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BP solar firm buys Irish tech startup Ubiworx as 'smart home' battle hots up

BP’s new solar arm is steeling itself to battle global energy and tech giants for a slice of the burgeoning “smart home” market with the acquisition of an Irish tech start-up.
Lightsource BP will buy software developer Ubiworx for an undisclosed figure after two years working alongside the “internet of things” specialist. The acquisition secures the group’s plans to implement a global roll-out of its energy systems following a ?150m investment from oil major BP late last year.
The Lightsource system brings together a solar panel, battery and electric vehicle charger to create a digital system which responds on a second-by-second basis to changes in the power market.
BP solar firm buys Irish tech startup Ubiworx as 'smart home' battle hots up

Electric vehicle charging could change the way consumers look at their energy use, says Lightsource BP

Credit:
Peter Byrne/PA
 
By using artificial intelligence and algorithms, Lightsource customers are always using the cheapest possible power with no upfront technology costs.
The digital energy system is also set to create “virtual power plants” by simultaneously releasing stored power from groups of batteries and vehicles to help National Grid meet customer demand when capacity is in short supply.
Kareen Boutonnat, chief operating officer of Lightsource BP, told The Sunday Telegraph that the UK is at the forefront of regulatory developments which could mean “we are not far off” customers earning money by switching their energy use from the grid to their car and solar batteries when demand is high.
In a major vote of confidence for the booming home energy space, BP bought a 43pc stake in Lightsource late last year for ?150m. It was the oil major’s first significant solar power investment since turning its back on the sector in 2011.
“We cannot underestimate the power of the home and its vital role in shaping this new energy future,” Ms Boutonnat said.
Ms Boutonnat added that the electric vehicle market is likely to drive demand for smarter home energy solutions by tripling the energy use of an average household. Many households are still apathetic about their energy use, she said, “but the minute they have an electric vehicle their behaviour changes”.
“This is becoming a very competitive market and a very attractive space,” she said.
The Ubiworx deal will also give Lightsource BP access to systems which are used by large industrial users, opening a wider market to the energy-tech company, she added.
Which cities would need the most solar panels to meet demand?
The company struck the deal with Ubiworx amid a rising number of acquisitions in the smart home technology space.
Centrica, the owner of British Gas, said last week it will begin a trial of the blockchain technology company it bought last year.
LO3 Energy systems will be used to create a local energy market in Cornwall, where users can buy and sell energy directly with each other through  peer-to-peer trading.
Mark Hanafin, of Centrica, said: “The proliferation of digital technologies is having a significant impact on the energy industry, allowing us to find new and better ways of delivering energy and services to our customers.”
Ms Boutonnat added: “More connected, intelligent, efficient and sustainable energy systems will turn ordinary homes into ‘self-learning smart homes’.”
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