Going for Green

We talk to the winner of a scholarship which aims to help students develop solutions to environmental issues.

 Angus McKimmon
Angus McKimmon

In the not-too-distant future, electric car drivers all over the UK could be selling back unused electricity stored in their cars’ batteries to the national grid at the end of each day, thanks to the vision of an enterprising business student.

Such a development would help electricity suppliers to use more renewable energy to meet peak-time domestic demand. Consumers could also save on their household energy bills.

The idea is the brainchild of Angus McKimmon, MBA student and winner of a Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Scholarship.

The University teamed up with the People’s Postcode Lottery to create a competition for prospective and current students wishing to pursue a postgraduate degree that will develop a green-themed commercial concept.

The charitable fund’s £20,000 prize will support Angus as he seeks to develop his concept into a viable business prospect.

Angus sees his idea as a way to gain added benefit from the growth in electric cars, with about 80,000 plug-in vehicles registered in the UK as of summer 2016, amid forecasts that they will account for 60 per cent of all vehicles by 2030.

He suggests that the scenario underlying his idea – in which households will typically charge their cars overnight, before using some of that energy to commute, and re-selling the surplus on returning home – could modernise the way electricity is consumed.

“The UK grid is based around power stations – this is last century technology. Now we have renewables – wind, wave and solar – but these can’t be stored,” explains Angus. There is low demand for power during the night, when most electric vehicles are charging, and big demand at peak times when vehicles are parked at home. We could use vehicles to soak up power during the day and sell half of that back to the grid in the evening.”

Although similar ventures are being investigated in industry, Angus believes his approach may be especially effective in Scotland, where the availability of renewable energies can far exceed suppliers’ storage capacity.

“I hope to create an online trading platform, using vehicles as batteries,” he says. “Most cars are parked at night, when they may still have 70 per cent of their charge – why not sell it back? The wider challenge is to use data analysis to understand where in the country power is being produced and where it is being channelled to, at any time.

“My idea is about moving from an old-fashioned system of how we buy and use electricity, towards the production of more renewable energy at a time of day that suits demand, and the consumer being involved in that; it is about trying to bridge the interface between available technology and requirements of the supply network.”

The overwhelming creativity, innovation and passion was outstanding. The Green Challenge Scholarship opens opportunities for budding students from all over Great Britain to come together, share ideas and inspire each other.

Annemiek Hoogenboom
People’s Postcode Lottery

Angus was one of 10 finalists who pitched their concepts to a panel of business and technical experts at an event in at the University’s Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) in June. ECCI fosters collaborative working between policy, community and business leaders to support and deliver workable solutions for a low carbon future.

Ultimately, judges were so impressed that they awarded scholarships to all 10 finalists, and named Angus as overall winner.

“I didn’t see the other competitors, nor learn about their ideas, until the final stage of the competition – some of the ideas were really clever and noble, so I was shocked and surprised to win. To be named overall winner was overwhelming,” he says.

Since graduating in structural engineering and architecture in 2008, Angus has been working as an engineer in the oil and gas industry. His experience has given him an insight into the energy business, which will underpin his postgraduate studies.

Angus’s crossover from engineering to business is in keeping with the environment at Edinburgh, which encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. The University has spearheaded research and development in low-carbon business ideas through its involvement with ECCI and in pioneering postgraduate programmes such as the Masters in Carbon Finance & Carbon Management.

The support for the University’s business students from the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge Scholarship builds on its successful partnerships with charitable foundations in scholarships and research funding.

There is peace of mind having my fees taken care of. Winning this scholarship has taken a big financial burden off me.

Angus McKimmon

For Angus the benefits of this type of backing are clear. He says: “There is peace of mind having my fees taken care of, and the pressure of giving up a job is made easier by having this support. Winning this scholarship has taken a big financial burden off me.”

Annemiek Hoogenboom, Country Director, People’s Postcode Lottery, was delighted for all the applicants. “The overwhelming creativity, innovation and passion was outstanding,” she says. “The Green Challenge Scholarship opens opportunities for budding students from all over Great Britain to come together, share ideas and inspire each other.”