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  • Triinu Lukas

Why not use your energy to power the world? Here’s how!

"Our growing need for energy is responsible for the blazing climate. But, paradoxically, more rather than less energy is also the only escape route we can take to come out of the crisis, without being pushed back into the stone age."

Source: Unsplash

Our growing need for energy is responsible for the blazing climate. But, paradoxically, more rather than less energy is also the only escape route we can take to come out of the crisis, without being pushed back into the stone age. Let me visualize it for you. Imagine a technical error in a spaceship. It would be foolish to just drop it and say that it’s too dangerous a way of travelling. No, in case of emergency, astronauts don’t return home forever but use everything they’ve learned about how this thing got built to repair the ship and continue with their explorations. The spaceship is already being built and it helps us define ourselves as masters of this universe. So no way we’re gonna just forget about it. Similarly, our societies are already being built on energy consumption. Without it, there would be almost no technological advancements more outstanding than steam trains and we’d heat our vegan ramen on the stove. Fortunately, no need for that, since we’ve got powerful tools to repair the broken way energy is made today! Here’s a quick overview of some of the hottest trends in cleaning energy and power, for the fast and furious among us. And of course for those technologically competent who think their lives could be devoted to saving all of our lives ♡.

Continuing on cute things, then in spite of all the predictions, 2020 saw a boom in clean energy and it is estimated that after covid-19, we’ll see even a 30% of increase in annual solar installations. First and foremost, we see a clear trend towards increasingly decentralized energy production. There are different implications in tech that are influenced by this trend, but since people now also work from home, we may see especially spectacular increases in smart (off-)grid systems. These now are a must for companies managing their energy demands. Octopus Energy is amongst companies meeting this need in the UK. In its unicornly manner, it develops cloud-based smart grid electricity and gas platform that provides fair prices and greener energy. While this is a typical example of a successful grid management enterprise, there are other cool things you can do with decentralized, localised energy networks. It also allows consumers to sell power back to the grids. So when you want to save money, forget about taking a side-job aka sweating for someone else from morning till night and check out GridiO. They track electricity markets in real-time and use AI-based smart-schedules to find the best time for your home devices to consume, produce or even help the grid with some extra power when you do not need it.

There has also been enormous pressure for upgraded and down-prized energy storage at times when actual prices of renewable energy technologies continue to cheapen. I’d say it may be quite a matter of life and death to the renewable energy industry, which is under great pressure to optimize its production as decarbonization of the grid is a priority in fighting climate change and other, not-so-renewable solutions are lining up eagerly behind the door. But, hey, we said that the future is for decentralization and democratization of energy, right?! 😉 A sector that works their butts off and is really making a difference in lithium-ion battery storage upgrading is automotive and transport. If you have any idea about electronics, chemistry or material science, then EVs lead the way and that is what makes you want to purchase your dreams there since about 99% of the stored energy is held in these little things. But we’d probably have to look out for long-duration storage innovations for tackling renewable energy storage problems. Some examples here. One of the leading energy storage companies that show us how a revolution in storage capacity and price is anything but slow and pricey, is an Estonian startup Skeleton Technologies. They provide world-class efficient ultracapacitators in several segments, including transport and renewables and offer promising solutions that can be coupled with batteries for longer-term storage.

Hydrogen is another real player in decarbonizing the industry, transport, power generation and buildings. It can count for 24% of the global final energy demand and have loads of business opportunities and it’s one of the few fields where Europe is a key developer. Of course, hydrogen is not a source of energy on its own. It matters what energy source is used for receiving H₂. Is it “blue”, “brown”, “pink”, “grey”, “turquoise” or… GREEN?! Green hydrogen, simply put, is hydrogen made with renewable electricity via electrolysis that splits water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen. There are loads of experienced companies out there doing just that, e.g. Nel Hydrogen, ITM Power, Enapter etc. And therefore, although green hydrogen that emits nothing more than clean water has yet to surpass some major milestones, it is in development by large players and could be a great source of inspiration for research-minded startuppers. Especially since green hydrogen is soon becoming much more available - German hydrogen megaproject AquaVentus plans to achieve 10 GW production capacity from offshore wind energy by 2035. One of the most interesting startups from Estonia is PowerUP Energy Technologies. They’re also hydrogen-powered, producing fuel cell based portable generators.

The other straightforward green trend is electrification. We’re probably going to witness accelerated, wholesale transformation to electrification rather sooner than later. Probably this shift is led by Tesla, but who knows… there are many competitors in vehicle manufacturing, like Rivian, but also companies that make overall electrification possible infrastructure-wise. Fuel infrastructure for EVs is taken over by giants like Shell, BP and ABB. Startups, of course, offer badass solutions like portable charging stations by ubitricity (acquired by Shell), Freewire or wireless charging by Easelink.

"You can make use of Estonian competencies - its smartest energy grid, first nationwide EV charging network, digital knowledge and world's best startup ecosystem."

Timing cannot be better, if you consider starting up in the field of green energy and power, since you can catch up on big trends (some mentioned above) that are emerging and recognized by financial powers and regulatory bodies. Although startups have a global reach, it is still wise to first look at the strengths of your own background (e.g. are you a techie or an excellent entrepreneurial soul?!) and of that of the country of yours. The latter might be important to check since when developing in the field that is “inherent” in your country, there will be stronger support structures and networks involved close to you in your familiar setting. In our hub - Estonia - we’re unique for Europe’s best startup ecosystem. And Cleantech ForEst has made sure cleantech startups have an even easier starting position - they offer support when you have an idea but are not sure yet if it’ll fly. And now also bringing in Beamline Accelerator to boost a bit more advanced startups. As for specific competencies, Estonia is really a gamechanger with the world’s smartest energy grid that startups can access very easily, without regulatory fog. Our 100% coverage of smart meters since 2017 and openness to practice innovation welcomes you! That means you can just take out the consumption data (nationwide or for a specific area) and base your own more intelligent smart grid solution or other distributed energy solution on that. The same goes, somewhat relatedly, for overall electrification - we have the world’s first nationwide EV charging network so you’re more than welcome to test your electric mobility solution here. As seen above, we have great innovators of hydrogen usage as well. That said, the Estonian (cleantech) startup ecosystem welcomes every idea that makes our world a better place, so bring in knowledge from your own background!

"Have an idea? Submit it here or contact us and let's have a chat on its' potential."

I can’t let you leave without emphasizing how much the world would change when we’d build breakthrough solutions in these major trending fields - smart (off-)grid systems, energy storage, hydrogen and electrification. And thus I want you to leave me with some pictures in mind so that when you have it in you, you can make this future true. Imagine zero-emission air travel? Well, developments in green hydrogen show we’re there soon enough, so you can forget about staying home for eternity because covid and dying polar bears. This thought keeps me sane during the current crisis. The other thing is this: imagine when there are no fuming cars polluting our beautiful nature, only silent vehicles nobody owns, flowing quietly on the streets paved mostly with bike lanes, the lush greenery and large parks and playgrounds where our next generations discover much richer forms of nature than we do today. When you could bring it ↓ to life, why start alone? Start here. We cheer for you, because every person, whose idea could potentially make us less likely to use the spaceship as the whole species, is worth loving for.

Source: Unsplash March 2021 by Triinu Lukas


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