arbnco: Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency

Scottish proptech firm arbnco  was awarded funding through the Government’s innovation competition “Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency” to develop a Digital Energy Efficiency Platform aimed at UK’s 5.7m Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs).

By providing SMEs with critical insight into their energy use and tailored retrofit recommendations, based on an assessment of the energy performance of their building and patterns in their energy consumption, arbnco aim to help thousands of businesses become more energy efficient.

Energy Systems Catapult is providing arbnco with Business Model Innovation support to find a sustainable model that facilitates investment in energy efficiency retrofit/refurbishment projects by SMEs in the UK.

The Challenge

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 99% of businesses in the UK and are responsible for over 50% of energy use.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched the Boosting Access for SMEs to Energy Efficiency (BASEE) competition to accelerate the growth of the energy services market for SMEs by driving down transaction costs and promoting third party investment in small-scale energy efficiency projects.

BASEE is making available £6m of funding for innovative, scalable business models or solutions that facilitate investment for small energy efficiency retrofit/refurbishment projects in commercial and industrial buildings in the UK.

The Innovation

arbnco is a building modelling and simulation company, based in Glasgow, that uses pioneering technology to manage Indoor Environmental Quality, scope energy efficiency retrofit, assess renewable deployment and stress-test building design for climate change.

Active across multiple sectors, arbnco are a leading software provider to the UK real estate market, enabling some of the world’s largest property investors to make better and quicker decisions regarding the performance and regulatory compliance of commercial property.

Arbnco’s Digital Energy Efficiency Platform (DEEP) is aiming to eliminate the common barriers SMEs face in tackling energy efficiency, such as high upfront and transactional costs, economies of scale and difficulties accessing finance.

DEEP will utilise arbnco’s proprietary software, arbn estates, which centralises building data sets and delivers bespoke retrofit strategies tailored to each individual building.

The platform will generate a bespoke list of energy efficiency measures for SMEs, including costs and finance options, and a business case for implementing energy efficiency.

The platform will also allow potential aggregators to build portfolios of energy efficiency improvement measures across local regions, sectors or improvement types. It is envisioned that projects could be grouped together to achieve economies of scale and favourable financial terms for SMEs. arbnco will work with manufacturers and specialist financial firms to pool together retrofit projects, for example combining ten £20,000 lighting projects to create a £2m retrofit project.

However, arbnco need to find a sustainable business model that facilitates investment in energy efficiency retrofit/refurbishment projects by SMEs in the UK.

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The Solution

Energy Systems Catapult is providing expertise to the BASEE project in the form of support from our Business Model Innovation capability.

Initially the Catapult will explore the overall feasibility of the current business model that arbnco has in place, including segmenting the target market and looking at the value proposition they are offering potential customers.

That means customers from both ends of the value chain: the manufacturers and installers of the energy efficiency products that arbnco wants to promote, and the small businesses that will ultimately procure those products to have installed.

We will then explore alternative options for the business model, from basic match-making through to a full-service platform including financing.

arbnco and the Catapult will work with a stakeholder group to develop the platform through a series of interviews and surveys to fully understand the issues SMEs face in implementing energy efficiency measures.

The stakeholder group includes the Federation of Small Businesses, Durham Council, Bridgend County Borough Council, Capitas Finance, Cyan Finance and the GC Business Growth Hub.

Andrew Stewart, research and development manager, arbnco, said:

"The first phase of work with Energy Systems Catapult focused on the technical feasibility of the platform, a review of potential business models and understanding of the obstacles that SMEs face when it comes to energy efficiency. Bringing Centrica on board for the next phase will provide greater insight and access to SMEs as we look to roll the platform out nationwide.”

The Impact

arbnco won a £641,000 contract to team up with Centrica and BEIS to further develop their DEEP platform for SMEs – through phase two of the BASEE competition.

arbnco is deploying the prototype for pilots in the central belt of Scotland, the West Midlands and Bridgend, Wales.

Led by arbnco, the project brings together expertise from multinational energy and services company Centrica, Energy Systems Catapult, Aston Business School, Durham County Council and sustainable finance company Cyan Finance.

The platform will use data sources such as energy consumption and building energy performance to generate a bespoke list of recommendations.

Figure 1: arbnco co-founders Simon West and Maureen Eisbrenner with lead scientist Dr Parag Rastogi

Figure 1: arbnco co-founders Simon West and Maureen Eisbrenner with lead scientist Dr Parag Rastogi

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