Podcasts > Ep. 188 - Decentralizing the Commercial Energy Landscape
Ep. 188
Decentralizing the Commercial Energy Landscape
Gareth Evans, CEO& founder, VECKTA
Thursday, September 14, 2023

In this week's episode, Erik is in conversation with Gareth Evans, the CEO and founder of VECKTA. VECKTA is dedicated to enabling businesses to embrace competitive energy solutions across their operations, providing them with access to affordable and environmentally friendly energy. With two decades of expertise in the energy and resource sectors, Gareth is a specialist in microgrid and distributed energy planning and design, construction, and monitoring

During this discussion, we delve into the future of the energy sector and strategies for implementing cost-effective energy solutions for businesses. We also examine the challenges associated with navigating technical and regulatory hurdles during the transition, as well as potential solutions for streamlining coordination. Gareth's mission revolves around empowering businesses and communities to access affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy, contributing to the global shift toward a more environmentally friendly energy future.

Tune in and be part of the energy revolution!

Key Discussion Points:

●      What is the purpose of VECKTA and what motivated Gareth to establish it?

●      Identifying the significant factors that support the business case for energy storage.

●      How does the VECKTA platform assist companies and businesses in monitoring their emissions scope?


If you're curious to know more about our guest, you can find him on:

Company Website: https://www.veckta.com

Company Podcast: https://www.veckta.com/renewable-rides-podcast/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gareth-evans-41015726


Erik: Gareth, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

Gareth: Hi, Erik. A pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

Erik: Yeah, I'm excited for this one as well. This is an interesting topic for us. I don't think you know this, but we recently just launched a new venture out of IoT One that's focused on the sustainability topic. So this is a little bit of a business extension for us starting to build our own ventures, incubate them, and spin them off. One of the first ones is focused on this topic. It's still very, very young. We'll see if it makes it past birth. But anyways, looking forward to also picking your brain a bit on the topic here.

Gareth: That's great. I think it's going to be a bright future, so it's good that you're leaning in.

Erik: Exactly. Yeah, that's my feeling. It's certainly a bright future. Maybe you're the only one that gets excited or one of the few that gets excited when we have this massive heat wave across the US and Europe. Because then, all of a sudden, every business, every policymaker in the world is focused on this particular problem, right?

Gareth: Yeah, it's kind of a sad reality. Sometimes you're worried about being seen as an ambulance chaser. But unfortunately, every time there's a heatwave, or a wildfire, or a hurricane, people's power is being knocked out. It's driving the cost of energy. All factors are kind of critical to what we do. And so I've been looking at the outage map all day. Because with this heatwave in the US right now, the grids are under a lot of stress. So I'm always intrigued as to how it's coping with the conditions.

Erik: Yeah, I'd be interested in getting into that a little bit deeper into the podcast. But maybe let's start with understanding more the question of why you set this up. As you said, it's a growing market — anything related to sustainability and particularly around energy management. So there's a certain business logic there. But there's also always a backstory when somebody sets up a company, right? It's a bit of a crazy thing to do. So what led you at this point in your life to decide to set up VECKTA? What was the impetus?

Gareth: Yeah, I think you're right. It's definitely a crazy endeavor. It's definitely not easy. People who see the results don't necessarily see what goes on behind the scenes to get there. It's definitely been a journey and adventure most of my career. I kind of always felt like I wanted to run my own business. But I was with a big corporation for about 15 years, one of the largest energy engineering firms in the world, Worley. I got the pleasure of traveling all around the world with them. I worked everywhere from Canada, to Dubai, to Iraq, to Australia. Now I'm based here in San Diego, USA.

