EXPRESS #2 - October 2, 2018
Bill Gates, Shell, the World Bank, BlackRock, IKEA: billions poured into energy gamechangers
Although a lot of the macro-energy and climate news is bleak, we won’t let this get us down!
There is a lot going on in alternative energy innovation. In the end, change may happen faster than any of the “projections” made by analysts today. Especially should there be some climate emergency, all bets may be off.
Certainly some big names are active on the alternative energy front.
For example, there is, first of all, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), which aims to invest $1 billion in “radical energy startups”, with money made available by a bunch of billionaires, including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and Jack Ma.
Website Quartz has now revealed, for the first time, a full list of the companies BEV will be funding. This includes 7 energy startup companies:
QuantumScape: A startup building an all-solid-state battery, which many experts believe is key to the future of electric cars.
Commonwealth Fusion Systems: A firm working on a nuclear-fusion reactor that uses high-temperature superconductors and aims to be the first fusion system to produce net-positive energy.
Pivot Bio: A biotech company developing a microbial solution that can replace nitrogen fertilizers, reduce nitrogen runoff, and eliminate the related production of nitrous oxide—a greenhouse gas 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.
CarbonCure: A firm that is injecting recycled carbon dioxide into concrete to increase its strength compared to conventional concrete. The result is cost savings and carbon reductions for the concrete industry.
Fervo Energy: A startup rethinking geothermal power with the help of modern computational models and horizontal-drilling technology. Fervo hopes that the technology it is developing will cut the cost of geothermal power by some 50%.
DMC Biotechnologies: A company tailoring microbes to produce high-value chemicals, including biofuels. DMC claims to have technology that can cut costs and save time needed to scale up biological synthesis.
Zero Mass Water: A startup selling specialized panels that use solar power and batteries to pull water from the air. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy needed to access clean drinking water without geographical limitations.
Quartz notes that “the companies went through rigorous rounds of checks before receiving funding ranging from $200,000 to $20 million, depending on their stage of development and needs. The initial list has companies that are both young (Form Energy was formed last year) and fairly mature (CarbonCure has been around for 10 years).”
“BEV won’t share the individual sum each company received, but the total investment thus far comes to $100 million. It has acknowledged that $1 billion is not that much to invest in the energy space. Consider, for example, the fact that the latest nuclear-fusion reactor being built has a price tag of $22 billion. But BEV hopes to leverage its partners and media attention to help fill funding and other gaps.”
“To some extent, that’s already starting to happen. Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a sister non-profit to BEV, convinced 15 countries, including the US, France, and India, to double government spending on energy technologies. And a few weeks ago, Form Energy and Quidnet Energy both received $4 million and $3.3 million in grants, respectively, from the US Department of Energy’s advanced research projects division. Quidnet acknowledged that the media attention the company received as a result of BEV’s investment also made it easier to recruit good talent.”
Cleantechnica now reports that Shell has also launched a GameChanger Accelerator in partnership with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “intended to discover and advance emerging clean energy technologies.”
“The multimillion-dollar, multiyear clean technology incubator will initially focus seeking to accelerate technologies such as long-term energy storage and controls to help develop the necessary grid of the future and will leverage resources available through both Shell and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in an effort to minimize the risk of emerging technologies and accelerate their path to market”, writes Cleantechnica.
“Shell has a 25-year history of supporting early-stage startups and entrepreneurs that are impacting the future of energy,” said Lene Hviid, global manager for Shell GameChanger. “Capitalizing on NREL’s world class laboratories and technical expertise, GCxN brings together industry experts and innovative thinking to identify promising new technologies and help move future energy solutions to market.”
“Shell GameChanger, shortened to GCxN, will identify potential and promising startup companies through numerous Channel Partners which are made up of over 40 clean-tech incubators, accelerators, and universities, which will serve as the Accelerator’s innovation pipeline. GCxN will run application rounds open to candidate companies who, upon successful application and review, will be eligible to receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding in the form of technical support and validation from both NREL and Shell GameChanger Accelerator experts.”
Thirdly, the World Bank is getting in on the action: it has revealed a “multibillion dollar battery storage investment drive”, reports Business Green.
“In a major vote of confidence for battery storage technologies capable of boosting clean energy, grid stability, and access to electricity in developing nations, the World Bank’s funding is expected to mobilise a further $4bn in concessional climate financing, and public and private investments”, writes Business Green.
The programme aims to finance 17.5GWh of battery storage by 2025, which is more than triple the 4-5GWh currently installed across all developing countries, the World Bank said.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kimdescribed the multi-billion dollar battery storage financing initiative as a “game-changer” for developing nations. “Battery storage can help countries leapfrog to the next generation of power generation technology, expand energy access, and set the stage for much cleaner, more stable, energy systems,” he said. “Batteries are critical to decarbonizing the world’s power systems. They allow us to store wind and solar energy and deploy it when it’s needed most to provide people with clean, affordable, round-the-clock power.”
The Accelerating Battery Storage for Development programme will finance and help de-risk investments such as utility scale solar parks with battery storage, off-grid systems and mini-grids, and standalone batteries that can help stabilise and strengthen energy grids, the World Bank said.
It will also support large-scale demonstration projects for new storage technologies suitable for developing countries’ needs, such as long-lasting batteries which are resilient to harsh conditions and high temperatures.
In addition, the new programme will establish a new global think tank focused on battery storage, which will bring together national laboratories, research institutions, development agencies and philanthropic organisations to boost technological knowledge, training, and cooperation across the nascent sector.
The World Bank said the programme was a response to demand for battery storage from developing countries, as such systems are currently regarded as relatively expensive, with most of the world’s existing battery capacity located in industrialised nations.
Fourthly, Business Green also notes that “a group of governments and philanthropic organisations announced a major new Climate Finance Partnership with BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, in New York. The Partnership includes France and Germany alongside the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Grantham Environmental Trust and the IKEA Foundations, who alongside BlackRock plan to jointly develop an investment programme for climate infrastructure in emerging markets.”
Once the terms and structure of the Partnership have been finalised – expected early next year – investments are to be initially targeted at renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, and low carbon and electrified transportation across Latin America, Asia and Africa, the partners said.
Jim Barry, global head of BlackRock Real Assets said collaboration was key to advancing low-carbon infrastructure projects in emerging economies.
“Now, as one of the largest managers of renewable infrastructure assets in the world, we believe his initiative marks an important step forward in the advancement of low carbon investing worldwide,” he said.