As we enter what some expect to be a very cold winter, European dependence on fossil fuels becomes painstakingly obvious. Unaffordable energy bills, oil and gas shortages, sabotaged pipelines and all out energy war declared by Vladimir Putin. In all its atrocity, if anything meaningful is to come out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (aside from a unified Ukraine, EU and NATO), it has to be the fact that it called out and confronted us with our vulnerability in being dependent on non-renewable energy sources supplied by an authoritarian regime.
But this vulnerability had no real raison d’être: The solutions to strongly reduce our dependence exist and are up for grabs, and in fact, they are much cheaper as well: Not only in the total cost of ownership of the related infrastructure, but also due to the outrageous bills we now have to foot to mitigate the surge in energy prices for the average household or small business. To illustrate this, in the Netherlands alone, the total package secured by the government to compensate energy bills would be sufficient to cover every roof in the country with solar panels. The only difference is that PV continues to yield for 20+ years, whereas helicopter money to compensate for energy bills does everything but that.
In response, the European Commission has launched a programme to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels entitled REPowerEU. The measures in the REPowerEU Plan can respond to this ambition through energy savings, diversification of energy supplies, and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels in homes, industry and power generation, as well as smart investment to support the plan. But current market-ready technologies are not sufficient. Together with the Solar Impulse Foundation, the European Commission and its Horizon Results platform is promoting up and coming solutions, evaluated by Solar Impulse, and funded by the EC, that are able to strengthen European energy independence towards complete carbon neutrality, and accelerating their growth by presenting them to VC, energy and impact investors.
“In the EU, we already have the technologies market ready to reach our ambitions for 2030, but in order to reach full decarbonization, only half the necessary technologies are market ready today. Our collaboration between the Horizon Results platform and the Solar Impulse Foundation is therefore really crucial. Crucial for our future, crucial for our objectives and crucial to save the planet”, said Rosalinde van der Vlies, Clean Planet Director at the European Commission.
Within the REPowerEU programme, energy savings are the low hanging fruit with the most immediate impact. Savings can be achieved through behavioural changes “which could cut gas and oil demand by 5% and encouraging Member States to start specific communication campaigns targeting households and industry”. Long term energy efficiency goals could moreover be achieved by software solutions that digitalise energy distribution like the one proposed by Odit-e, which has developed a unique expertise in modelling and digitising electric networks, phasing out the use of the immemorial Ohm’s rule. This enables Distribution System Operators to execute a faster energy transition by maximising grid hosting capacity while minimising reinforcements. Savings can be re-allocated to strategic purposes like decreasing fossil fuel consumption for mobility and building heating.
Diversifying supplies and supporting our international partners, and reducing fossil fuel consumption in industry and transport
As part of its objectives to diversify energy supplies, the European Commission is also building long-term partnerships with suppliers, including cooperation on hydrogen or other green technologies. Hydrogen being a key medium for energy storage and transportation, technologies such as the one developed by Hysilabs allows to transport and store hydrogen in liquid state without the need for any new investment on infrastructures: it uses the same storage units as conventional liquid fuels. “This enables the deployment of the hydrogen value chain by piggybacking on the current value chain of hydrocarbons” explains Belén Moreno-Fresneda Sales & Marketing Coordinator at Hysilabs. “This has huge consequences on the geopolitics of energy trading, as we will be able to store and transport hydrogen safely and without limitations means we can trade our renewable energy surplus using fossil infrastructure”. Hydrogen moreover has potential applications in industry (eg steel) and heavy transportation, reducing fossil fuel dependence in those sectors.
Accelerating the rollout of renewables
According to REPowerEU, a massive scaling-up and speeding-up of renewable energy in power generation, industry, buildings and transport will accelerate EU energy independence, give a boost to the green transition, and reduce prices over time. The Commission proposes to increase the headline 2030 target for renewables from 40% to 45%. Whilst established technologies to reach those targets are already being rolled out, newer technologies which could accelerate independence need to be supported to reach their maximum potential.
