Jim Laidlaw is the founder of energy company Boxergy, supported through the Climate-KIC Accelerator at ECCI. His start-up is one of five Climate-KIC supported companies selected to pitch at the investor gathering Cleantech Innovate in London.
We caught up with him on the train down to find out more about how he and his team aim to revolutionise the domestic energy market.
What is your company and product all about, in a nutshell?
Boxergy is focused on making domestic energy cheaper, smarter and greener. We are leveraging the falling costs of renewables & batteries, coupled with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), to build a network of AI-controlled storage units to replace gas boilers and heat and power homes using renewables.
They will be charged from renewables and give people access to energy even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing – to smooth out the peaks and troughs. Perfect for the UK with its changeable weather!
Our aim is to save customers 40% on energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint by 80%.
Was there a lightbulb moment at the start?
Having solar installed on my roof and driving an EV made me crave energy independence. After reading about heat pumps, I suddenly realised I could eliminate fossil fuels completely and save money. My feeling is that people will only really go green when it saves them money.
What market are you targeting?
We are targeting the £4bn domestic boiler replacement market. We can address around 85% of this.
What is your background?
I come from the oil industry and am a successful entrepreneur. Jamie Watson, our Chief Technical Officer, has spun a company out of a university and sold it on. Andrew Aldridge, our Chief Finance Officer, has run major cleantech projects both hear and internationally.
Please tell us about how your product works.
Our product buys electricity energy when it’s cheap and green. It changes some of it to heat and stores this, and it stores the remainder in electrical batteries.
As our customers use their energy, it is supplied from our stores rather than from the grid. As we learn when our customers use most energy, we schedule energy purchases to suit them.
We also take advantage of the times they are not using energy to sell excess capacity. This saves more money for our customers without inconveniencing them.
What plans do you have for expansion?
We are five people at the moment. We’re in the early stages of the business, proving the concept. Once we’ve done that we’ll move to scale the business.
We plan to sell 200 units in three years, controlling 10MW of heat demand and 5MW of electrical demand. To achieve this, we need a team of 14. This will see us become a major player in the home energy storage market.
What’s your ultimate goal?
To reduce our carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels to heat and power homes. To do this, Boxergy will be cheaper to install and run than a gas boiler.
Have you hit any recent milestones?
We recently hired an installation engineer and are closing in on our first sales. We won a £50,000 Scottish EDGE award and a place on the Energy Systems Catapult accelerator programme.
And tomorrow we’re presenting at Cleantech Innovate, which is a great fit as obviously we are as cleantech as it comes! It’s a fantastic event to meet investors in cleantech and for them to see emerging technologies in that space.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
Raising money is required to successfully launch a business. Boxergy is no exception in finding this a challenge!
What are your views on Scotland’s sustainability scene?
Scotland is leading the world on decarbonising electricity. The Scottish electricity grid is extremely green and that’s an inspiration for the rest of the world.
Electrifying heat is our next great challenge. Boxergy is here to help.
What role did the support offered to you by the Climate-KIC Accelerator at ECCI play in your success?
The Climate-KIC Accelerator at ECCI gave me time to build a team. It takes a long time to persuade people to give up their cushy jobs and come and join a start-up!
The support from ECCI gave me the space to hone my ideas and recruit key people into the business.
We have a great idea, but it’s the team that’s going to make it happen.
What is your greatest achievement?
Being a halfway decent dad to two wonderful daughters.
How do you relax?
I play golf and spend time with my family.