SunContract: The future will be renewable!
Date: September 15th 2021
Author: Alenka Lena Klopčič
In the Slovenian energy sector, SunContract and its founder Gregor Novak are quite well known as disruptors of the traditional energy businesses. Check their story in the latest Energetika.NET video!SunContract was something of a pioneering project in blockchain technology, and in late 2020 it was approved for a EUR 4.659 million grant as part of a research and development project within the EU’s Horizon 2020. Even before, in 2017 they raised USD 2 million in Ethereum through crowdfunding, meaning that they reached out for support from a community unknown to the energy sector. They found it among “crypto-people”, but now they are continuing their mission. Building self-sufficient communities, that is. Meet Gregor Novak, whose energy related story started when he was still just a student of electrical engineering who couldn’t find a job.
Later on, Gregor Novak explains, his carrier path led him to the market operator, which at that time was still a power exchange as well, and then to the electricity transmission system operator, where he got a very good feel for future energy trends. Having a firm IT background at the same time, he soon realized what the energy sector was missing.
It was time to join the energy game
“I was always looking and wanted to help wherever I worked by proposing new ideas. Even if it was a state company, I still wanted to do something good for customers later on, because at that time renewable energy development was only just beginning. So, already in 2007 I set up the first solar power plant in Slovenia – with no commercial benefits. Of course I wanted to get commercial gains too, since I saw that it was possible in Germany and Italy, where the solar sector was quite progressive,” Novak explains, adding that he was sure that it was possible in Slovenia, too.
Thus, Novak explains further, he joined the (energy) game. Starting with solar plants in Slovenia, and then with the blockchain energy market place, the platform for which they raised USD 2 million in cryptocurrency and were therefore one of the success stories among those ICO projects. That enabled them to develop the platform in only nine months and soon their totally disruptive energy business outgrew the national borders.
We have combined energy with digital, says Novak, adding that as an entrepreneur you always have to be a little ahead of the others. This mentality also helped them when state support (feed-in tariffs) for solar started to decrease. Also, their previous solar investments, which they launched with no real commercial expectations, turned positive because he, as a founder of what was at the time the only solar business, believed in his energy concept – a concept which always included communities.
Turning individuals and communities to energy self-sufficiency
Now SunContract and its mother company Sonce energija are setting up energy self-sufficient communities and still incorporating each and every interested individual in their renewable energy network.
“Everybody who produces renewable energy - solar, wind or hydro - can join the SunContract platform and can share their electricity with the others. They can trade each other peer to peer, agree on the price and exchange the energy. So we actually enable all the customers to be active in the energy business. Thus, we also help the community to invest more in renewables and to become energy self-sufficient. So we convert people or companies or whole villages or whole towns into self-sufficient areas,” Novak explains.
Further, he briefly talks about SunContract’s business model: “We do not charge any fees like classical energy sector energy utilities - buying and selling energy. Instead, we earn money as an energy marketplace for exchanges where we charge a small transaction fees for our service. So it was totally different approach, a totally different business model that we took.”
Today, they have set the goal of getting 1 million customers on SunContract’s board.
Every failure produces a stronger person. And business!
Even though they see Europe as the “friendliest destination”, they are keeping their eyes wide open. In this regard, they are planning to attend the Dubai Expo in December 2021. Here, Novak mentions his company’s initial failure in Dubai several years ago, adding the inspirational note for youngsters not to give up after they fail. Even the greatest sportsmen have to train, he points out.
Referring to the current situation, he says that the year of COVID-19 has mainly been a year of opportunities for SunContract. They have hired 15 new employees, stepped up their projects, and worked to additionally improve their organisational climate. In this regard, Gregor Novak confirms the informal rule that every crisis can be turned into an opportunity - even in the energy business, which is highly regulated with a high amount of legislation.
It can be mentioned that this year as well the company will hire at least 15 more people and will intensify its renewables projects. At the end of the day, as Novak stresses, the future will be renewable. “Of course, in combination with some energy storage, and there will be different storage methods, not just batteries. There will be hydrogen, there will be some conventional storage, but either way I think in the end we will come to renewables fully and will thus be able to preserve the planet for the future generation generations.”
Watch the whole video interview HERE.
The production of this video is funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by WorldChicago.
This article is available also in Slovene.
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