Wave energy is an untapped and complementary source of renewable energy solving issues such as price cannibalisation as well as the intermittency of solar and wind. AW Energy developed WaveRoller, a submerged oscillating wave surge converter that produces consistent renewable energy from ocean waves, with integrated storage which supports grid stability. It also makes minimal use of rare earth materials. An independent study has shown that WaveRoller could double the efficiency of a green hydrogen production facility, becoming an enabler of geopolitical energy independence. This becomes all the more relevant in light of the vast amounts of new renewable energy required for the grid that require a complementary intermittence to wind and PV.
There are also new wind technologies such as Windcity, which leverage not the high altitude wind but the low, variable urban winds through smaller, silent wind installations which are integrated into the urban tissue. The solution is able to capture that turbulent wind sources and to integrate its power conversion with solar PV, ultimately igniting resilience to geopolitical changes.
REPowerEU’s Biomethane Action Plan sets out tools including a new biomethane industrial partnership and financial incentives to increase production to 35bcm by 2030, including through the Common Agricultural Policy. Technologies such as the WASE Biocentre enables the production of energy from previously non-viable waste streams whilst also recovering water and nutrients to produce fertilisers. Its EMR technology accelerates waste treatment and boosts energy production compared to biological solutions such as anaerobic digestion. The Biocentres provide circular onsite waste management, allowing customers to generate energy from previously non-viable waste streams whilst also recovering water and nutrients to produce fertilisers. The Solution uses WASE's groundbreaking EMR technology that accelerates waste treatment and boosts energy production compared to biological solutions such as anaerobic digestion. Each biocentre has a remote monitoring and control system providing real-time diagnostics globally to optimise energy efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. The Biocentres can treat a variety of waste streams, including faecal sludge/sewage, food and drink manufacturing waste, and agricultural waste. This Solution is helping to reduce emissions, clean up water sources and generate a healthy environment for people to live in.
Delivering the REPowerEU objectives requires an additional investment of €210 billion between now and 2027. This is a down-payment on our independence and security. Cutting Russian fossil fuel imports can also save us almost €100 billion per year. These investments must be met by the private and public sector, and at the national, cross-border and EU level.
But to continue supporting innovations that can consolidate our fossil independence, more investment flows need to be facilitated into the growth of such technologies, and make them market-ready.
In collaboration with REPowerEU, the Solar Impulse Foundation organized an investment pitch on December 6th with the following startups for our investment community:
Pitcher: Matthew Pech | CFO
FINLAND – Cleantech/Energy – Carbon Neutrality
Sector-leading company that harnesses the power of ocean energy to accelerate society towards carbon neutrality. The team has developed and patented unique innovations to supply smooth, predictable power. The technology has been demonstrated and commercial deployments are under development with customers investing in project development. The global sales pipeline is in place with the first sales expected in 2024.
70+ patents worldwide | TRL: 7 | TAM: €600+bn | Next Steps: Array of devices and commercial sales | Amount to raise: €10m
Pitcher: Thomas Fudge | CEO & Founder
UK – Cleantech/Energy – Electro-Methanogenic Reactor (EMR)
Patent-pending EMR technology that boosts the performance of Anaerobic Digestion using a modular electrode design. Accelerate treatment 3-10x at lower temperatures, 25-35oC. The process increases energy production by 20% and boosts the methane concentration by 15-20%. The EMR integration means that the health of the reactor can be monitored remotely, through an electrode biosensing capability. The technology has been demonstrated on industrial wastewater at a 2-day retention time, removing 95% of organics and integrating electrodes into a small AD increasing energy production by 20%. Finalizing 4 contracts in the UK/EU for delivery in 2023.
