“We Give Our Customers More Freedom”

Start-up Interview – February 21, 2024

Wilhelm Appler is responsible for financial and business development at the German start-up clever-PV.

The young company clever-PV has developed a user-friendly app that allows you to adjust your electricity consumption according to your PV system’s output and to dynamic electricity tariffs.

Wilhelm Appler is responsible for financial and business development and explains the company’s concept.

Mr. Appler, how was clever-PV founded?

The company was established after one of the founders discovered a gap in the market. In 2021, Danny Klose, one of the two managing directors, realized that there was no easy-to-use software product on the market that would allow his EV-charger to communicate with his PV system. All available options required expensive hardware, such as control panels and gateways.

Danny, a mechanical engineer who was working for a top German company at that time, decided to team up with his brother Hannes, a software engineer, to develop a private solution that didn’t require any new hardware.

So the project was only intended for their own personal use at first?

Exactly. And you know how it goes: Soon their friends, acquaintances and neighbors wanted to use their software, too. The two brothers eventually used their spare time to build an IT platform. By 2022, it had around 3,000 users and it became too much for them to handle on the side. The two brothers quit their jobs and founded the company clever-PV to turn their software into a smartphone app.

This is what sets clever-PV apart from traditional start-ups that aim to become a business from the start. Instead, we were urged by our customers to found the company.

You said the app doesn’t require any additional hardware. How is that possible?

Most PV system inverters today communicate with the manufacturer’s portal, so customers usually already have the required hardware. EV-chargers also have the necessary data infrastructure. All that’s left to do is to control the devices in the house and process their data to ensure that they can communicate with each other and act accordingly.

We’ve integrated inverters from 25 manufacturers and more than 60 EV-charger models in our app by now. The benefit of our system over solutions provided by manufacturers themselves is that it is independent from manufacturers.

What can customers do with your app?

First and foremost, they can use it to optimize their self-consumption. For example, they can have their car automatically charged whenever their PV system is generating electricity. The goal is to minimize the amount of electricity from the power grid and use as much of your self-generated electricity as possible. Heat pumps and even domestic appliances, such as washing machines or dishwashers, can be controlled using our app.

If the devices are not equipped for data communication, you can simply plug them into a smart power socket that is controlled via WIFI. Residential storage systems can also be integrated into the system. When your PV system is generating electricity and you want your car or your storage system to be charged first, you can also prioritize components.

And what sets your system apart from the platforms provided by inverter or other kinds of manufacturers?

It’s true, many inverter or EV-charger manufacturers have already implemented an energy management system. The main difference, however, is that these solutions are usually only compatible with devices of their own brand. This really restricts customers in their choice of devices, and they might need to buy expensive EV-chargers without phase switching so they can use PV surplus charging.

We give our customers more freedom in their choice of devices. What’s more, we focus all our efforts on this app, whereas many hardware manufacturers only see their app as a by-product. That’s why our app is much easier to use and has better features.

In the future, to minimize electricity costs, prosumers will be able to shift their electricity consumption to cheaper times of the day based on dynamic tariffs. Is your system prepared for this?

We recently released an update that does just that. It allows you to charge your electric car at night at the cheapest grid tariff, for example. In the future, you could theoretically use the app to feed electricity from your car's battery or your storage system back into the grid when electricity prices are favorable – when talking about vehicles, this is referred to as “bidirectional charging”. This concept is currently being held up by regulatory issues, but once those are resolved, you’ll be able to use our software for this, too.

You said your app is user-friendly. Are your prices just as friendly?

Yes, of course! You can test our app for free for two weeks, after that it costs three euros per month if you want to continue using all functions. The basic version is free of charge. This approach has helped us attract 21,000 registered users within a short period of time. These users really appreciate our open roadmap where they can submit suggestions for additional functions. This is an important source of feedback for us and helps our system grow.

Is your app only available in Germany or also in neighboring countries?

We’ve already expanded to Switzerland and Austria. While there are differences between the countries when it comes to regulatory details (in Switzerland, for example, residential electricity suppliers are still monopolists), we’ve already customized our app for each country. But we’re already getting requests from other countries, such as the Netherlands.

How important are prosumer systems of this kind for the energy transition?

Very important. Renewable sources of energy are volatile, which is why it is important to adjust electricity consumers that are not tied to specific times of the day to match the supply. For this reason, dynamic electricity tariffs will also become more significant in the future. Flexible demand can therefore contribute to the stability of the power grid.

What hopes do you have for EM-Power?

For one thing, we’d like to see where the market is heading. But of course we’d also like to present ourselves to potential customers and we’re open to teaming up with new business partners. We also offer our app as a white label product, so manufacturers can use it to retain customers.

Start-ups @ The smarter E Europe 2024

Are you a start-up, too? Would you like to present your ideas and products for an efficient, clean and reliable power supply to a large, international audience while keeping your costs to a minimum? With its range of packages and numerous free networking opportunities, the Start-up Arena at The smarter E Europe in Munich from June 19 to 21, 2024, could be the perfect solution for you.

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