I really had a passion for supporting businesses to achieve their objectives. I had a technical background of environmental science. I love being outdoors. I love making a positive impact on the world. Most of my work was surrounding oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, heavy industrial customers. I'd say the catalyst, without realizing it at the time back then, was, I had an experience for two years in Iraq. I was supporting the major oil and gas companies in the world to move into the region after the Second Gulf War. I think the reflection was, here, we were unlocking some of the biggest energy reserves in the world to fuel our lifestyles, and yet the local teams that were supporting us were surviving on two to four hours of power a day. I saw the impact that that had on the local populace. You can't run businesses. You can't call your home. You can't educate people. You can't grow food. You can't store food. And so all these things lead to terrible, terrible outcomes, and we got to see some of the worst impacts of that. We're being monitored in fact, most evenings. These weren't the intelligence we were getting from the US Army, which then on US Army base advisory was. These weren't insurgents coming across the border to attack. These were local people being paid by organizations to try and inflict pain. But they were doing it to feed their families. They were taking a check for $500. By all accounts, the intelligence was, they didn't want to be there. They didn't want to necessarily be doing that, but this was their way of surviving.

So I'd say that was a catalyst about 10 years ago. I didn't know where the journey was going to take me, when the right time would be. But I met some amazing people through my work at Worley who were really passionate about the space we're now in. We incubated the idea for several years within the corporation. We realized it couldn't be fulfilled within the corporation. We need to have some money to spin up companies. Quite a unique storage and are very intrapreneurial versus now very much in the thick of it, a startup like everyone else and living that right.

Erik: You really think about all the challenges that the developing world is having right now, and then the challenges that the developed world is having because they have this massive influx of migrants. You think, well, the root cause. Okay. Put up a wall if you want to. But the root cause is insecurity around food, around energy, around security. Energy is really one of the fundamental things. If you have reliable energy, you can produce freshwater. If you have reliable energy, you can make sure that people are more or less comfortable even in a rising temperature and so forth. So how do we get to the point where it's affordable for people around the world? Really a critical question for the world to answer right now.

Well, let's see. Maybe before we jump into the business, if you look at your business, I guess you have, on the one hand, the developing parts of the world where you have these really critical energy challenges. But you often don't have resources to actually invest in solving them, right? Then you have America where you have also energy challenges, and you also have resources. Maybe the challenges are not as existential, but they're also very significant. How do you look at this as a business? Are you more or less 100% focused on the US market, in the developing markets right now? Do you also try to tackle the challenge in some of these developing but maybe less profitable or more on these countries where there's probably more headache versus profit ratio to the business?

Gareth: That's a great question. I think this comes back to the focus you need as a team in a business. And so today, bulk of our work is US-based. But we've followed our customers globally. We've done work throughout Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, but we are primarily focused on the developed world today. Major commercial and industrial customers — they are the biggest energy consumers, the biggest carbon emitters. They also have the money to act on their needs and commitments.

Our firm belief is that the systems, the tools, the processes, the outcomes around those that can do it and those who can do it quickly make a big impact on the world collectively, and then use that technology to then support, rolling that out to smaller, less well-equipped businesses and communities around the world. The ultimate mission is to create a profitable, sustainable, thriving energy future for all. But, yes, we need to prove that through those that can finance this and get after it fairly quickly.

Erik: Clear. Well, let's get into your solution a bit here. Let's see. You're helping companies to put in place microgrid projects. Is that the fundamental proposition?

Gareth: Yeah, we refer to them as onsite energy systems. Microgrid is certainly a component of that. But yes, some people refer to them as distributed energy microgrids, on site energy, local energy. Really, it's about generating and storing energy right where it is needed versus the model that we've all come to rely on for the last 100 years, the centralized grid, which generates energy at a central location, often tens, hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers away from where the energy is needed. It's sent to us through a series of poles and wires, and we are essentially passive consumers of that energy. Someone else generates it. They determine what we should pay for it, if and when we should get it, and how clean it is.

Businesses around the world are now realizing that, one, energy costs are going up because that grid infrastructure is aging. It's becoming harder to maintain and less reliable. And so to keep it in place, the costs are being passed on to those that are consuming it. Energy costs are going up quite significantly. Reliability is going down, so we're seeing more outages. This is even in the likes of the US. It's magnified in the likes of South Africa right now, where their grid is really suffering a lot of pain. They're experiencing twelve-hour rolling blackouts. Hard to see the parallels between what's going on there and what could happen here. Then also, businesses want to be able to reduce their emissions, whether it's to appeal to shareholders, capital markets, customers, consumers, employees. There's a lot of pressure to reduce emissions.

