UCL Energy Institute


Launching an energy storage start up whilst studying Energy Systems and Data Analytics MSc

28 October 2020

In this spotlight interview we talk to Will Mackay about his experiences launching Modo Energy whilst also studying Energy stems and Data Analytics MSc.

modo energy logo

Will Mackay, a part-time student on our Energy Systems and Data Analytics MSc has been busy launching a new energy storage start-up, Modo Energy, alongside his studies. 

Before embarking on his UCL Master’s, he worked at the technology desk of a green energy recruitment company. In his role he had seen increasing interest in companies looking to apply data science to the energy sector and saw it as an in-demand career option. 

UCL’s Energy Systems and Data Analytics was the only course in the UK I found that tackled data science and the energy system. The energy element makes the data science applied and more engaging. I was hearing a lot about AI but realised I didn't understand what this 'buzzword' meant practically (what was the current state, what are the limitations etc.). This course seemed like a great place to learn.”

A contact from his time in energy recruitment started Modo Energy, brining on Will as a founding member/first employee alongside his studies. The business started aiming to produce a low-cost automated trading/dispatch platform for utility scale storage but has since evolved into a company that is using data science, analytics and tools to improve the storage industry's transparency, lower barriers to entry and improve investor confidence with the aim of speeding up deployment of battery storage and renewables.

On the start-up process, Will said:

The key challenge of our start-up has been resource allocation and ensuring we don't commit too many resources to an idea that is of little use to the market. We are taking a lean approach to start up development and are constantly testing products and ideas with existing and potential customers to ensure we can scrap ideas quickly if the need isn't there.”

When we asked him how his studies have supported his entrepreneurship, he responded:

MSc ESDA has given me a strong understanding of data science and its potential, as well as giving me the motivation to investigate in detail certain elements of UK energy data relevant to the company.”

More generally, on the Master’s Will said:

The course has been great. The steep learning curve at the beginning regarding statistics really puts you in a good position for you to engage with the wider literature. The most difficult but most enjoyable module has been the statistics module for me.”

We finally asked him if he had any advice for budding entrepreneurs, thinking of joining ESDA MSc:

I would recommend investigating the industry prior to starting ESDA to see which areas are in particular demand/are of personal interest to provide some focus to your projects/modules.”

Aidan O’Sullivan, Programme Lead for Will’s Energy Systems and Data Analytics MSc wishes Will and Modo the best for the future:

We’re very pleased to see our students launching innovative companies that can help reduce carbon emissions through the application of data science and wish Will and Modo all the best from everyone at the UCL Energy Institute.”