Discover more from Startup Pirate by Alex Alexakis
A New Era in Energy Technology
Europe's transition to clean energy, Greek tech communities, the evolving role of a startup CEO, artificial general intelligence, jobs, events, and more
Friends, welcome back to Startup Pirate. This is edition #80 and today, we discuss our society’s energy transformation from fossil-fuel-based to one that prioritizes accessible and clean options. As always, you can also find a roundup of funding rounds, jobs, products, and events. If you’re new here, this is a newsletter about tech and startups — with a Greek twist. Here’s what we recently talked about:
Subscribe below and join 4,600+ readers.
A New Era in Energy Technology
One of Europe's most pressing issues is getting our energy transition on track. High electricity prices, surging energy demand, and a race to meet climate goals suggest we need new solutions in the energy field. Sure, affordable power is a key precondition for prosperity in modern societies and industrial competitiveness (President Macron's latest quest/vision for European economic security). Yet, the bloc's dependency on energy imports (primarily fossil fuels) reached as high as 60% in recent years, increasing our exposure to global energy price risks and vulnerability to supply disruptions (e.g. Russian gas).
So the triad climate, energy security, and affordability leave no option but to accelerate clean energy deployment. Facilitated by the cost declines in solar power and batteries (not to mention green hydrogen), we no longer have to choose between economic growth and decarbonisation. Decarbonisation now aids growth.
Last year, twenty EU countries set new solar share records, while Greece reached second place on Europe's solar leaderboard and ran entirely on renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric) for five hours in October. Moreover, heat pump sales doubled in Poland, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands during the first half of 2022, electric vehicle (EVs) sales are rising, and hydrogen electrolysers saw a step change in 2022. Responding to the US Inflation Reduction Act, the European Commission proposed the Net-Zero Industry and Critical Raw Materials Acts to commit significant subsidies to speed the adoption of clean technologies and guarantee access to critical raw materials within the EU.
But the 2030 target of 70%-100% for renewables that some European countries have set will likely be an uphill battle. The share of primary energy from low-carbon sources (nuclear and renewables) hovered around 25% just a couple of years ago, Europe still relies significantly on China for batteries, raw materials, and EVs, and grid connection delays are a major obstacle to the rollout of renewable projects worldwide.
Clearly, a profound transformation of the energy system is required to satisfy the increasing demand expected due to the electrification of everything from heating and transportation to steel-making and heavy industry, meet climate goals, and expand Europe's economic bounds. To better understand the state of the energy tech industry, I've asked six founders to share the trend they believe is worth watching. I hope it helps us better identify areas of opportunity and topics worthy of further research.
Let’s get to it.
Energy consumers turn into prosumers
"Energy supply business models haven't changed much since electricity became commercially available more than a century ago. Consumers use electricity without transparency or control over the associated costs and receive a paper bill at the end of the month. The energy transition and electrification of everything will inevitably reshape how we all experience energy as we try to reach net zero. More and more renewable energy sources like solar and wind replace oil and gas, forcing consumers to adopt energy devices like EVs, heat pumps, solar panels, and home batteries to take control of their consumption. As a result, this evolution rapidly transforms all households from passive energy consumers into prosumers who both consume and produce electricity.
In the face of this monumental transformation, energy suppliers need to reposition themselves and their business models. And they can do so by decoupling their profitability from selling more energy and instead generating revenues by enabling smarter and greener consumption through technology. This is where Electryone AI steps in. Our smart energy management platform seamlessly transforms energy suppliers into Energy-as-a-Service providers, allowing them to offer new products for their customers to manage their energy consumption, production, and storage while contributing to balancing the grid. Our proprietary AI engine allows energy suppliers of all sizes to save money and energy for their customers while being part of the transition towards a sustainable decentralised energy system."
Managing the power grid is at the heart of the energy transformation
"The energy industry stands at a critical juncture in history, as the emergence of renewable energy, energy storage, and other distributed energy resources reshapes the traditional assumptions of power distribution networks. The existing infrastructure was built on the premise of a stable and predictable power supply flowing in a single direction from a limited number of sizable sources. However, the rise of renewables presents new challenges for grid operators, as the network now experiences multi-directional energy flows across all voltage levels, and energy generation is variable and intermittent.
At SMPnet, recognising the need to effectively harness renewable energy sources while ensuring network security, we created the power grid management software Omega. Omega leverages adaptive optimisation and real-time control techniques to enhance network capacity, seamlessly integrate renewables, and reduce operational costs, all while preserving the stability of the network and the security of supply. By facilitating this, our goal is to enable a net zero future in which power grids are operated dynamically and much closer to real-time while ensuring high resilience and security of supply for a greener planet."
Efficiency matters in the design and operation of distributed assets
"In the new era of energy, dynamism reigns supreme. Countless actors, ranging from consumers and energy companies to states and international bodies, invest in a sustainable future. Renewable energy is the name of the game. At the heart of this transformative landscape lies the power grid, often referred to as the largest human, technical achievement. Spanning continents, it seamlessly interconnects consumption and generation units facilitated by sophisticated energy markets. However, as the era of intermittent generation from renewables unfolds, this once-flawless system encounters challenges in providing universal access and maintaining a delicate equilibrium. Thankfully, advanced tools such as batteries and smart systems have emerged as solutions to these predicaments.