And so we're firm believers that the greatest value that can be created for a company is, first, developing an onsite energy system that can help them generate and store energy for their business as much as possible, and then consider renewable energy credits and off site energy solutions, if they so need. But onsite energy, solar storage, gas, diesel, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells — these are all incredible technologies that now can be deployed at business locations to create more affordable, reliable, and cleaner energy.

Erik: I understand there's a couple aspects of value proposition. There's the reliability aspect that are so not reliant on transmission cables that might be impacted by a forest fire or something like this. There's a cost aspect. I guess there could be a trade off, right? If you're near a large dam, maybe you have low-cost energy. But if you're in a different part of the country, maybe higher costs. When you run through this calculation with a customer and you try to figure out, well, what is the ROI on this — the ROI can be looked at as just a pure cost per megawatt, but it can also be looked at the reliability and the risk factors and how this might impact the business — how do you define the business case? What are the big factors that you look at?

Gareth: That's a great question actually, Erik. We built the VECKTA as a marketplace platform to facilitate businesses getting the right outcomes. We built the marketplace infrastructure, and that became very apparent very quickly that a lot of business leaders do not know what's possible, where to begin, or even where they want to focus, what solutions they want to deploy. And so we've built out a really exciting piece of our product which supports businesses with multiple sites. This can be tens, hundreds, if not thousands. We ingest some basic information about each of those facilities around the region, around the world. Then we very quickly help them screen and prioritize where they get the greatest return on investment for a solution. We consider hundreds of thousands of variables that go into that — fuel prices, outage, utility tariffs — to understand based on their earnings which of those three is the biggest priority, where would they achieve the greatest return for an onsite energy system.

Then once we've prioritized across their portfolio where they'll make that impact, then we can help them really configure the optimal solution. What's unique about the way we we approach it versus other players in the market is, we're completely solution agnostic. So we're not trying to sell a widget or a service. We look at all commercially viable options, and then we help them configure both the technical and the financially optimal solution.

Erik: Got you. So if I'm looking at your website, first of all, you have the platform, right? That's around, as you said, mapping your sites, identifying the potential of each site, I guess, based on sun exposure, proximity to different infrastructure, et cetera, identifying then the right suppliers, and then also managing that infrastructure. And so that's the platform you provide. Is it a pure technology solution, or do you also have a service team that's working and acting on more of a consultative basis to advise your customers?

Gareth: So we were doing this as consultants previously. It was taking us 6, 12 months to do a single site assessment and to develop a strategy for a customer. We now use technology to turn that around in minutes to hours. And so we've created a huge amount of efficiency. But we also understand that our buyers — CEOs, CFOs sustainability leaders, operational managers — they are not energy experts. And so to build a platform to be self-guided but at the same time, we're here to support them, help them make the right decisions, guide them through the process. So we do provide some of that white-glove service to ensure that they feel really confident, that they trust the outcome. Because these are potentially multimillion dollar investments, so they're going to last for the next 20 years. So not only do we want to remove the complexity; we want to make it trusted and ensure that they can act with that confidence, with that data, with that integrity. Having that independent platform to do that brings a huge amount of value.

Erik: Great. I see that there's a big trend in consulting of moving to this, let's say, machine plus the human solution. A lot of the analysis can be more or less automated if you have a focus like yours and the right data behind it. But in the end, you also have to communicate that to a decision maker. That's really a human process, and helping them to be comfortable with the decisions that they're making.

Then you have this marketplace aspect, which is then once you define, I guess, what might make sense for a particular site, then this allows you to reach out to the local supplier network and pull together the resources to actually deploy the solution. Is that the case?

