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Britain's Octopus grabs nearly 100,000 German energy customers

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By Vera Eckert, Tom Käckenhoff and Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) -Britain's Octopus Energy said it is nearing 100,000 German retail electricity and gas customers as its low overhead model makes inroads in a marketplace hit by wholesale price surges.

With three million customers in Britain and a presence in Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, Octopus is targeting one million of Germany's 41.5 million households by 2024.

"We are just days away from cracking the number of 100,000 customers," Andrew Mack, its Chief Executive in Germany, said.

"We want to help the customer to get more affordable green energy and at the same time accelerate actions to tackle climate change," Mack added in an interview with Reuters.

Germany has seen energy and carbon emissions prices soar after the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the resulting demand on depleted gas stocks, prompting the government to step up help for low-income households.

Wealthier households have also been exposed, confronted with supplier defaults or, when moving house, some vendors hiking new contract prices, sometimes doubling them.

"There will have to be cheaper, greener energy without customers feeling that they will be ripped off," Mack, who will increase Octopus staff in Germany by 200 to 700 this year, said.

German customers have been increasingly attracted by digital energy vendors, many frustrated by locked-in prices deals with little transparency and the bureaucracy of trying to communicate on adjustments and price changes with some traditional players.

TESLA TIES

Octopus first entered the German market with the acquisition of Munich-based energy startup 4hundred in September 2019. It has been selling power on its propriety cloud-based platform Kraken since November 2020.

It offers digital pricing models visible to consumers around the clock with options for time-of-use tariffs and is within the top 10 range of cheapest suppliers, he said.

A supply cooperation with Tesla for households owning rooftop solar panels and a Tesla-branded Powerwall storage battery helped advertise the brand.

Octopus, whose investors include former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore's General Investment Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, uses green origin certificates for its power sales volumes and is building up its own solar and wind assets.

Mack said it was keen to cooperate with some of Germany's big utilities, with E.ON already working with Octopus in Britain.

(Reporting by Vera Eckert, Tom Kaeckenhoff and Christoph Steitz; Editing by Paul Carrel and Alexander Smith)

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