Innovator Series Third Interview - Energy entrepreneur turns fear into excitement

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Innovator Series Third Interview - Energy entrepreneur turns fear into excitement

10 Jul 2020 | BusinessNZ Energy Council

Energy entrepreneur turns fear into excitement

There’s a common saying that no matter how terrible the day, the sun will rise the next morning.

When a shroud of Covid-19 negativity darkened the world, Eco Geek Business Development Manager Jonny Parker saw that the sun might shine even brighter than it had before.

“The most damaging thing is when people start talking of recessions and depressions occurring – that kind of language doesn’t help anybody because it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

He says an element of fear clicked in.

“We are a young business and if everything is going to fall over then people’s focus on sustainability is going to change from getting quite progressive to what can we do just to survive and put the environment on the backburner.

After the emotion of what ‘could’ occur subsided, he had a moment of clarity.

“On the other side of the scale is this complete excitement for the opportunity this meant for sustainability and the environment to take a front seat.

“There was excitement in the way things could change especially in the way we work and travel.”

The business

Eco Geek was founded in 2018 to help facilities and fleets move away from fossil fuels use as quickly as possible through energy efficiency and electrification.

To do this it became both a consultant and supplier of simple technologies to speed up change and make the pathway simple.

Electric vehicle charging systems quickly became its specialty as it learnt how to integrate smarter charging systems to allow EVs to scale without causing problems for the facility or the wider grid.

It also introduced a billing solution to help facilities recover costs from users or manage access for a variety of staff and needs.

As a result, a second start-up called Thundergrid was born to manage EV charging equipment according to priority, availability of power, and network peaks.

It developed this as dedicated service as it wanted to solve the energy management problem before it becomes a roadblock to the wider adoption of EVs.

Getting through Covid

Like most businesses, income stopped as many installation projects could not be completed. Consultancy work came to a halt while clients went into survival mode.

Mr Parker says each day he floated between complete fear and anxiety to pure excitement over the opportunities for change the businesses had before them.

He says diversification was a major benefit and possibly what kept the businesses afloat.

“Diversification of products and services has been good for our customers and also great for our own survival in uncertain times. I no longer worry about offering multiple products and services to aid electrification.

“So long as you manage things well and have the expertise to back it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be diversified in your products and services.”

Since coming out of lockdown there has been a large surge in government and corporate clients pushing through sustainability initiatives post-covid.

“We believe the ‘big pause’ in New Zealand from lockdown has helped us all have some clarity over what’s important,” Mr Parker says.

“I also believe most of us can now agree it’s time to stop burning things in order to heat our buildings or move our cars.”