Gareth: Yeah, that's right. Now the customer knows here's how much energy are used, where I used it, what it costs me, what my emission profile is. Here's a site where it makes sense. Here's the solution for each of those sites. We then help them frame the request that goes into the marketplace. And so we make sure that the customer is asking the right question in the market and the right language, such that they get apples to apples. We make sure that their opportunity is targeted towards suppliers in the market that match their profile based on location, financing options, and technology options. And so I think the real opportunity in this space is, the supply network is incredible, but it's uncoordinated. Customers don't know who to approach and how to compare the options that they're being propositioned with. So this way, we placed the energy buyer in control of the process versus being passively sold to by the suppliers in the market.

Then I think what a lot of business leaders don't realize today is, they don't have to pay a penny for these systems. There are amazing capital providers in the market that want to come in finance and operate the asset and just charge them a monthly bill. Essentially, you can replace your utility bill for what we call an energy-as-a-service contract. It's typically cheaper than what you pay today, locked in for the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Operational resilient benefits, as well as cost savings. So it becomes a real kind of win, win, win.

Erik: Okay. Interesting. So is the financing also available in the marketplace?

Gareth: Yep.

Erik: So why is it cheaper? Intuitively, you would assume that a large centralized power plant would be just a more efficient, lower cost structure. Then of course, there's some inefficiency in the transmission. I don't know how much that is, but I guess it depends where you are and how far you are. But why is it then often the case that it's actually cheaper to build a micro or a local power supply as opposed to relying on these larger centralized supplies?

Gareth: I think it's a really interesting question. I think what a lot of people don't realize is, the utility model is very monopolistic in nature. There’re not many industries in the world where a business has a zero competition. Also, the commercial structure is such that, the way the utility, particularly here in the US, their business model is based is they're incentivized to deploy capital. So they want to build big projects. They then submit a rate case to a public utility commission who approves that. They say, "We want to spend a billion dollars on this plant." If that gets approved, that cost then gets distributed across the ratepayers. What's happening is, more and more ratepayers are becoming dissatisfied with the service. So then, the cost of that service are being distributed across fewer people. As a result, the energy technologies will go over this industry.

By way of a really interesting example, we just finished an analysis for a manufacturing facility here in California. Their utility bills have gone up from $800,000 a year to $1.2 million. So massive escalation just in the last couple of years. By deploying an onsite energy system, it can't offset the entire requirements for their business. But they can save $500,000 in energy. They can ride through a power outage in the event of a power shut off, and they can reduce their emissions by 40% versus using utility only power. It doesn't pencil always in all cases. In some states, energy is still super cheap. And so that's where the upfront option and prioritization piece is really important. In some states, it makes a huge amount of sense. Others, it doesn't.

And so our mantra is: kill bad projects early, and often don't waste our time and our customer's time and the supplier network's time chasing projects that you should never pencil. But let's ensure that we track those projects. And as signals in the market change, maybe cost of solar or storage come down even more, a new technology appears. Utility rate may increase even more. Maybe incentives come in to the market. The Inflation Reduction Act here is huge right now. So we track all that in real time, and then notify customers when a project makes the most sense of it all.

Erik: Got you. So if we think about the different technologies that you're working with, I understand you're technology agnostic. I guess there's the usual suspects, the solar and wind that most people would think about when they think about local. You already mentioned maybe hydrogen. I guess there's also a long tail of if you happened to be near a factory that has a lot of waste heat or some kind of waste material that you could convert into energy, that could be a solution.

The battery side I think is very interesting because, of course, you have kind of load balancing or the ability to save energy in the case of a cut off from your main supplier. But also, a lot of companies, they have surges, right? If we have to turn on four production lines and we have a surge, then we pay a premium for that surge, well, if we have energy stored up in the battery, maybe we can flatten that. So what is the different solutions you're looking at? Then I guess most people, if I've looked at this, I'd probably just say okay, here's the base for one megawatt from the local power plant versus one megawatt from solar. But I guess you can get a lot more complicated in terms of thinking about load balancing and battery storage and the whole system perspective.

