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Renewable Energy Social Marketplace

Imagine you wanted to make the shift to an alternative energy source, how would you do it? Consumers, financiers, and technical providers will be able to directly connect through our online social marketplace: closing the access gap to renewable energy. Whether the consumer is an individual, a school, or neighborhood, they can find the resources and options they need: banks to finance a program, a government grant for their project, or the technical experts to make it happen. Local options will be showcased, allowing each community to build and tailor their options organically. Consumers, financiers, and technical providers can post a call for proposals for a specific project or just start a conversation with potential partners.

Photo of Katherine Nammacher
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On the Renewable Energy Social Marketplace, there are 3 different types of users directly serving the market: Energy Seekers, Energy Providers, and Energy Funders

To include future business models, we have also included Energy Commercializers, a special group of people helping to re-think the business models currently available in renewable energy.

Everyone will have a social profile and be able to put up calls for bids. There will also be a type of ‘wall’ function where other users could ask questions and make comments. After collaborating the users will be able to rate their experience with each other.

One example of this would be if an ‘Energy Seekers’ could construct a call for proposals to add solar panels to a neighborhood school. The ‘Providers’ and ‘Commercializers’ and ‘Funders’ would then be able to bid on the project. The ‘Seeker’ will then choose amongst the bidders. The benefit is that the Seekers are essentially crowdsourcing energy ideas and can choose those that best meet their needs.

User Details:

‘Energy Seekers’: These are either communities (could be the government or an organization of citizens), individuals, NGOs or companies. They have a particular problem they feel could be solved by alternative energy technology. An example would be a community wishing to convert its public transportation system to electric, an NGO that wants to install a micro-grid in a rural village, a social entrepreneur who wants to begin selling solar lights in their town, or someone who doesn’t know what they want but has the specs of their home/business and wants ideas.

‘Energy Providers’: These are companies providing various forms of alternative energy be it biodiesel, solar, wind, micro-grids, solar lights, biomass burning cook stoves etc. They have the technology but may need financing or support developing a working business model around it.

‘Energy Commercializers’: These are those working on the business model side of energy, maybe they develop marketing strategies, offer innovative sales and distribution models, or pay as you go technology. They will be able to collaborate with providers on a bid to bring a better model to the ‘Seeker’.

‘Funders’: Can be individuals but more oftentimes will be finance organizations (micro or otherwise), impact investors or venture capitalists. They will be vetted for their interest in social impact and will have to sign a best practices agreement before joining the platform.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This benefits the current and future players in the renewable energy marketplace. The way that Craigslist or eBay facilitated connections to happen by providing an online platform, we are adding an additional layer of communication to make getting renewable energy easier. Interested teachers can see the options available to their school, whether with energy providers or potential financiers. Homeowners that don't have the funds to install renewable energy can find a grant focused on this switch in their area and the company to make the switch. Addressing all needs in one marketplace - the demand, the supply, and the money - we give people the space to proactively seek solutions tailored to their needs.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

Currently the available marketplaces are geared towards individual homeowners with the capital to finance such changes. This online network makes the entire idea of switching to renewable energy more accessible for a variety of different organizations and groups. This easy access, and partnerships built between technical providers and financiers, will allow the idea of switching to renewable energy easier.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We would first test the concept on a very small and localized scale. Using a lean start-up methodology of 'concierge service' where we will provide our service to a very small number of people, learn from this, iterate, and organically grow. To start, we would find 5 different types of consumers. Working exclusively with those groups/individuals, we would help them identify their best renewable energy options. Then we would reach out to current providers (and funders depending on the need) and facilitate that connection. From learning about this type of interaction with the customers, funders, and providers, we would then do a second iteration of this. During this time, we would also build a minimum viable product of a marketplace and start using this to facilitate those connections. This approach would allow us to learn and pivot accordingly.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We would love to hear about: - attempts to do similar partnerships, including any models to specifically show - any alternative models or financing options to complete renewable energy projects. - examples of this in other sectors - specific groups/individuals/businesses with whom that we could test this idea out - general feedback to build on this idea - different ways to test this

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An OpenIDEO Meetup


Join the conversation:

Photo of Oriol Segarra

Hi Katherine and team!

We are developing a similar idea here in OpenIDEO as well. Our approach is more on a non-profit direction, the idea is to give mentorship and tools to the people so they can drive their own energy projects. We could exchange some ideas !

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