“If it’s broken, find a way to fix it.”

For Somayeh Taheri, a former postdoc researcher at the University of Manchester, this became alarmingly apparent when analysing climate change and fuel poverty data in her research at the School of Environment, Education and Development.

On discovering that many people couldn’t afford to heat their homes due to a broken cycle in the energy market, Taheri was unwilling to turn a blind eye and set about solving the issue.

She began to see artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain as pathways that could shift the use of renewables into the mainstream of a fragmented UK energy market. Months later in 2017 UrbanChain was born.

The company is now undergoing a Series A fundraising process and will soon move its staff from the Greenheys building to the £21m, 91,000 sq ft Base at Manchester Science Park.

Taheri tells TechBlast: “In UrbanChain’s first two years we entered 30 competitions and won them all which was a non-traditional way of fundraising for an early stage business.

“With growth since and ambitions to expand overseas we are in dialogue with a variety of investors and are excited about taking the next steps in our journey.”

Towards the end of last year UrbanChain welcomed Together Housing Association to its P2P alternative energy market.

Two hotels were also onboarded in 2021, joining a long list of corporate consumers to have already made the switch.

UrbanChain’s P2P green energy exchange model enables consumers to place an exact order for electricity and for generators to meet that order.

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In other words they buy and sell green energy amongst themselves in an alternative, safe and unique energy market.

The reason behind UrbanChain’s growth is three-fold. Once part of UrbanChain’s platform and market, consumers buy 100% green energy, save at least 25% on energy bills, while energy generators get at least 25% better margins and earn more money in the medium to long term.

“As the only British renewable energy exchange we are the future of the energy market,” says Taheri. “And we are here now, have been for a while.

“There is a cost of living crisis and energy bills are playing a very significant role. We started UrbanChain five years ago with a mission to alleviate fuel poverty and to fix a broken inefficient energy market model.

“It’s a model that fundamentally remains the same and sees consumers hit with rising bills.

“In essence, green energy is affected by ups and downs in the gas market. Renewables are intermittent and that green energy is fed into the wholesale market before customers buy it back at much higher prices. We have cut this out through the creation of the peer-to-peer market.”

She adds: “With that in mind, corporate entities are of course reviewing their energy use in-line with net zero targets and we are well positioned to onboard them into the renewable energy exchange given the amount of renewable energy generators we have in our exchange.”

Clients of UrbanChain include local authorities, housing associations, corporates from sectors including commercial property, retail, manufacturing, hospitality and leisure. Other clients are generators (power producers) and their asset managers.

The company is set to move to Base this summer, a hub for Industry 4.0, computer engineering, energy technology and low carbon, robotics, light manufacturing, materials science, gaming and animation businesses.