Gareth: Yeah, it's a really cool problem space. I think this is where the industry is a bit stuck today as the solar industry has advanced hugely. If you want a solar energy solution, the market is very well-designed to do that. But now with the way, based on the business priorities and needs that we've been talking about, as well as the different the commercial models and structures that are available from the utilities, there's a lot more variables to consider. Once you start adding different technologies on that, you want to consider whether it's battery storage, whether it's wind, whether it's electric vehicles, charging stations. All these have different operating parameters, different costs, different benefits. So we consider all of them.

We look at how the business consume energy every 15 minutes of every hour of every day of the year. We make sure we deeply understand that, and how do they buy and use energy today? So we base case what their situation is today, and then we look at what is the optimal configuration of those technologies to meet their needs. The example you just gave, the batteries, batteries are becoming hugely popular. Because you're able to shift your peak loads to make sure that you're not paying premium prices at the wrong times of the day, to make sure you're not being penalized for demand and charges. All these different commercial models and utilities we're now using to essentially penalize the businesses, you can use batteries to really manage how you consume energy when you consume it and making sure you're not paying for the energy at the most expensive times of day, or that you've got that operational resilience to be able to bring new things on or offline.

I think the great thing about the marketplace is, it does everything from new air conditioning units to the waste heat to energy opportunities. If these things are of interest to our customers, we have suppliers in the market that are interested in submitting their proposals. And so we want to facilitate that in a really coordinated way.

Erik: The battery is a great example of a technology where you can look at it today, you can make a business case based on the state of the technology today. It might make sense in situation A but not in situation B. But then, it's also a technology that's evolving very rapidly. You have a fleet of millions of e-vehicles that are going to start to age and have their batteries replaced. Then those batteries are going to go into your business in energy storage. And so you have this new capacity that will come online from that. You have people that are making batteries out of all sorts of different materials, steel pellets or whatever and so forth. And so you have all these new technologies.

When you're making these plans, do you make really an effort to track and say, okay, this trend line seems to be moving here. Therefore, we're going to recommend that they hold off for 24 months? Or is there's too much risk and uncertainty in the development of these and you just say, let's make the best decision today, and we'll see what happens in year X?

Gareth: We have actually a new product that we just released actually. We optimized the solution, but then we actually provide a scenario slider bars such that you can see which aspects of the project will most influence the outcome. If the interest rate changes, how does that change the opportunity? If the cost of batteries change, how does that impact that? If my utility rate continues to go up 5% year on year, at what point should I do this? And so yeah, we don't want customers to develop bad projects. These are long-term projects and long-term investments. But what we do want to see people do is take action where it makes sense. We want to encourage people to do the right thing, take action when the business case is right. Maybe they start with a smaller, simpler system. Then as those signals that you've described change, maybe they can then add a battery two years from now or increase the size of the battery.

We just saw here in California where I'm sat right now, the regulations completely changed. Literally, two months ago, if you put solar on your roof, you got compensated at a flat rate by the utility for pushing solar back onto the grid. Now the utility won't accept that. They'll only accept energy that's been stored by your self-generated energy, being sold back when the utility wants it. Because they're receiving energy that they didn't need, couldn't consume, and they're having to pay for that. And so it makes complete sense from a grid reliability perspective. But for a consumer, if they thought "let's just now put solar on our roof and make an impact," today, there'll be no economic benefit on that. We're seeing those regulations changing all around the world and making batteries very, very viable. I think when California does it, it typically then proliferates across the country and across the world. And so we'll see more and more regulations like that.

Erik: Interesting. I guess when you have situations like this, then you have scenarios where, let's say, instead of an individual saying "I'm going to put solar on my roof," it might be a neighborhood saying "Okay, let's put a certain amount of solar up." Then house A uses it, and house B uses it. You can spread the use across to make sure that you're not wasting. I guess you could apply that to businesses as well. If you're a part of an industrial park, one company might need energy a peak at some hour, and another company needs it another hour. There's a certain efficiency in them sharing the fixed cost of the investment, but also just being able to better utilize the energy that's created by creating a micro community. How does this work? This obviously introduces more collaboration risk, coordination risk across businesses. But do you see a lot of companies trying to collaborate with other local businesses to develop projects together?

