With its solar power generator kit that is easily installed and operated by ordinary consumers, Portuguese solar electronics startup BeON Energy is now primed to take advantage of the country's ambitious new plans for the production of renewable energy.
Driven by stark warnings of the impact of climate change and the declining cost of producing renewable energy, the Portuguese government plans to double the production of renewable energies by 2030. As part of the country's National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), 47% of Portugal's energy needs – or 28.8 gigawatts – are to be supplied by renewable sources by 2030. Solar power will account for a quarter of the total.
Central to the Portuguese plans are the reduction of imports of traditional energy and the development of new energy generating capacity. With decentralized energy production set to play a vital role in Portugal's energy transition, BeON Energy CEO and founder Rui Rodrigues spoke to CompassList about his vision for solar power generation and the bright future he sees for his Lisbon-based company.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. What inspired you to create BeON energy?
A. We wanted to democratize renewables and solar energy. Our solution was to turn a solar panel into a household appliance that can be installed by anyone, for the price of a fridge or a TV. The aim is that with these appliances everyone can participate in the effort to prevent climate change and have the system pay for itself with the energy produced, so that everyone can have renewable energy for free.
Tell us about your solutions and products.
We offer a solar power plant in a box. A kit which includes a powerful solar panel, a support frame, the BeON plug-in microinverter and a power cord to plug in [to a wall socket] just like any household appliance. We also provide tools to monitor and control energy production, consumption and storage. A microinverter is an inverter for a solar panel which makes it an independent solar system. BeON Energy has developed this device by enabling it to be plugged into the wall, allowing a solar panel to deliver energy to the house by using the existing electrical wiring and without requiring expert installation or costs.
Employing manufacturing systems based on the Six Sigma and Rex X quality methodologies, BeON has developed two main products: BeON 1 with a microinverter and one solar panel, and BeON 2 with a microinverter and two independent energy-producing panels. Both have a guaranteed duration of 25 years.
BeON 1 is the only inverter in the world matching any PV panel's warranty and has held the world record for inverter reliability since 2015, with zero returns. It also has IP68 protection (guaranteed to be waterproof), dual-core control technology, maximum isolation from corrosion and extreme weather, and it operates under water.
BeON 2 connects to two independent panels of up to 300W. It includes a double MPPT tracker for maximum performance in the shade, 100% rust-proof aluminum alloy casing with heat-sink control, maximum power under extreme temperatures and heat-removing BeON cool gel technology for fast CPU cooling.
What is your business model and how are sales so far?
We provide complete systems for energy utility companies. They, in turn, allow their customers to produce their own energy with our system and to connect with their electrical company in a win-win partnership. We are providing a photovoltaic system for consumers to be their own producers, installers and managers of renewable energy. However, we have a B2B model. Our clients are the utilities themselves not the final end consumers. The utilities we target are those with business models based on a partnership with the prosumer, that is a consumer producing their own energy.
To date, we have had sales of €5 million and have been profitable every year since our formation in 2015.
Can you discuss investments to date and any funding plans?
I have invested €500,000 and the company is still fully owned by myself. We are planning to launch a funding round in 2020, which will be the biggest ever in Portugal and the largest [Series] A round in the world for the energy sector.
Can you discuss your development and milestones to date?
We've had great partners from the start who loved our product, put in large orders and made the system available to millions of people.
In 2017, BeON Energy won the Free Electrons Startup Leader Award from the Free Electrons global accelerator program. The award was worth US$175,000 and the contest involved 12 finalists from over 450 applicants.
Free Electrons is an accelerator programme that aims to connect startups with leading utility companies to transform the energy market through new ideas. We discovered a new world of technology related to the utilities sector that opened doors for BeON Energy’s help in the utilities' transformation process, starting with our microinverter. As a result, solar systems can be sold anywhere and as DIY kits, lowering costs and engaging people directly in renewable technologies.
After the program, we felt we could go further. We went back to the tech drawing board during 2018 and came up with revolutionary technology for IoT that is still being developed.
BeON was also among the #SET100 2018, the best 100 start-ups working on the global energy transition selected by the World Energy Congress, and was the winner of the energy category at the Madrid South Summit in October 2018. After winning the award, we received a lot of contacts. Many partners want to work with us, especially in Spain at a time when the country is setting itself up to be a leader in the solar energy prosumer sector.
Could you elaborate on the company's future plans?
I can tell you our plans for the next two years. In 2019, we would like to complete our tech ecosystem which will revolutionize IoT. It will also ramp up our international distribution platform. In financing, we would like to remain profitable and obtain a few million in government innovation funding. In 2020, we want to raise our Series A and exponentially grow sales.
Do you have competitors?
There are many companies developing solar inverters and energy IoT. However, I am not aware of any company developing inverters specifically for socket plug-in, nor developing prosumer/utility tool kits. We are breaking new ground in deep tech.
Can you tell us about your team and vision?
We are mostly hardcore engineers who love gadgets and make the best products we can. Recently we have been growing thanks to [the arrival of] several people from Fortune 500 companies in positions from marketing, to sales and operations. They are joining us because they think we can be the next unicorn company and relate to our drive to do good things for the world.
BeON Energy's goal is to develop technologies that can help to save the world. We will do everything in our power to stop climate change and to get everyone on the planet involved. To do it with cool, amazing tech will add a lot of fun to the ride.