One of Australia’s first solar start-ups to target Australia’s millions of rented households, Matter Technology, has gone into voluntary administration, and is seeking buyers of the business that sought to bust the solar ceiling.
A notice published on the Australian Securities and Investment Commission website said administrators had been appointed to the Melbourne-based company on May 7, with a “resumed meeting of creditors” scheduled for early next week.
Matter co-founder Simon Barnes declined to comment on the subject on Wednesday when contacted by One Step Off The Grid, except to say that “we’re actually selling it.”
One Step Off The Grid first wrote about the startup and its shared energy technology, Digital Solar, in December 2015.
As we reported then, the company’s idea was to allow landlords to install rooftop solar and operate it like a micro-utility by selling the solar generated energy back to their tenants at a cheaper rate than power from the grid.
This was done via an “unassuming” box that measured the amount of solar generated, and the amount consumed by the household, allowing a property owner to bill their tenant for the power they use with an invoice automatically generated by Matter’s system.
A separate log-in allowed tenants to view their usage in real-time, see the dollar value of what they were saving and view a usage forecast, and foster better energy consumption habits.
At that time, Matter and co-founders Barnes and Chris Mrakas had big ideas, including a $20 million capital-raising and planned public float of the company on the ASX.
“Our mission is to empower millions of people who want to adopt sustainable energy but currently don’t have the option,” Mrakas said in 2015.
“By pioneering the shift from ownership to usership in the energy industry Digital Solar puts landlords and their tenants in control, creating new revenue streams and lowering energy bills.
“It’s a trend that’s set to continue as solar becomes more prevalent and new business models emerge to meet the needs of the changing energy landscape.
And he was right. Since then, a number of companies – established players and new – and government-backed schemes have emerged to try bring the benefits of rooftop solar to those traditionally “locked out”of the market.
According to 2017 data from the national Census in North Sydney alone, almost three-quarters of residents can’t access solar because they are renters or live in apartment buildings.
Most recently, Melbourne start-up Allume Energy, has emerged to redress this imbalance, with the successful installation in May of a PV system on a mixed residential and retail building.
Allume uses a similar mix of software and hardware designed to work within the building’s existing metering infrastructure – or behind the meter – to allow solar to be distributed and billed to individual apartments.
So what happened with Matter? That remains to be seen. But a few possible problems with the technology were flagged in this 2017 article published on Solar Quotes’ website, including its cost.
That “unassuming box” we mentioned above came in at a hefty $1,500, according to Ronald Brakels, and had a warranty of just two years.
And on top of that, Matter reportedly charged landlords $14 a month for their services, which comes to $168 a year.
Brakels also raised some concerns over Matter’s calculations, behind its promise that its technology would deliver tenants a discount on electricity prices north of 18 per cent.