Get to know Switchgrid - Techstars Sustainability Paris Accelerator

May 14, 2024

Matthieu BOUSSARD, CEO & Co-founder | Thomas CARLI, CTO & Co-founder Switchgrid decarbonizes commercial buildings by automatically reducing their electricity consumption during moments of tension on the grid.

1. Describe the problem/the industry that you are trying to mediate (and precise the UN SDG-s you are solving).

Switchgrid is a software solution that helps decarbonize commercial buildings by automatically reducing their electricity consumption during moments of tension on the grid. Indeed, the price and pollution of electricity varies throughout the day. In the afternoon, when you have low demand, you can meet that demand with nuclear plants and renewables like solar panels. However, when the demand is higher, especially during early mornings and late afternoons, you need to turn on gas (and sometimes coal) plants to produce enough electricity to meet the demand. That is why (almost) every day, you end up with two peaks, from 7 to 10 am and from 6 to 8 pm, during which electricity is expensive, polluting, and puts an ageing grid under pressure.

And on the consumer side, commercial buildings account for 30% of the consumption during those peaks and have systems in place that enable them to pilot their consumption.

So in a nutshell, we connect to the buildings with a software-only solution, link them to the electricity markets, get paid for adjusting their consumption during moments of tension on the grid, and share our Revenues with them to align interests.

2. How did the idea to create the company come to mind? How did your team come to be?

Demand-response methods are a necessary aspect of a successful energy transition, and might be the most important one in order to guarantee the long-term stability of the electric grid. Not only do they allow for the management of electricity demand in order to reduce peak load, but they also improve system reliability.

On top of this, the topic is incredibly stimulating from an intellectual point of view. Every day, we get to deep-dive in topics such as smart grids, electricity pollution and prices, and building management.

As a result, when we discovered the topic, we simply knew we wanted to dedicate our time to this. There just isn’t another topic as rewarding as this one.

3. Why did you choose to participate in the Paris Techstars accelerator program? What are you looking forward to the most?

Participating in the Paris Techstars accelerator program is incredibly helpful for a startup like Switchgrid. The program offers unparalleled resources and mentorship, and can help you solve any challenge you come across as an early stage startup.

After only a few weeks, we have received extremely helpful advice on our Go To Market strategy, improvements we could make to the product, and also very valuable operational insights on how to improve how we work on a daily basis. As a company, Techstars is the ideal partner to help us reach the next milestone on our growth trajectory.

On top of this, the whole application process was really smooth and also felt like a great opportunity to get constructive feedback by experienced people. After applying, we had two interviews where we discussed our idea and progress, and afterwards came to pitch in person. So definitely not too much compared to what you get.

4. What are you the most proud of in your initial journey with your company?

The biggest milestone is definitely the first time we reduced the consumption during a moment of tension on the grid (load shaving event).

Indeed, in order to do so, you need to: 1. Onboard enough customers so that you can have a sizeable impact when you reduce the consumption 2. Ensure that you can reduce the consumption in a seamless way

As a result, reducing the consumption for the first time was the ultimate validation of our MVP. We finally proved that we could integrate with the electricity markets, that we were able to impact the consumption, and these changes in consumption did not impact the operations of the buildings & households.

Of course there is still a lot to do but this was clearly the best milestone so far!

5. How do you plan to measure the positive impact of your company in the next 5 years?

We will measure our impact by calculating the tons of CO2 we save. Indeed, our main impact is that we shift some consumption from times when electricity is produced with polluting sources such as gas and coal to times when electricity is produced with nuclear and renewables (this is called the carbon intensity of electricity).

As a result, we need to develop our own way to measure the impact of our company in terms of CO2 emissions avoided. While we are open for feedback, as of today we plan to calculate it in the following way:

- We find the carbon intensity of the most polluting kWh consumed during a moment of peak, that we call CIreference - We find the carbon intensity of the most polluting kWh consumed during the hour at which we shift the consumption, that we call CInew - We calculate how much consumption we have shaved, which we call kWshaved - We then have the following formula, for each time we shift electricity demand: Impact = kWshaved * (CIreference - CInew)

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