Navigating this dynamic terrain of technicalities, regulations and competition can be overwhelming for those tethered to the traditional energy paradigm. This is where the power of AI and software enters the scene. At ENEXAN, we have created an AI-powered decision support platform that accurately simulates modern power systems for optimal design and operation of distributed renewable energy and storage assets. Whether you are an investor assessing long-term business plans, a bank evaluating financing options, a technical team exploring innovative technologies and operating algorithms, or a state regulator ensuring adherence to legal frameworks, ENEXAN's AI platform holds the key to embracing renewables, batteries, or EV charging stations".
Bringing the power of the sun to Earth
"Even with the most optimistic scenario for renewables deployment and the most conservative scenario for the world's energy requirements growth, the demand vs supply deficit for some countries is going to be ~ 30% - 40% or more. This is a huge gap and will end up being covered by existing "dirty" options, such as coal. We need high energy-density sources of clean and sustainable power generation to bridge this gap, and fusion is an excellent candidate for such a role. Fusion is the set of physical processes that powers the sun and all the stars. It's the only primordial source of energy in the universe and is predicated on nuclei — usually of hydrogen isotopes — being energetic enough to overcome repulsive forces and "fuse" together. This process releases enormous amounts of energy.
For decades there have been ongoing efforts led by governments and private companies to harvest fusion, which necessitate, and have brought forward, substantial advances in our understanding of physics and engineering. Several teams worldwide work hard to improve the energy output from fusion and achieve "gain bigger than one". That's the goal we are working towards at First Light Fusion, a scientifically oriented and research-intensive corporation which launched in 2011 and is based in Oxford, UK. I am positive that, within the next 10 to 20 years, fusion will have an indispensable and irreplaceable role in our energy mix."
Green hydrogen as an enabler of the energy transition
"Green hydrogen could be a critical enabler of the global transition to sustainable energy and net zero emissions economies. Due to its gaseous nature, though, hydrogen needs compression for storage and application purposes in transport and industry. And therefore, it loses its green colour throughout its value chain. Currently, most conventional hydrogen compressors have high-energy demand and achieve compression using loud machinery with moving parts.
CYRUS has brought novelty to the field of hydrogen compression with its unique metal hydride thermal compressor, which can work with low-grade thermal energy (below 90°C) produced by renewable energy or industrial waste heat, thus keeping compressed hydrogen green. The technology is safe, reliable, and noise-free, and can reduce maintenance costs by more than 85% compared to the conventional compression methods. As a result, CYRUS compressors will have a significant environmental and economic impact by incorporating them into hydrogen refuelling stations. This can be a game changer for the hydrogen economy."
Making green hydrogen production affordable and efficient
"Green hydrogen and electrolysis have emerged as a beacon of hope in an era characterised by growing environmental concerns and an urgent need to transition to sustainable energy sources. Electrolysis, a process that uses electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, offers a wide range of applications that could revolutionise our energy landscape. From fueling vehicles and powering industries to enabling renewable energy storage and even transforming our homes, hydrogen is poised to become a driving force in shaping a greener and more sustainable future. However, the high cost of green hydrogen has limited its widespread adoption.
REMA is pioneering the universal use of green hydrogen by developing and supplying the most efficient and cost-effective water electrolysers for its production. REMA has harnessed the power of fluid mechanics to eliminate the need for costly and fragile membranes in their electrolysis process through our patented membrane-less electrolysis technology. By doing so, we can achieve higher efficiency, operating at higher temperatures and ensuring superior hydrogen purity, all at a remarkably low cost."
Check out job openings HERE from startups hiring in Greece, abroad, and remotely.
Athens is on the list of European cities with the highest per-capita density of engineers for a number of specialisations, according to Sequoia’s Atlas report, including AI, data science, front-end, security, and systems. (link)
AI-driven camera automation Seervision was acquired by Q-SYS, an audio, video and control (AV&C) cloud platform. (link)
Laudio raised $13m in Series B to automate administrative tasks for frontline nurse managers. (link)
Computational drug repurposing startup Purposeful announced funding from the Greek pharmaceutical company PharOS. (link)
Swaplanet, a sustainable fashion startup, announced a new funding round. (link)
Online gift registry Cordella raised €100k pre-seed. (link)
Sunlight, the manufacturer of industrial technology batteries, acquired a majority stake in a Portuguese batteries company. (link)
Eight fintech companies were selected for the Visa Innovation Program Europe accelerator program. (link)
The evolving role of a startup CEO as the company scales up with Christos Spatharakis, co-founder & CEO at Ferryhopper. (link)
Chips and AI with Polychronis Xekalakis, Chief Architect at NVIDIA. (link)
Medicine and biotechnology progress, and the problems science must face as life expectancy increases with Nicholas Galakatos, Global Head of Life Sciences at Blackstone. (link)
The dawn of artificial general intelligence with Alexandros Marinos, founder of Balena. (link)
Approach and options for blockchain micropayments by Stelios Gerogiannakis. (link)
You can find a list of ~ 90 Greek tech communities HERE. Most of them seem pretty active and span topics from engineering to product, AI, design, blockchain, and more.
“Introduction to the Grafana LGTM Stack” by Athens SDET Meetup on Jun 26
“Navigating CX Transformation: From Tradition to Innovation” by CX Greece on Jul 5
“How to CRUD with Laravel, vue and inertia” by Athens Laravel Meetup on Jul 6