Grønn Kontakt UK, on completing the energy circle with e-mobility
Grønn Kontakt is an electric vehicle charge point operator. Active in Norway, Sweden, Germany, the UK and Ireland, it is part of Norwegian government-owned utility Statkraft, Europe’s largest renewable energy producer. We spoke to Anthony Hinde, Grønn Kontakt’s Managing Director for UK and Ireland since January this year, when Grønn Kontakt acquired Vattenfall’s UK e-mobility business which Anthony also managed. With a background in engineering, practical experience of the heat recovery and geothermal industries and an already interesting consolidation journey in the EV industry, we were interested in what he had to say about the UK market and Grønn Kontakt’s plans there.
An interview with Anthony Hilde, Managing Director at Grønn Kontakt
We are a subsidiary of the Norwegian utility, Statkraft, which has a 125-year history of developing clean energy power plants and producing energy – originally from hydropower but, in recent years, also from wind and solar.
Norway is a few years ahead in terms of energy transition and EV penetration is very high. As Grønn Kontakt is already well established there, with significant public charging assets, we benefit from gaining a great deal of data. As well as being excellent for informing our business model, we can also use the learning to open up new geographical markets.
We also have a strong presence in Germany. Prior to acquiring Vattenfall’s e-mobility business, Statkraft also acquired two German e-mobility companies, E-Wald and eeMobility - the latter interesting because it offers a subscription charging service based on a fixed monthly fee.
The UK business has evolved more organically, from just a handful of people a couple of years ago until the purchase of Vattenfall’s e-mobility business, which is where I came from. The objective was to accelerate UK market entry through Vattenfall’s pipeline of projects and market knowledge.
Can you give an overview of Grønn Kontakt‘s activities?
E-mobility is obviously just part of a bigger solution to climate change which is about electrification using solar, wind, hydro and optimisation. Ultimately, Statkraft is a renewable energy company, completing the circle from generating energy to delivering it to customers and, as such, we have in-house solar capabilities, virtual power plant systems, grid-scale and business battery storage. Grønn Kontakt is about linking EVs into all of that as effectively and efficiently as possible, to power vehicles
in an environmentally sound way.
Grønn Kontakt is also on a journey towards being carbon neutral internally through; for example, its own 100% electric fleet and other carbon offsetting activities.
Your strategy is ‘Powering a green future.’
Can you tell us about that?
" The UK is an innovative and high speed market but fast development has been at the cost of charging solution quality and reliability "
The UK is an innovative and high speed market but fast development has been at the cost of charging solution quality and reliability in many places so we feel there is definitely an opportunity for a quality provider, offering best-in-class software and hardware, public charging in the right locations and turn-key charging solutions for easy business integration.
What does the UK market look like?
The majority of all UK charge points are installed in homes, in driveways, and most charging takes place at home with top-up at public facilities. It’s really important that public and workplace charging become increasingly available, reliable and robust in order to build the driver confidence necessary to stimulate EV adoption, particularly because many car drivers do not have private driveways.
We continue to invest in public charging as it is an important component of our business model. We have both AC chargers and rapid DC chargers (>50kW). It’s vital that these are located correctly, both at the right place along main routes and alongside other facilities or experiences; for example, shopping areas and service stations. The data we have from Norway on what works is highly valuable in this respect.
We also aim to be a key player in business charging which requires smart chargers for load balancing, billing etc. and a powerful back office system to manage it all.
What is your strategy for the UK?
This brings with it quite a big opportunity for home-to-work charging, with businesses incorporating home charging facilities for their employees as part of their requirement.
Underpinning all our activity is quality. As I explained, it has been somewhat lacking in the UK because of fast development and so we want to deliver high-quality,
well-sited, charging stations that are easy for people to use. As this builds confidence, we think there will be further opportunities; for example, solutions for people who don’t have private driveways and we will diversify when we consider the time is right.
Can you reflect on your relationship with Alfen?
We chose Alfen for its smart, robust and reliable chargers. Installation is also straightforward and so can be done relatively quickly and repeatedly which is important for installing volumes in a fast moving market. We are now really experienced at working with the products and so fully appreciate both the quality of the equipment
and the people we are working with.We have a strong relationship with the UK team in particular, who are excellent at sharing their knowledge of the product and meeting any training requirements we may have.
I’m sure that we will continue to have a long and