businesses can benefit from radical change.
She added: “The first action is to decouple renewables from the gas market.
“We researched why renewables trade in the gas market.
“What we discovered is that the market function is quite old-fashioned.
“These are very manual processes and they are not suitable for renewable energy.
“So for solar or wind power, you can’t predict the generation of those types of power with excel sheets. You need a more sophisticated method.
“We imagined a system capable of predicting and then decoupling renewable energies from the wholesale market.
“We are using an AI system to predict the behavior of renewables and in doing so, we can link it directly to the consumer.
“By doing this, the consumer is indicating the exact volume of what they need for their energy and renewables meet that volume.”
UrbanChain has deep roots in Manchester but is looking to expand globally over the next few years.
Although Somayeh Taheri said the company is unlikely to create many direct jobs during this period, she revealed that the company’s plans are expected to lead to the creation of many positions at partner companies.
She said, “Our intention is to go global. We are a technology company and we don’t want to be like a traditional supplier.
“We don’t want to create too many administrative jobs because we have automated a number of processes.
“In terms of headcount, I don’t plan to increase that because the better the automation we’ve introduced, the less we need to hire additional people.
“At the same time, we outsource a lot of jobs, so we expect to help create roles indirectly with external companies.
“We’re going to expand into the UK and then we’ll start trials in a few other countries such as the UK, India and all of Europe.”