The co-founder of doomed energy supplier Bulb plans to expand his loss-making battery storage venture into Europe as the energy crisis escalates.
Amit Gudka hopes to grow Field Energy, the business he founded after leaving Bulb in February 2021, on the continent as countries try to shift to renewable energy.
Field Energy finances, builds and operates battery storage sites in the UK, feeding renewable energy into the grid. Battery storage systems charge when there is high supply and low demand and release power back into the grid during peak periods.
Gudka told the Guardian that the start-up has hired its first employee in Italy, where it has begun scouting for locations. He said: “We are identifying locations. The expectation is that there will be demand in the north – and a lot of renewables are being built in the south – so a good place to put storage in a fairly large grid would be the center of the country.”
The energy executive said the company is also interested in doing business in Germany in the future. “It’s a big market with a huge amount of renewable energy and also had a huge dependence on Russian gas, so obviously there’s a need there, not just for decarbonisation but for energy security and renewable energy storage.”
Field has a relatively small footprint in the UK, where it has four battery storage facilities, including a site in Newport acquired for £1m earlier this year.
Its first site, in Oldham in Lancashire, will go live in the coming weeks, earning the company revenue for the first time.
Field, which is registered as Virmati Energy and is backed by high-profile investors, posted a pre-tax loss of £2.65m in the 15 months to 31 March 2022 in its first financial statements since it was set up during the pandemic in 2020.
Gudka’s former venture Bulb has been in a government administration since last November.
The cost of rescuing Bulb could exceed £4bn by next spring. It is already the biggest taxpayer bailout since the financial crisis, when the government was forced to spend billions of pounds bailing out lenders including Royal Bank of Scotland.
Bulb had 1.7 million customers when it collapsed last year and is the biggest company to fail during the energy crisis, which has toppled more than 30 companies.
Gudka, a former Barclays energy trader and DJ, founded Bulb with Hayden Wood in 2015. They raised £4m each in a 2018 fundraiser, but their holdings – once worth more than £100m each – disappeared from the collapse.
Wood stayed on during the administration, facing criticism over his £250,000 salary, and has now joined Giant Ventures as an adviser. The venture capital firm is an investor in Field.
Gudka declined to comment on the events following his exit from Bulb. Asked how he felt about his collapse, he said: “Obviously incredibly saddened by what happened. But there is also this unprecedented energy situation”.
In the accounts, Virmati executives said rising lithium prices and increased shipping costs had hit manufacturing costs, but Gudka said conditions had improved since the start of the year.
Virmati’s directors include energy trader Phil Sutterby and Taavet Hinrikus, founder of London-listed financial technology firm Wise.
Field raised £77m of new funding in June to finance the construction of renewable energy infrastructure, including a £47m debt facility from Triple Point Energy Investment Company.
The company received a £30 million investment from Plural, an investment platform created by Hinrikus and other tech founders.
Field hopes to have 1.3 gigawatts of battery storage operational in the UK by 2024.