Powerclub’s founder Stuart is a man of humble beginnings. His relaxed manner of speech and accent hint at his upbringing, “Growing up on a family farm taught me my values, things like giving people a fair go and not ripping off your neighbour.”
A shocking discovery
Stuart found himself in the energy industry by accident. He was considering an investment in a commercial solar farm when he made a discovery that surprised him, “I found that the wholesale price of energy was between 3 and 5 cents per kWh. Meanwhile, people at home were paying about 30c. And I thought, “hang on… can this be right?” Thus, the Powerclub journey began, with Stuart diving into an investigation about the Australian energy trade.
He quickly realised that the system was flawed, yet it took some time to puzzle out what changes could be made to improve the situation. “I saw a window to give people the opportunity to participate in the wholesale energy market. That way, everyday Australians would see the benefits, not just the big companies.”
Bringing Powerclub to life
Before his mission to bring wholesale energy to the public begun, Stuart was busy working for the government in the agriculture sector. This experience taught him the lay of the land ahead, with all its hurdles and pitfalls.
On the one hand, heavy governmental regulations on key industries like energy help protect consumers. Yet on the other, they create a forest of red-tape that new players need to wade through, often leading to their collapse.
A great idea and good intentions are not enough to ensure success. It doesn’t matter how many benefits your business will go on to bring. Getting something approved and on the market takes real perseverance. A lot of patience and hard work would be necessary for Stuart to realise his vision for Powerclub.
An energy provider for the digital world
The realm of IT might seem like a step away from energy. Yet this was a field that drew Stuart’s focus before his early forays into electricity. And though he might not have known it at the time, while working as a software developer, Stuart was laying the foundations for what Powerclub is today.
Innovations such as the Powerbank and Powerwatch help give people more control, by bringing Members closer to their energy consumption. The benefits are similar to those of visiting a farmer’s market to buy your veggies: by cutting out the middleman, you get a better deal and a better product.
Powerwatch (the Members app) is designed to track the fluctuation of wholesale electricity prices and notify you when prices spike above normal. The app will recommend ways for you to cut your usage at that time, so you’re not draining your Powerbank. By using this information to turn off what you don’t need and power down, Members can experience huge savings.
Tools like this enable a level of transparency that Stuart saw as sorely lacking in the market. “The energy industry does its best to confuse things, and I can’t help but think that’s intentional.” he sighs, “We wanted to get people a better deal by helping them understand and involve themselves in wholesale energy.”
Leading the charge
Unlike most of us, who often accept unjust situations despite our frustrations, Stuart put his energy into bringing about change. Powerclub would not only lead by example but fill a gaping hole in the market. Because who wouldn’t want to buy electricity at wholesale prices?
Powerclub functions on the basis that when people join, they become a part-owner, just like a shareholder in a conventional company. That changes the whole dynamic between business and customer; in fact, it breaks the wall down totally. “I wanted to put a structure in place that was completely open and honest so that Members could know for a fact that they weren’t getting ripped off.”
You see, Powerclub is limited by guarantee. That means that, like a not-for-profit or charity, the company cannot distribute profits by law. Once staff, bills and Licenses have all been paid, any revenue must be reinvested into Powerclub for the benefit of its Members. So, what you see is what you get.
The Powerclub philosophy
“We want to bring forward new ideas, new methods and new approaches that enable our Members to take control. We aim to make the energy industry work for people, not against them, as much as possible. Fundamentally our philosophy is to be the people’s innovator.”
Powerclub doesn’t exist to make a profit, the more people who join the Club, the more room there is for innovation. And the more Powerclub can evolve, the more people can benefit from joining. It’s a snowball that Stuart hopes will only continue to grow. “At one point in time, someone decided to hook telephone wires up to every house in Australia. The decision was made to connect us all to electricity. But back then, that kind of thing would’ve seemed pretty out there.” he muses.
According to Stuart, the big challenge is getting consumers to understand Powerclub’s offering and why it’s different so that people can start saving their energy for life. “In 5 to 10 years, I’d love to see Powerclub with a large Member base, running incredibly efficiently. We’ll continue to strive for innovative concepts that give people even more benefits and control over how they buy, use and sell energy.”
Combining the people-focused ethos of rural living, the practicality of a bureaucratic understanding and a passion for innovation, Powerclub was born from fertile soil. With Stuart around to tend the crop, the future of the Powerclub looks fruitful.