Extreme Low Energy | Export Champion | CommonwealthFirst

Extreme Low Energy – First Cohort Export Champion


Award‐winning technologies enabling efficient power management

Location: Formby, Merseyside UK
Company website: http://www.extremelowenergy.com
Sector: Manufacturing, Technology





Extreme Low Energy was founded in 2014 focused on tackling the energy trilemma by reducing usage rather than generating more, thus helping organisations within developed markets to reduce energy spend, decrease carbon emissions and better protect the environment.

The team want to change the way electronic devices, initially ICT, is powered and in emerging markets seek to offer off-grid solutions as and where it is most needed.

ELe’s breakthrough was its development of a unique approach to distributing power alongside data through Ethernet cabling. Founder and Technical Director, Mark Buchanan then moved on to designing and building the prototype DC powered electronic devices.

Since 2014 the ELe team has completed many successful power and ICT infrastructure installations in a range of environments including three schools in South Africa. In one of these schools 28 desktop computers now operate on 700 watts of power, equivalent to four of their previous PC’s. More importantly the ELe infrastructure offers continuation of power so load shedding no longer affects the school – no more blackouts.

The team at ELe continue to innovate new opportunities for developing further technologies and DC devices that utilise their unique power infrastructure and distribution solutions. ELe were awarded the national Most Innovative Small Business category in the GREAT Faces of British Business competition.

CommonwealthFirst will work with ELe to help take its unique technology to schools and businesses across the Commonwealth.


Apply now to become an Export Champion.

Mark Buchanan, Founder & Technical Director

Mark Buchanan, Founder & Technical Director

How did you hear about the CommonwealthFirst programme and what made you apply?
ELe were selected as innovation finalists at Edie Live in 2016 where we met representatives of Nottingham City Council, following our continued dialogue they introduced us to the competition. ELe were immediately excited about becoming an export champion as growth in this area is a key strand to our strategy over the next 3 years.

How did the idea for your company come about?
Since the early days of electricity, transmission was globally standardised on AC (Alternate Current) based power and until relatively recently has met our needs. However, in today’s world of computers and mobile phones, which require DC (Direct Current) power, this method of transmission has become extremely inefficient. Extreme Low Energy (ELe) technologies cut out the wasteful AC/DC conversion process with an innovative DC based power infrastructure and a new generation of low energy, DC powered devices including computers. The whole ELe philosophy has been built on identifying and removing energy waste with a view of reducing cost and carbon impact.

C.Clayton - Photo2 - 20.09.13

Caroline Clayton, Operations Director

What difficulties have you encountered setting up your business?
ELe’s greatest challenge has been getting the message out there that an alternative exists – a better way rather than the status quo. ELe firmly believes our technology to be disruptive and transformational but creating a market for a new technology has been challenging. Following several successful beta sites which have now been in place for over 18 months, both in the UK and Africa, and following very positive independent testing results from The University of Manchester we are starting to gain traction.    

What are the biggest trade and export challenges you face?
As a relatively small start up based in the UK, ELe firstly needs to build a network and generate a route to market. Secondly the challenge is understanding how to navigate the export world – how to conclude business and how to distribute product in the most efficient manner. Finally, current uncertainty and currency fluctuations are creating additional challenges. We hope being part of the CWF programme will assist ELe in the areas, either directly or via the wider network.

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop your company? 
The most crucial thing for ELe has been developing a solution incorporating a range of products and then successfully testing this in a variety of environments, to prove it works and demonstrate the benefits the solution brings. We are hugely grateful to our early partners and beta sites for their support and are now excited to roll the technology out on a wider scale.

What are you hoping to get out of the CWF programme?
ELe are hoping to utilise the CWF program to further build our network of international partners and identify opportunities for increasing export. Increasing our knowledge as a business and making use of the extensive and diverse network.

What is a typical working day for you?
Well every day is different for a start, we move from talking about delivering an ICT lab solution in a UK school to an off grid education cabin in Africa in only a couple of hours. At ELe it’s all hands on deck and we have a ‘get it done’ attitude – we currently have a small but fantastic team with real alignment and ambition for growth and expansion.

Solar cabin inside

Where would you like your business to be in 5 years time?
We would to be the leader in our field and to have created a mindset change in relation to DC infrastructures and micro grids. We would like to have a successful business and a happy and fulfilled team. We would like to have generated significant energy and carbon savings through our installations and perhaps gone someway to addressing the energy and therefore education divide in developing countries.

What advice would you give to anybody looking to set up an SME?
Expect it to be tough! Do your research, plan, trust your instincts, stick to your moral compass and build a team around you with complementary skills.

What has been the most challenging project?
Our first installation in South Africa was probably the most challenging so far just due to distance and being away from what you know – you can’t pop to the local shop you know and trust if you forget a cable. Although we have several installations in South Africa so it’s definitely getting easier.

Questions answered by Mark Buchanan, Founder and Technical Director & Caroline Clayton, Operations Director

This interview was conducted as part of the CommonwealthFirst Export Champion interview series. Apply now to become an Export Champion.