Headquartered in Canada, Hygge Energy has been running several sustainable power projects, which find synergy with the local community in North America and Europe. These projects are focused on not only enabling communities to increase the renewable energy content in their energy mix and making these communities resilient but also helping municipalities and cities to achieve their net-zero goals, commensurate with COP26 targets. Their solution also improves returns for utilities and increases return on investment for storage, solar PV and other local generation owners. Recently, the company has set up its EV charging business in India. During an interaction with Nitisha; Prateek Saxena, Founder and CEO, Hygge Energy talks about his agenda and future planning for EV charging business. The company is partnering and collaborating with battery OEMs and EV manufacturers to create an integrated and seamless experience for our customers and EV drivers.
How can we define Hygge Energy as a company, key focus and offerings?
Hygge Energy Inc is a Canada-headquartered company that helps in unlocking the monetary potential of renewable energy. Our platform for communities enables tracking, measurement, optimization, allocation and accounting of renewable energy.
We have been running several sustainable power projects, which find synergy with the local community in North America and Europe. These projects are focused on not only enabling communities to increase the renewable energy content in their energy mix and making these communities resilient, but also helping municipalities and cities to achieve their net-zero goals, commensurate with COP26 targets. Our solution also improves returns for utilities and increases return on investment for storage, solar PV and other local generation owners.
We have set up a separate entity in India focusing on the EV charging business. In this context, our platform is used to maximize usage of renewable energy for the purpose of EV charging, making it a profitable business for EV charging operators and DISCOMs alike. The solution is supported by an EV charging app that facilitates the entire EV charging experience.
Hygge Energy Signed MoU with Think Gas to set up ‘Zero Emission Electric Mobility’ Solution, what is the way forward and strategic focus behind this deal?
Hygge’s platform is supporting the reduction of carbon content in transportation, commensurate with THINK Gas’s vision. When their CNG stations are equipped with further clean energy initiatives like EV charging through Hygge’s software platform, it will further enhance the clean energy experience, thereby strengthening the clean energy ecosystem.
With the help of Hygge’s platform, the experience of CNG filling can become smooth and streamlined by taking away the queueing and waiting time at filling stations through advance slot booking. The platform will also source renewable energy for EV charging, and hence maximize carbon credits for companies like THINK Gas in the clean fuel business.
Kindly elaborate on how distributed generation and the smart grid can come as a saviour for extensive energy access?
Although grid infrastructure has reached most remote areas in the country, a lot of villages suffer from prolonged blackouts and poor quality of electricity. Setting up distributed renewable generation such as solar PV and storage, and tracking, measuring and optimizing the generation based on applications, ensures energy accessibility.
One such project we are working on is based in Sohrarim village in the East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya. This project is in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Smart Village Movement (SVM) and the Government of Meghalaya, and is being driven by the vision of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma. We are working towards creating a self-sustaining remote community empowered by Hygge Energy’s platform. Through this partnership and our renewable models, we want to bring not only clean, sustainable and affordable electricity to the villages and remote communities of Meghalaya, but also focus on improving the quality of life in these areas by offering Hygge Energy’s platform for peer-to-peer trading of surplus clean energy harvested. In addition to promoting clean energy as the preferred choice for communities while enabling these schools to earn financial returns, we endeavour to create a social impact as well.
We aim to make the villages grid-independent to ensure local energy reliability, empower these villages to manage their electricity usage, and contribute to the growth of the local economy with a solution that is sustainable, scalable, adaptable and commercially profitable. We have also received interest from other state governments to use a similar business model to develop a water potability solution by providing harvested and optimized surplus electricity enabled by the Hygge Platform.
What kind of challenges the renewable industry is facing and how can be resolved?
The problems are multifold. Over 700 cities in 53 countries have committed to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. And yet, municipalities play no part in the distributed renewable energy business model, giving them no leverage to achieve this goal. Payback for solar PV can easily cross a decade, which is clearly not sufficient and an unattractive investment. Battery storage is not financeable due to lack of bankable revenue earning opportunity. Utilities oppose net metering programs because customers face very high electricity bills; moreover, net metering only benefits the developers, and leaves out every other stakeholder.
Hygge Energy aims to solve these problems by creating an equitable share of renewable energy among all stakeholders. To achieve this, we partner with utilities. It all begins with the Hygge Box, our proprietary IoT device that is sent to each participant in the program. The Hygge Box records the energy generated, consumed, and exported. Our platform facilitates the energy trading so that solar generation owners can sell their energy to non-solar consumers in their community. Utilities install local battery storage in the community, which physically trades the energy. Since solar generation owners sell their own surplus renewable energy to their neighbours, they are able to earn payback on their investment at a much faster rate. Utilities are able to restore their revenues by compensation from local energy trading, making it easy to justify their investment in local battery storage. As a result, non-solar consumers pay a fair and affordable electricity bill. Lastly, developers see the same profitable solar economics as before, except battery storage is now financeable due to continuous & bankable usage in local energy trading.