Gareth: The capital market loves it. They love bundling projects and minimizing their risk by having more essentially offtakers, more people consuming the energy. From a logistic's perspective, definitely it's more challenging. I think we're seeing it certainly in the campus environment, where it's one asset owner with multiple different loads that needs to be balanced and managed. From an industrial park perspective, I haven't personally worked on a multi-tenant solution like that. But it's the same concept. We can certainly design it. It opens up more real estate to deploy more solutions. You just get into some complexities around buying and selling energy across property lines. That adds some complexity that would have to be figured out. And making sure that utility is supported with that. Utilities can be very awkward and blockers and those sorts of situations. And so, yeah, it varies by location, by customer type, by number of tenants, things like that.

Erik: Coming back to your platform solution. One of the topics that a lot of people are talking to be about right now is the challenge of tracking their scope 1, scope 2, scope 3 emissions because they have these new regulatory. It's either a regulatory reporting requirement, or it's their customers who are telling them, "You need to give us this data. "This is painful, right? It's quite challenging for a lot of businesses to figure this out. Is there an element in your business around helping companies to track this data? I guess you're only part of the picture. So how would you fit into the larger picture there?

Gareth: Certainly scope 2, because we understand what the emission profile is of how the customer is receiving energy today, whether that's from the utility or whether they've got their own diesel gensets rather. So we're able to tell them exactly what their scope two emissions are. Then scope 3 is a really interesting topic. Because as you know, most customers, their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions are a fraction of what their scope 3 are. For anyone who doesn't know what a scope 3 emission is, it's anyone who's providing a service to your business is considered your scope 3 emission. Walmart — all the people who sell products in Walmart or service them or drive trucks for them, they are all at scope 3 emission. This is the biggest problem for industry today. People don't know how to wrap their heads around that.

The way we've approached that is, we support businesses to use our platform to share that with their supply network. So then, that encourages the supply network to look at their own profiles, develop their own solutions which reduce their emissions, their own scope 2 emissions which reduce the scope 3 emissions of the overall buyer. So yes, it's a complex landscape, but we have a solution that supports with some of their reporting. That's only going to get harder and worse. The SEC, obviously, is looking to mandate that. Europe has already gone ahead with requiring public companies to report this in a quite regimented way. There are platforms out there that specialize purely in emission tracking and importing but very few actually support customers to reduce their emissions, which is really the overall objective. Our priority is to support businesses to reduce the emissions, the reporting bit better, I think, is a more simple opportunity.

Erik: Yeah, that's it. Well, that's an interesting point, that a lot of the larger companies are effectively product development and marketing companies, even though if they're bringing a big portfolio of products to market and then their factories are basically their suppliers. But they might be doing 100% of production for this one, for L'Oreal, or for P&G, or whoever that might be. And so you can imagine a financial investor being quite interested in saying, "Okay. Let's tell L'Oreal. Let's go to all your suppliers, all the factories and make sure that they're deploying solutions that are effective and then reducing your emissions to scope 3." You mentioned already that there is some interaction with suppliers. But do you see companies taking this portfolio approach and saying we are going to either incentivize or work with a financial partner so that we can roll out energy efficiency or clean energy solutions across our supply base in a more coordinated way? Or does it tend to be more organic of saying we'll make platform available supplier by supplier? They can figure out how they want to make use of that today.

Gareth: Yeah, more of the latter today. But I think the former needs to come in. I think right now, everyone's just trying to push the problem downhill and expect someone else to figure it out. We're seeing a lot of contractual mechanisms being used today. So we're working right now with automotive manufacturer. They provide parts to the overall car OEM. So within this situation, the car manufacturer is saying, "We want to produce our electric vehicle in your facility. But we'll only do that if you can prove to us that it's carbon neutral, and that facility has never ever thought about this ever." And so now to win that contract, they have to demonstrate they've got a plan, and they can achieve it by 2025, which is a very tight timeframe. And so we're seeing more and more of those contractual — I suppose you call it a karat, because the karat is there for you to win work. But it's also a massive stick that's looming for a lot of businesses that realize that unless they have a plan, or unless they can demonstrate they're doing something, they're going to be at risk of losing contracts.

