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Enbala helps the world energize efficiently

JT Thompson, vice-president for regional sales, Mike Ruth, vice-president for product management and Duncan Brown, a solutions architect.


Canada and the United Kingdom threw out a challenge to their energy entrepreneurs last October: come up with a technology that can transform traditional electricity grids into energy systems that efficiently integrate power from diverse sources. Over the next two-and-a-half years, six teams from the two countries will receive up to $3 million each to devise such a system, with the winner collecting another $1 million.

Vancouver’s Enbala Power Networks Inc. is one of 10 Canadian groups invited to submit final proposals in the Power Forward Challenge. Enbala has already made its mark with software that aggregates users’ power needs, along with energy storage data and renewable energy sources, to create a seamless power distribution network.

Enbala—the name is a contraction of energy and balance—has turned to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to help put its bid together, just as it did when it pursued a deal in South Australia. Under that contract, finalized in December 2018, Enbala and a local utility will manage the world’s largest cluster of household solar equipment and energy storage systems. The project is expected to involve up to 1,000 households.

“The Trade Commissioner Service [TCS] played a huge role in helping us to get that job,” says Malcolm Metcalfe, Enbala’s founder. “They lined up people to talk to and acted as a go-between.”

Metcalfe, now in his 70s, set up Enbala with two friends after he retired from the now-defunct Canadian Pacific Air Lines in the late 1990s. “I retired at 55,” he recalls. “After about two weeks of drinking coffee and reading The Globe and Mail, I decided it was a disaster.”

Enbala’s first customer was a small townhouse complex in Whistler, British Columbia, which wanted to heat its outdoor swimming pool in the most-efficient way possible. Business really took off after they supplied a hybrid heating system to Four Seasons’ local resort, cutting the hotel’s energy bill and displacing 900 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a year.

Enbala now employs about 50 people, and almost all its business is outside Canada, mainly in the United States, followed by Japan, Australia and the Middle East. It is looking at opportunities in Europe’s Baltic countries.

The TCS continues to play a big role in Enbala’s business. The London office is helping to identify U.K. partners for the Power Forward Challenge and providing other advice. “The TCS is one group that has been really helpful to us,” Metcalfe says.

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