Back to The Blog
February 22, 2021

Empower Energy Uses Tech for Good

Melissa Baer

Vision for impacting energy poverty

Empower Energy have a vision for taking people’s surplus energy from solar generation and using it to support people experiencing energy hardship.

Empower Energy is a Charitable Trust that aims to address energy affordability by sharing surplus renewable energy with those in need.

They have worked with Backstory (formerly Webtools Agri) to build an application that takes surplus solar cash and pools it together and uses that pay power bills.

Watch a video with Empower Energy’s founders and Backstory’s Project Manager on the experience of building an Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of this vision.

Key requirements

Success of this build included a few key elements:

  • It was really easy for donors to donate their excess energy of top up their bill with their donation
  • That credible care agencies like the Christchurch City Mission were involved throughout the development process and that the application allowed those agencies to make a call about where the money goes.
  • Being a tool to handle finances, it needed to make sure every dollar was accounted for and appropriate authorisation was in place.

How Backstory approach MVP development

Backstory worked together with the guys from Empower to run a workshop with the different care agencies to find out what are their requirements for a minimum viable product.

We got together lots of different people from different agencies around the country and ran our hybrid workshops to prioritise what where their key features they wanted in their MVP. Working with a slim budget so we had to really focus on what were the most valuable features that we would be able to deliver. These workshops were key to getting a variety of perspectives on what we were trying to do adding a robustness to the thinking that underpinned the design and development process.

Even with those constraints we were able to deliver something that really provides value for both the agencies, Empower Energy and ultimately the receivers of the energy donation.

“We really appreciated Erica’s attention to detail in the workshop. It’s why we have a working product now.” - Founders of Empower

Did it work? Do people love it? It is making a difference?

The feedback from the care agencies is that it’s nice and easy to use. The interface is designed to be one simple page so when you’re busy and you might have a client here that might be anxious, it’s important that it’s very easy to do what you’re wanting to do.

It’s so valuable being able to offer the service on the spot as the client is sitting in the room. The clients can be at the care agency for financial mentoring or support with budgeting, feeling very stressed and anxious that they don’t have money. Being able to put credit on their power in that moment automatically relaxed them and gives confidence and self esteem.

It’s rewarding for the clients to have that experience and the care agencies are loving having the opportunity to do so.

Learn more about Backstory’s Custom Development capability here.