EV charging business is not profitable today in India. Our India entity aims to address this by using our software platform for the EV charging use case. When EV charging infrastructure is set up, the grid requires transformer upgrade, which costs a tremendous amount of money. Increased transformer size results in higher sanctioned load and electricity bills as well. The load factor on the grid is too high; as demand peaks for EV charging, the grid may not have the capacity to support it. There is also a lack of aggregation of carbon credits. The individual EV charging station operators are not in a position to consolidate carbon credits for monetization.
We aim to solve these problems through our software platform as well. With the help of the Hygge Box, it tracks the consumption and supply of renewable energy in real-time. Integration of rooftop solar reduces pressure on the distribution grid. There is also a great issue of non-performing renewable energy assets: because of the large number of outstanding payments due to renewable energy owners, the government fears that many projects run a high risk of becoming NPAs. The dues were pegged at Rs 9,403.58 crore at the end of 2019. In our model, non-performing renewable energy assets are utilized to provide grid parity rates. There is flexibility to charge a price that provides attractive ROI, and the ROI becomes even more attractive by tapping into the carbon trading market.
What are your future plans for business growth?
We are a B2B company that is focused on India as a potentially high-growth market. Our solution enables small entrepreneurs and corporates to hit the ground running with our next-gen EV charging solution that requires very little investment and yields high profitability. We are already in discussion with multiple fuel station retail companies to support their EV charging initiatives, and also help them create carbon offset at the corporate level. The same holds true for large campuses and national-level companies.
We are appointing franchisee in each district to take our solution to both rural and urban areas, including housing societies, the hospitality industry, malls, and public parking places. We see this as an opportunity of Rs. 150 crores for Hygge in the next 5 years.
Other than this, we are also partnering and collaborating with battery OEMs and EV manufacturers to create an integrated and seamless experience for our customers and EV drivers.
Any new project you are planning to introduce? Explain.
We are working with SVM (as mentioned earlier), and through them, we have the opportunity to scale our Chief Minister Youth Centre skill training labs, which operate on our platform purely through renewable energy. Not only have we demonstrated 24×7 availability of clean electricity to these labs, but we have also created a unique design to support their requirements to operate heavy short-term loads of heavy machinery, like lathe machines, grinding machines etc., as well as electrical space heating, without support from the grid.
We are also looking at use cases to provide power to shops run by the students graduating from these labs and creating a self-sustainable entrepreneur model and generating employment. Additionally, we are working on integrating potable water with renewable energy. The interest shown by governments in North-Eastern Indian states for such labs is in the thousands.
How do you see the growing ‘GW’ market in India?
Although India has done a great job in setting up large scale solar and bringing down associated costs, it still requires a transmission and distribution system. The threat of non-performing renewable energy assets looms ever larger and nearer with the massive amounts of outstanding payments due to renewable energy developers. India is projected to fall short of its installed solar capacity target of 100 GW by ~27% due to the slow uptake in rooftop solar. India set a target of 40 GW from rooftop solar by December 2022, but is projected to fall short of that target by 25 GW.
This shortfall is a major concern. Hygge’s solution ensures that rooftop solar owners earn payback on their installations at a much faster rate, making it an attractive and profitable investment. This solution is not only renewables-based, but also avoids investment in transmission and distribution system, while creating resiliency locally. This is the area where Hygge has created a solution to support growth in this market.
Utility-based Microgrid Solutions and your expertise in this domain?
We are working on projects with utilities in North America, wherein we are providing community net metering in selected communities. Our projects have demonstrated how a local community can increase solar penetration and adoption to almost 50% without affecting the revenues for the utilities, and justifying a community-size battery storage financed under the regulated utility structure that not only makes a profitable business model for the utilities, but also creates community resiliency at the time when we are seeing days and sometimes weeks of power outages in North America.
Nobody can stop the solar revolution. With the COP26 targets, utilities are finding it harder and harder to maintain their existence due to reduced revenue, which is a result of increased solar penetration. We need to create a profitable utility structure that can actively promote solar energy. Our projects in North America aim to provide utilities and municipalities with an alternative to feed-in-tariff and net metering to reduce the cost of energy delivery. Our platform also links carbon credits to renewable generation, making it profitable for prosumers such as rooftop solar owners to invest in renewable generation without subsidies. The results from our projects would provide inputs to the relevant government bodies to design a next-generation community net metering program making renewable energy cost-effective and sustainable without subsidies.