1 patent pending worldwide; Finalising 4 contracts for 2023 | TRL: 7 | TAM: €147bn | Next Step: industrialisation | Amount to raise: €3.5m
Pitcher: Belén Moreno-Fresneda | Sales & Marketing Director
FRANCE – Cleantech/Energy – Hydrogen stored as liquids
The French company was founded in 2015 thanks to the amazing discovery of a liquid hydrogen carrier that can transport this key molecule as any conventional liquid. By storing hydrogen in this non-organic molecule, it can be distributed by using the same infrastructures used today for hydrocarbons. After the development of this breakthrough innovation, the company is ready to industrialize during the next five years and to get it to the international mass market in 2027. Accomplishing the energy transition by succeeding in the social transition.
60+ patents worldwide, 12 partnership project ongoing | TRL: 5 | TAM: €179bn | Next step: industrialization | Amount to raise: €15m
Pitcher: Tommaso Morbiato | CEO, R&D Head, Founder
ITALY – Cleantech/Energy – Variable Geometry for Variable Winds
The wind has two souls, just like all of us. Until now, standard solutions have been aimed at the predictable wind core: the steady laminar flow found only at high altitudes. This company has developed, patented, and produced a Passive Variable Geometry turbine, which is a new energy conversion concept enabling efficient energy production with the turbulent soul of the wind that blows near us at low altitudes. This natural resource is lost with standard solutions: the company allows urban wind waste to become the new circular input of the cycle.
2 patents worldwide | 4 contracts for 2022 | TRL: 7-8 | TAM: €156bn | Plug-in to solar/hybrid inverters | Next Step: industrialization road to B2C | Amount to raise: €1,75m
Pitcher: Michel Clemence | CMO, Co-founder & Clémentine Benoit | CTO, Co-founder
FRANCE – Cleantech/Energy – Grid digitization & DER integration
The startup has developed a unique expertise in modeling and digitizing electric networks, phasing out the use of the immemorial Ohm’s rule. This enables Distribution System Operators to have faster energy transition by maximizing grid hosting capacity while minimizing reinforcements and allocating investment to strategic purposes.
The solution has been successfully tested, and proofs of concept and pilot projects have been implemented in ten countries in Europe and Africa.
To prepare the scaleup, three partnering contracts with local and global software solution providers have been signed for an associated captive market of € 30 m.
1 patent in EN; 3 contracts for 2022 | TRL: 7 | TAM: €600m | Next Step: industrialization/scaleup | Amount to raise: €5m
GERMANY - Cleantech/Energy
Hydrogenious' LOHC infrastructure enables a secure and efficient hydrogen supply for the whole of Europe by connecting areas inside and outside Europe with high renewable energy potential (e.g. Sweden, Morocco) with economic regions with high energy demand. Hydrogen can in principle be transported using LOHC technology via the existing petroleum infrastructure by tanker, train and ship, as well as by pipeline, thus enabling the greatest possible flexibility in the import of hydrogen in the shortest possible time. Hydrogenious' LOHC solution thus contributes to reducing the dependency on energy imports from individual countries in the short term by implementing a large-scale hydrogen supply chain.
IPCEI.55+ patents; 10+ systems in the field operating on 2 continents | TRL: 7 | TAM: €60bn | Next Step: scale-up | Amount to raise: EUR 120m
DENMARK – Renewable Energy/Desalination – Wave energy system for energy and/or desalination
Wavepiston provides a low-tech and modular system that harvests the energy in the waves to produce clean, affordable power and desalinated water.
The EU has a target of minimum 40 GW ocean energy by 2050. By adding wave energy to the renewable energy mix we offer a better renewable energy integration to the grid by providing a more predictable and consistent source complementing wind and solar energy. Wavepiston is therefore an important part of the solution on removing the dependency on imported fossil fuels and accelerating the green transition. The company’s first initial market is islands and remote communities all around the world. The second step market is utility-scale installations complementing wind and solar. Installation of the first full-scale system is underway off the coast of Gran Canaria aiming to be operational in Q2-2023.
3 patents worldwide | TRL 6-7 | TAM: EUR 330b/year | Next step: full-scale demonstration Gran Canaria Q2-2023 and preparing the first farms | Amount to raise EUR 2m