It's also the same in the capital market. The capital markets are saying for a lot of businesses, if you want access to our capital, you need to demonstrate that you've got a plan, or you're going to have to pay a premium for someone else's capital elsewhere. And so I think once the capital market starts talking and demanding these things and contracts are enforcing them, it's creating more and more momentum in the market. Combine that with the likes of the Inflation Reduction Act that I touched on before in the US and the Green Deal in Europe, incentives are now actually mega for these projects. You can claim up to 50 to 60% tax incentives across some projects, where they are in a poverty area or an energy designated area and then you're using the right suppliers, US-based. Being able to get $0.60 on a dollar back for your investment is significant. It makes the project really attractive. If you don't want to take advantage of the tax incentives, now the rules allow you to transfer them, offer to someone else to utilize them.

Erik: Very interesting. You mentioned cheaper credit or access to capital on the financial market. One of the things that we were looking at in the venture that I mentioned is, we're more looking at it from the perspective of bringing sustainable chemicals to market. But you come into this situation where the traditional model was the sales team sells to procurement. They sell based on price, on supply chain reliability, and on product specifications. Usually, the product specifications are pretty much identical. And so it's kind of price and reliability. All of a sudden, now you have this new factor which is, okay, price might be a bit higher in the chemical space at least, but you have lower carbon input. That means that procurement is not as interested because they care about price and reliability. But then, you might have the CFO who's interested. You have the product manager who's interested. You have the marketing team who's interested. And it creates a different sales dynamic.

So I'm curious. For you, who are the stakeholders that are most critical here? Of course, there's the operations team that cares a lot about reliability of energy and maybe the factory GM who cares about the cost and is managing the P&L for that facility. But then you also have the CFO who might be caring about cost of capital. You might have general management or other people that care about hitting particular sustainability targets. So who do you find are your main customers and then the other influencers around them?

Gareth: It's a really key point. We're continuously adapting the product to ensure that it communicates the right message to the right stakeholders. Because you're right, the info that the CFO needs to see is completely different to what the operational lead wants to see. And so making sure, first of all, that the data is centralized and aggregated, and everyone can operate off the same source of truth. Then secondly, that they can all extract the right information that makes sense for their particular roles.

In terms of the people, we directly interact with, typically across these kind of enterprise, customers who have a portfolio of assets. It's certainly the ESG or the sustainability manager who's typically been tasked with dealing with this or the overall operational lead across the regional level. The stakeholders that they're going to influence are the CFO, the CEO and, even in some cases, the board. Then on a day-to-day level, the people who are interacting with the product and making sure that it meets their operational needs and doesn't impact their business are the location or the facility managers and leaders. So those who are running the plants and operations. They obviously typically have one or two or a few sites at most. They just want to make sure that the plant runs, that it's cost-effective. Then it's other people who are really focused on the emissions and the contracts and the commercial models and the marketing even. This is a big marketing play for a lot of businesses. So making sure that those stakeholders have access to data, that they can make informed decisions, legal contracts. At least, everyone has to get involved. Ultimately, these are multibillion deals.

Erik: Yeah, exactly. Let's touch a bit on the future here. This is an area that is fascinating, right? You have regulatory change. You have technology change. You have climate change. You have a lot of different factors at play here. When you look at the future, I guess you could look at the micro perspective of your own business, what are you developing now in terms of technology or entering into new markets. Then you can look at more of the macro of what's happening around you. But what is it that excites you, or what are you focused on right now when you look towards the future?

Gareth: I think macro in terms of what excites me is, this industry is really just getting going. I think we've all relied on that centralized system we talked about at the start, last 100 years. But it's certainly not going to last us for the next 100 years. Energy is literally the lifeblood of every business, our economy, every community. We think of it in that 'for the energy future.' It's going to be more distributed, deregulated, decarbonized, and digitalized.

