High energy meter reading. Photo credit: Thomas Kelley
As the weather starts getting chillier with the changing of seasons, Europeans are facing a different kind of cold front this fall: higher energy bills along with the possibility of energy rationing and cuts in the coming months. With tensions high between Russia and Western Europe and French nuclear outages and a heatwave across Europe this summer boosting demand, the situation is looking grim.
The weaponization of gas deliveries from Russia has already resulted in energy shortages and high prices and will most likely cause an economic downturn in Europe this winter. But these high prices might not just last through this winter. Many gas market analysts expect prices to remain elevated for the next two years or more.
If the concern for high energy bills are at the forefront of consumers' concerns, a common second thought is what are the alternatives then? With natural gas and oil prices on the rise, the need for alternative energy sources is also rising, big time – especially with the knowledge that these natural gasses also have disasterous effects on our planet.
Startups all over the world have been pushing for smarter energy solutions for years, but the current circumstances might just swing us into their widespread implementation sooner rather than later.
Fortunately, at VivaTech last June, we got to chat with a few startups that are making waves with their innovative energy solutions. Here’s our list of 5 game-changing green energy startups that are running in the race against the energy dilemma.
Equium’s ecological heat pump. Photo credit: Equium
Equium – Heat your home with the power of sound
Some 80 per cent of household gas demand is from heating while the rest is from hot water and cooking. With traditional heating at the top of the list for least energy efficient, one startup is trying to change the heat pump game with an interesting concept: heat and cool your home through the power of sound.
The Equium Acoustic Heat Pump works with the thermo-acoustic effect which uses the energy of sound to replace classical compressors that are traditionally used to heat homes. “The time of traditional heating is half an hour. So, if you start to heat your home, it's slow and takes a while. But the time of acoustic heating is a millisecond. It’s instantly warmer or cooler.” explained Equium CEO Cedric Francois.
But the energy startup doesn’t want to just stop there with their heat pump. Their mission is to share the power of this natural energy with as many people as possible and help solve the current climate problem. “I get up in the morning, animated by the fact that I'm doing something which is essential,” said Cedric. “We have to focus on this sector because if not, we will continue killing all the biodiversity. My goal is to participate in bringing the world this new solution, for my kids, for the next generations.”
BeFC’s stand at VivaTech with their battery models. Photo credit: VivaTech
BeFC – Batteries that are biodegradable
Conventional batteries often contain toxic materials, metals, and dangerous electrolytes. With 97% of batteries ending up in landfills or being incinerated, the need for a better system is growing. A French startup has created a metal and plastic free, sustainable energy solution using just papers and enzymes. BeFC biofuel cells are a biodegradable energy source that helps to protect the environment.
“We create electricity by using glucose and oxygen, which are two materials that can be found abundantly on the planet earth,” explained Dr. Bilal Demir, a chemical and polymer engineer at BeFC. “And we focus on more low power electronics for applications, such as in healthcare, medical, IoT, and logistics.”
BeFC raised 6 million euros in their seed round in 2021 and are now heading into a series A round. They plan on using the investments to further develop their active sensor tag and to reach mass production of their printed technologies by 2024 and to continue working to power the future with nature.
Evolution Energie’s stand at VivaTech. Photo credit: VivaTech
Evolution Energie – Efficiently manage energy consumption
With 27 EU countries agreeing on a plan to drop their gas consumption by 15% until March 2023, it is necessary to understand where the biggest consumers are, which sectors need to be addressed first, and how they can go about decreasing their consumption. Energy management systems are crucial to this assessment.
Startup Evolution Energie has been doing just this and provides expert energy management softwares to energy suppliers and industrialists to manage and optimize their portfolio. Companies such as EDF, Total Energies, and Aeroports de Paris have used the startup's technology to make more informed decisions about their energy usage.
“The sustainability and energy management topic and decarbonation is quite hot right now,” Robin Delhom, business developer at Evolution Energie, explained to us. The startup specifically targets energy intensive companies and their clients from over 400 locations worldwide have achieved up to 20% energy savings so far. “We want to show that we are able and we partner with people that know large clients in order to address this challenge worldwide as quickly as possible.” Evolution Energie software solutions are monitoring 6% of the European Union's energy consumption already.
HeliaTek’s flexible solar panel solution. Photo credit: VivaTech
Heliatek – Solar panels for any surface
Harnessing the power of the sun has been a goal of man since the 7th century B.C. Since then, there has been quite a lot of progress – most notably the invention of the solar panel in the last century. Yet bulky panels aren’t the most ergonomic nor low-cost to deploy on most buildings. But with free energy passing over our heads daily, we can’t let it go to waste just because of bad design! HeliaTek, a German startup, has developed a flexible solar panel that can be installed easily on any surface.
“Heliatek is trying to build on a vision that everybody deserves to have independent clean energy everywhere,” CEO Guido van Tartwijk told us. “What that means is that we are bringing to market a solution to generate electricity from every possible surface, whether that’s straight, curve, textile or road. That means that every building can become net zero energy. We do that with a new technology that is called organic photovoltaics.”
“People have worked on this technology for a long time. It's hard to get it into production, but we've done that. And the beauty of it? We don't use any raw materials from the far east or from disputable companies in Africa. No scarce materials, no toxics. It's organic in the pure sense. So it’s very environmentally friendly. We deliver something that allows you to generate electricity from surfaces where normal solar panels cannot be installed, because the roofs are too light or it takes too much effort to attach to the wall and it's super green. It's really solar for the future.”
Connected Energy’s battery energy storage system. Photo credit: Connected Energy
Connected Energy – Store energy with the power of EVs
Gathering energy is one thing, but storing it until needed is a completely different story. UK startup, Connected Energy has developed a way to not only store energy for consumers and power systems, but also to participate in a circular economy by using second-life EV batteries for their storage systems.
After around 10 years of use, EV batteries have typically lost a large amount of capacity and this impacts vehicle range. At this point, batteries are often changed so that vehicles can stay on the road longer. But these batteries still have 40% of life left in them. Connected Energy takes these batteries and recycles them to use the remaining capacity in stationary second life applications.
With the current rise of EVs, the need to recycle their batteries will increase immensely a decade from now. The UK startup positions themselves at the intersection of this energy trilemma, the electrification of transport and the circular economy. Their storage solutions can help consumers decrease their electricity bill and generate additional revenue through demand-side management and flexibility services. For corporations, battery storage increases flexibility in power systems, enabling optimal use of intermittent electricity sources like solar photovoltaic and wind energy.
Alok Sharma speaking at NYC Climate Week. Photo credit: Climate Group
An acceleration of better solutions
NYC Climate Week, an event to celebrate climate action, took place last week in the big apple. Several panelists of the event spoke about the current energy crisis and are more than optimistic that it will accelerate the push towards more ecological solutions like the ones these startups are working on.
"I'm an optimist. And my optimism tells me that actually we will probably see a faster and cleaner new transition across the world as a result of this war. But it's going to be tough in the short term," said COP26 President Alok Sharma during a panel.