Dusseldorf When it is particularly sunny or windy in Germany, there is sometimes more electricity from renewable energies in the grid than is necessary. This puts a strain on the power grid – but at the same time makes the energy cheap. So it’s good for the network and good for the wallet when large electricity consumers such as industrial companies adjust their consumption to such windy and sunny hours.
This is where Esforin comes in. The Essen-based company, short for “Energy Services for Industry”, organizes trading with flexibilities in the electricity market. In other words, it takes advantage of the willingness of companies to use electricity precisely when it is best for the power grid.
The founder Christian Hövelhaus has now collected 7.5 million euros in fresh capital from investors. He wants to use the money to expand into other markets. Through a new cooperation with the start-up 1Komma5 Grad, private consumers should also be more involved in the future.
There are companies that need a constant power supply around the clock or that always need energy at the same time – regardless of whether the electricity on the electricity exchange is expensive or cheap. On the other hand, those who are free to decide when to connect their devices to the socket have “demand flexibilities”.
They are important for the operators of power grids. Because if the grids cannot be relieved by adapting the electricity consumption, power plants, for example, have to be taken off the grid instead. So flexibilities are worth money.
Power grids: The risk of fluctuations is increasing
Esforin takes advantage of this logic. The service provider offers industrial companies trading controlled by algorithms. If the grids are overloaded, Esforin buys cheap electricity for its customers on the electricity exchange and automatically ensures that the customer uses it at the same time. For example, to increase the temperature in a blast furnace in the steel or aluminum industry.
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If, on the other hand, there is little green electricity in the grid, Esforin can also feed additional electricity into the grid, for example from its customers’ power plants or from large industrial batteries that have been charged beforehand.
Offers like Esforin will become more important in the coming years. Because in Germany more and more coal-fired power plants are being taken off the grid, and at the same time numerous wind turbines and photovoltaic systems are being added. The federal government wants at least 80 percent of electricity to come from renewable energies by 2030 in order to achieve climate targets. In 2022 it was 46.2 percent.
In the future, there will be more and more situations in which the network is overloaded or in which too little electricity is available – unless providers like Esforin compensate for the fluctuations. Esforin works with chemical parks, the aluminum and paper industries, among others. In order to keep the power supply stable in the future, you need flexibility.
Esforin founder Hövelhaus says: “By working with us, customers can significantly reduce their electricity costs.” According to Hövelhaus, Esforin now has flexibilities with a total output of 1.5 gigawatts under contract. This corresponds to about 1.5 nuclear power plants and is more than twice as much as at the beginning of 2022.
New major investor from Scandinavia
Customers and sales are also growing rapidly at Esforin in the current market situation. After all, electricity prices fluctuated sharply and at a high level during the energy crisis last year. If you can automatically adjust your demand and payments for your electricity, you can potentially save a lot of money.
According to Hövelhaus, there is a real customer run, sales have doubled to 650 million euros in 2022 compared to the previous year. Esforin is profitable, the company’s valuation is in the low three-digit million range.
The interest among investors is correspondingly high, he had a double-digit number of offers. The existing investors – including the Dutch investment house Set Ventures, the founder of the energy company Sonnen, Christoph Ostermann, and the Essen-based family office Erame – now also include the Swedish bank SEB.
“The Scandinavian countries are driving the electrification of industry at high speed, so we fit in perfectly,” says Hövelhaus. SEB is intended to facilitate Esforin’s expansion into this new market, which has so far mainly been active in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Great Britain. She is “super connected”. Esforin intends to use the money to further expand sales and IT.
Hövelhaus himself has been active in the energy sector for many years, including at RWE. He is also a member of the Federal Government’s Young Digital Economy Advisory Board. With his business model, he is not the only one on the market. Large energy companies such as EWE or Uniper also offer flexibility marketing for companies.
Cheaper electricity for owners of heat pumps
However, Esforin is now moving into another area: flexibilities in private households. Because even those who own an electric car, a heat pump, a photovoltaic system or an electricity storage system can market flexible electricity demand or generation. So far, Esforin has integrated such private flexibilities through a cooperation with the battery manufacturer Sonnen. They were bundled into a virtual battery and marketed as a whole by Esforin.
Now there is also the cooperation with 1Komma5 Grad, which enables the marketing of the flexibilities of individual households. The Hamburg start-up offers photovoltaic systems, electricity storage, charging infrastructure for electric cars and heat pumps from a single source, from the product to the installation to the green electricity contract.
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The company, founded by former Tesla Germany boss Philipp Schröder, has developed a device called “Heartbeat” that has interfaces to devices such as wall boxes and heat pumps. Together with a smart meter – an intelligent electricity meter – it ensures that customers receive and consume electricity at the most favorable times.
Compared to a conventional electricity tariff, in which customers pay the same amount every month regardless of the time of their electricity consumption, savings of up to 2000 euros a year should be possible.
The cooperation with Esforin enables 1Komma5 Grad not only to buy cheap electricity for customers a day in advance, but also to trade in real time with electricity that customers are currently consuming or generating with their photovoltaic systems.
1Komma5-Grad founder Schröder says: “We can dramatically reduce electricity costs and operating costs for devices such as heat pumps for our customers.”
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