I think, for me, the most exciting thing is the intersection of the digitalization and the decentralization, and a lot of synergies for those that follow the whole Web 3 push. We've moved from being read-only Web 1 uses of information, to now we're all living in that Web 2 world of being able to interact and use data and communicate. We've got platforms. But in the process, we've become essentially the product because they use our data. It's the same in energy. Today, we're the product. We're considered to be the ratepayer. We are passive consumers of energy.

The future is, we are all prosumers. We're generating and storing our own energy. We're buying and selling it where it makes sense, and we're taking a lot more control over our own destiny. Being able to enable that at scale is really our mission. We want to be the Amazon, the Hoover of their industries for energy. Every business leader should think about VECKTA when they think about their energy strategy. Consultants should be thinking about us when they're thinking about developing strategies for their customers. So how do we get the whole industry working from really smart data that's thinking years out and ensuring that high return on investment solutions have been deployed to create sustainable and profitable outcomes, and profitability should not come at the expense of sustainability? It's not necessary. They should go hand in hand. So that's the vision and the opportunity. This is going to be decades in the making for all of us. That's to your very, very first question of entrepreneurship. That's the grit and the resilience of, we're needed by those. We're going to be the most successful. This isn't going to be an easy path, but it's a huge opportunity.

Erik: If you look at more of the micro perspective — I don't know how up to date CrunchBase is — it looks like you might have just closed another round in June.

Gareth: Yeah.

Erik: What are you working on right now? What are you planning to roll out, whether it's a new product or new market developments in the next 12 months?

Gareth: We just closed an exciting fundraise with Tech Square Ventures and some of our existing investors — Cove Fund, Volo Earth. All awesome investors. This one in particular is super exciting because Bill Nussey, who's coming on to our board, he actually wrote the book Freeing Energy. He had some successful outcomes as a business leader. He used that exit to go and spend three years writing a book on this industry. And so for any of the listeners who are interested in the onsite energy or the energy transition, Freeing Energy is a great book of providing an overview of where we're heading, what the opportunity is. He's going to sit on our board. Super well-connected, an expert in his space and a lot of tech-building expertise. And so that's really our focus. It's refining and optimizing our products which should bring huge value to our consumers.

The key to this is providing business leaders with the confidence to act. And so more and more real-time data, more and more intelligence, making sure that it's constantly updating them as to what their options are. That's what we're working on in the near term, and really increasing the flywheel effect of the marketplace. So getting more projects deployed at scale. A key to that is ensuring that the people who supply products in our marketplace to our customers also see the value of the marketplace from buyers themselves. That's something that we're really thinking about and focusing on. It's how do we convert suppliers into buyers as well. Because most suppliers only offer one piece of the equation. Someone who delivers capital doesn't necessarily build assets or have the equipment. So how do we enable them to source the pieces of the puzzle later on our offer? So yeah, exciting times. The roadmap is evolving all the time. Because we partner with our customers, we want to make sure that we are constantly adapting to learn this.

Erik: Yeah, I can imagine. It has a very dynamic market. Great. Gareth, I think we've covered quite a bit of territory here. Anything we haven't touched on that's important for folks to understand?

Gareth: No, this has been great. I think the key takeaway would be make sure you look at your energy options. Don't think that your only option is buying from utility. Definitely, don't be sold to by the first supplier who knocks on your door. Because the suppliers in the market, they are all awesome, but they are all incentivized to sell what makes sense for their business. Not necessarily yours. And so make sure you look at your options. Vet them. Optimize them. Then take steps because it requires all of us to get the objectives that we all need to create that sustainable and profitable future. But let's make sure that you don't expose your profitability as a result of sustainability. But at the same time, the businesses of the future will do both. That's why we're here.

Erik: Yeah, great message and great advice. Gareth, thanks for your time today.

Gareth: Yeah, I appreciate it, Erik. Thanks.

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