Meet Christophe Williams, Co-Founder & CEO at Solar Thermal Energy Innovation Company: Naked Energy

Christophe Williams

At Naked Energy, we design, engineer and manufacture solar heat and power technology. We’ve spent ten years developing and refining our two core products, VirtuPVT and VirtuHOT solar collectors, and we’ve engineered them to be world beating.

VirtuPVT is a unique hybrid product that generates both electricity and heat from a single collector, and they produce three to four times more energy than traditional PV panels. The modular design of our product makes it the world’s highest energy density solar technology. VirtuHOT is a high efficiency solar thermal product and achieved the internationally accredited TUV certification.

Our products are perfect for buildings with limited roof space and high demand for hot water and heating – the likes of hotels, leisure centres and hospitals, for example. Currently there are 15 installations of our technology around the globe, located everywhere from South Africa to the Netherlands, Hong Kong to the United States. The compact, modular design of Virtu gives us the flexibility to fit around pre-existing solar installations or cluttered roofs, whilst their energy efficiency keeps output high.

About us - Solar thermal and Solar PVT — Naked Energy

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I was inspired to work in renewables from an early age because of the work of my grandfather. During the fuel crisis in the 70s, he was developing early prototypes of renewable energy technology alongside Professor Steve Salter (inventor of the eponymous Salter duck wave energy device). I was captivated by his models when I was young and they had a profound impact on me.

When it came to founding Naked Energy three decades later, I was inspired by his ideas and wanted to commercialise as many as possible, but it soon became clear (and I was reminded by investors) that I could only select one!

Before Naked Energy, I had a career in creative media and advertising. I loved every moment of it, but after a while I had a desire for a more purpose driven career. It was that feeling, and my family legacy, that was the catalyst for me founding Naked Energy.

I also wanted to tackle the issue of decarbonisation of heat. The topic has recently gained more prominence in the conversation about climate change, but for a long time it’s largely been overlooked. Heating and cooling make up 51% of all the energy we consume on the planet. I wanted to design a product that helps tackle this issue, because until we address heat demand, we’re never going to address climate change, let alone reach our net zero targets.

How has the company evolved over the last couple of years?

Since founding Naked Energy in 2009, I’ve gone from personally being involved with the manufacturing process to heading up a team of twenty brilliant people.

At the beginning we spent a long time in ideation mode and making sure that the IP was captured by the company. I also really wanted to get the corporate structure right, as I had always envisioned the company as highly innovative and R&D-focused. The company has remained true to this mission with some brilliant scientists and engineers at its heart.

Investor support for climate tech has evolved significantly since we launched a decade ago, and it continues to accelerate at pace. When the business started in 2009, cleantech was a bit of a dirty word – investors were expecting quick exits and massive valuations, but this wasn’t the case. This made it extremely challenging to secure investment, but through persistence we found investors that understood our vision and aligned on expectations.

Nowadays we’re seeing more investors focused on impact investing, and the cleantech space has expanded dramatically alongside the urgency to address climate change. It seems like the penny is finally dropping.

In tandem with the wider industry progress, Naked Energy is now entering an exciting period of growth. We have a growing global network of partners and a broad investor base, all of whom have insight and existing relationships in various strategically important international markets. As well as this, they’ve got a fantastic manufacturing group that allows us to address customers around the world.

What can we hope to see from Naked Energy in the future?

We just completed a bridge funding round led by Barclays, ELM Companies and Big Sky Partners.

We’re really proud to have Barclays onboard, and it’s great to see such a large institution understand the urgent need to decarbonise heat. Mainstream institutional investors are finally starting to see the value in renewable energy hardware, and Barclays involvement with Naked Energy has confirmed that the Virtu product range really is cutting-edge.

ELM Companies is also our distributor in the United States and we plan to strengthen our foothold there. The US is an important market for us strategically, and the opportunity for solar thermal has dramatically increased with the passing of the recent US Senate Inflation Reduction Act. A bit closer to home, we’re also looking to build our presence further in key European markets such as Germany.

We also just launched our Series B round to fund further global expansion. It’s a fascinating time for the business and we are looking for investors who share our green vision and align with our mission to decarbonise heat on a global scale.


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