Electrical Times – Q&A with Ben Marchant, CEO, talks solar energy, EV infrastructure, microgrids and more

Electrical Times :- Can you tell us more about yourself, and your role? What first interested you in being part of the industry and how did you join?

I joined the industry around 14 years ago, after identifying that the solar transition – then in its infancy – was going to be truly revolutionary. The energy industry has always offered multiple opportunities for growth, development and expansion so it is easy to become incredibly excited about such an impactful sector.

When someone asked me, “if you could change one thing, what would it be?” I would answer, “stop burning fossil fuels.” Today, I feel evermore passionate about this topic and feel honoured and empowered that I can channel this energy into 3ti to make a real a difference alongside some of the brightest minds in solar, storage and EV charging.

How has the industry changed since you started?

When I first joined the energy industry in the UK, solar was still heavily subsidised. For a while, the UK solar industry was world-leading but as the cost of solar came down, subsidies were withdrawn. With energy prices where they were, solar had reached price parity with grid power but was only competitive rather than financially attractive. Growth was stunted and wound down almost to standstill.

So, in 2015, I chose to help set-up Faro Energy in Latin America, that had surprisingly nascent solar markets given market (and solar!) conditions and were ripe for rapid growth. In the next four years, we deployed solar in Guatemala, Colombia and transformed Brazil’s solar industry, that previously had no significant solar in the commercial and industrial space, with almost 100 MWp installed to date. We significantly reduced energy costs and carbon emissions for customers – the same outcomes we now provide at 3ti – and again just like 3ti, became a proud Certified B-Corp. 

Today, the UK’s subsidy-free solar industry is booming again and will continue to, with 3ti being able to save customers up to 50% on their energy bills.

EV’s didn’t exist when I started but have become mainstream, with exponential year-on-year growth that will continue over the next decade and beyond.  This electrification of transport, with the electrification of heating just behind it, is paving the way for the emergence of the battery energy storage sector.  The dynamic shifts and additional strains that EVs and electric heating will place on the UK’s grid network mean that smart technologies, such as 3ti’s digital platform 3tiG, and storage will play critical roles in managing and smoothing variable supply and demand.

Fundamentally, the industry has completely changed, will continue to change and at 3ti we are proud to be at the forefront of the UK’s transition.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the renewables industry?

Grid connection as a whole is a major issue facing the renewable industry, with a multitude of capacity and infrastructure constraints impacting upgrades and overall reliability of the network. However, 3ti is already solving this using smart microgrid technology, which offers several benefits to address many of the challenges associated with traditional grid connections.

Microgrids provide more efficient, higher-power charging at a lower cost by maximising the capabilities of existing grid connections, while operating independently to the main grid to provide backup during power disruptions and enhance resilience against extreme weather, equipment failure or even cyber-attacks.

The UK is facing significant challenges as it  caters for surging electricity demand as we electrify transport and heating; we need to increase the amount of solar we currently have five-fold by 2035 and simultaneously deploy 54 times as many EV charge points in workplaces and destinations.

This will put an enormous strain on the grid, so it is important that we utilise batteries – both external batteries and within EVs – to balance energy supply and demand and support grid networks.

Government support and policy change will be a driving force to realise this change. It is vital that we deliver the correct policies to support renewable energy, storage and EV charging markets better and more fairly. For example, it frustrates me that we are charging EV drivers VAT when they charge at public charging stations – which many have to as 50% of EV drivers don’t have access to off-street charging at home – especially when subsidies for gas still exist. Government can play an enormous role in accelerating, and legislating for an equitable, energy transition.

 What are your thoughts on the future of EV and solar PV?

More and more businesses understand the wide ranging benefits of solar power, including how it can slash energy bills and reduce reliance on the grid. Of course, renewables mean we stop burning fossil fuels, but they generate cost savings for businesses and consumers alike.

We all know that to achieve Net Zero and avoid catastrophic climate change, we must transition to cleaner means of energy generation, powering our vehicles and buildings with renewable energy to support future generations. It is, without doubt, what we’ve got to do. The great news is – it’s cheaper.

Our solar, battery and EV charging solutions can cut energy bills by 20-50% and get EVs Driving on Sunshine® while earning revenue from, and improving the quality and life expectancy of, EV batteries at the same time.  

People want to do the right thing, but they are more likely to do it when it saves them money. This is why we should be excited about the future of EVs and the increased uptake of solar power. Environment and economic benefits can, and should, go hand in hand.

 What is the V2X fast hub project?

The project is setting out to integrate bi-directional DC charging and 3ti’s associated power management systems into Papilio3. The V2X Fast Hub project will be a watershed moment for future energy security, providing a clear pathway to help resolve the issue of intermittent supply from renewables by using EV batteries as grid assets, to the benefit of EV drivers. 

We’re really excited about the V2X Fast Hub project. Our specialised fast hub Papilio3 unit is currently being fitted with the bi-directional hardware and software required to deliver the trial later this year. For more information, please visit: https://3ti.co.uk/3ti-announces-government-funding-awarded-to-project-to-prove-evs-are-assets-to-the-grid-papilio3-v2x-fast-hub/

What’s next for 3ti?

We will continue to deliver substantial savings on energy bills for our customers while rapidly expanding our network through the rollout of 3ti solar car parks and Papilio3 pop-up EV charging hubs. We have already demonstrated that vehicles & facilities can be effectively charged from solar energy in the UK, reducing emissions and providing additional revenue streams from EV charging and grid services for customers.

Through leveraging the use of EV batteries in energy flexibility markets in our V2X fast hub project, we’re poised to revolutionise site-level energy management and sustainability whilst benefiting our stakeholders, customers and facilities financially.


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