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4 founders clarify the largest hurdles to flattening the local weather curve in 2021

Whereas plenty of our profession, private, and journey plans have been placed on maintain this yr, there’s one factor we as a society can not afford to placed on maintain: the combat towards local weather change. 

Quite than scaling again the progress we’ve made, many are seeing this second as a possibility to create a brand new regular during which sustainability and circularity are built-in into our companies and every day lives.

With this in thoughts, recruited a number of the brightest minds in Dutch sustainability tech to affix the Rise Programme for up and coming scaleups. The theme for batch two this yr was: flattening the local weather curve. 

We caught up with 4 of the Programme’s cohorts to seek out out what they see as the largest hurdles to tackling local weather change inside their trade.

Making sustainable transportation an possibility for the lots

Transportation is liable for 30% of the EU’s complete CO2 emissions. And automobiles are the largest polluters, accounting for 60.7% of CO2 coming from highway transportation. 

With the explosion of latest electrical automobiles available on the market, customers are being courted with new transportation alternate options and government-backed incentives. However electrical automotive registrations have nonetheless solely elevated incrementally throughout the EU from simply 2% in 2018 to three.5% in 2019. So what’s holding individuals again?

Whereas there’s a giant and rising client base who’re able to make the change, as Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear, defined, “When you take a look at the analysis into why extra individuals aren’t shopping for electrical automobiles they arrive all the way down to: value, charging, and vary. And that’s been the identical for the final ten or fifteen years.” 

So-called ‘vary anxiousness’— or the concern that an electrical automotive may merely run out of electrical energy on the most inopportune time (like on a darkish, creepy horror film kind highway at evening) — has been one of many greatest considerations voiced by customers. 

Linked with this are questions on charging infrastructure. There are fuel stations arrange in every single place, however what number of charging factors are literally on the market for electrical automobiles? What if I need to go on a highway journey? Will I’ve to hitchhike midway by way of?

Lightyear is trying to clear up each vary and charging for customers who’re nonetheless on the fence about making the change to electrical. 

“Quite than focusing on individuals already fascinated by shopping for an electrical automotive, we need to give attention to different individuals. Individuals who reside in flats and might’t cost at residence. Or individuals who need to drive lengthy distances each day,” Hoefsloot stated.

And simply how do they plan to do that? 

Whereas finding out engineering on the Eindhoven College of Expertise, Hoefsloot and a staff of scholars have been tasked with constructing and racing a photo voltaic automotive in a single yr at an annual competitors in Australia. After successful the competitors with their solar-powered four-seater, Hoefsloot realized that the subsequent step was to carry the idea to the lots. Thus Lightyear was born in 2016.

“We felt, if it’s attainable to go from zero to a automotive constructed from scratch inside a yr, and win as nicely, then the sky’s the restrict.”

Set to enter manufacturing in 2021, Lightyear One might be one of many first long-range photo voltaic electrical automobiles. It has a battery with as much as 700km of vary plus 5 sq. meters of photo voltaic panels that add on 12km of vary for each hour the automotive is within the solar. 

Additionally they made the Lightyear Yet one more power environment friendly. A standard electrical automotive makes use of about 200-watt hours per kilometer, whereas their mannequin makes use of about 100-watt hours per kilometer. So, for each little bit of power you may have, you may go twice the space. 

As Hoefsloot defined, “Even in The Netherlands – a horribly wet nation – it might cost about 7,000 km per yr, which is greater than half of what individuals drive on common within the Netherlands. So in apply, you’d solely have to cost as soon as each few weeks, slightly than each few days.”

The third downside they need to clear up for customers sooner or later is value. The Lightyear One would be the firm’s first low quantity automotive, however the plan is to later go on to construct a excessive quantity mannequin that might be extra inexpensive for a bigger viewers. 

“Lots of people nonetheless don’t have the cash to purchase an electrical automotive. We shouldn’t choose individuals for not making the change as a result of there are merely not sufficient choices available on the market but. That’s why the push coming from the EU with its new incentives for various power autos is so essential.”

However, for now, Lightyear’s greatest problem is assembling a successful staff that may make their ambitions a actuality. They now have numerous vacancies they need to fill on their web site. Hoefsloot inspired anybody who believes they may also help the staff obtain their ambitions to achieve out.

“Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the EU, as soon as stated, ‘the greatest false impression is that in the event you do nothing, all the pieces will keep the identical.’ Typically, within the Netherlands, I’ve the sensation that we maintain ourselves again. We’re a small nation. We’re not the US. And generally we begin to assume: ‘Can we do that? Possibly we must always begin with a smaller mission?’ However I’d encourage anybody who has an concept to only begin with it and make it occur,” Hoefsloot stated.

Shaping an emission-free power system

It’s not simply our wheels that would use a inexperienced power enhance. Transferring from the present, fossil fuel-based electrical energy system, to an all-renewable power system, is essential to stopping local weather change but additionally extra advanced than simply putting in much more photo voltaic panels and wind generators. 

Simon Bushell, CEO of Sympower, believes that “One of many key issues we have to do is empower conventional industries to actively contribute to the power transition. A totally sustainable and interconnected power system would carry us a giant step ahead in powering the net-zero future.”  

However, as Bushell explains, it’s not that simple. 

When you look particularly on the electrical energy system, provide and demand all the time have to be in stability. Within the present mannequin, the big coal and gas-fired energy vegetation that present electrical energy continuously take a look at how a lot electrical energy is getting used. After they see extra is getting used, they burn extra coal and fuel. Equally, after they see much less electrical energy is being consumed, they scale back output.

What hinders the widespread adoption of renewable power is that it’s tougher to regulate than fossil fuels.

The problem with wind and photo voltaic power is that they’re variable and never controllable – you may’t simply ask a photo voltaic plant to supply extra electrical energy, you want the solar to be shining. As growing numbers of nations wish to transfer away from carbon-intensive power sources, this downside will solely grow to be extra advanced.

Bushell and his staff at Sympower realized that the power transition would require new demand response know-how and options. That’s why the corporate focuses on offering flexibility by regulating demand as a substitute of provide. 

Processes reminiscent of heating, cooling, air flow, and water pumping use plenty of electrical energy, nevertheless, it’s not essentially essential when that electrical energy is used. Take a fridge, for instance – in the event you flip it off for ten minutes all the pieces inside it should stay chilly, however crucially it should use much less electrical energy. Alternatively, you too can make a fridge colder through the use of extra electrical energy initially, earlier than turning it off for longer. Mainly, property reminiscent of fridges can management when electrical energy is consumed. That is precisely what we do. We make any asset versatile, balancing electrical energy provide and demand in real-time the identical manner a coal or gas-fired energy plant would.

Sympower has grown quickly because of a really enthusiastic shopper base which has helped it unfold the phrase organically. The corporate is now working in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Israel, with plans to develop to 3 new international locations in 2021.

“What we do is one thing individuals don’t usually learn about, so it’s been actually cool to see how enthusiastic our purchasers are to essentially assist allow a fully-renewable power grid of their nation,” stated Bushell. 

Nevertheless, there are nonetheless hurdles that Sympower has to beat to achieve a wider viewers. Bushell informed TNW:

One of many greatest challenges we face is regulation. Earlier than we will begin working in new international locations, we’d like sure laws to alter that can permit us to function as an unbiased demand aggregator. Sluggish regulatory modifications are in all probability our greatest blocker in the intervening time.

When requested about what the world must do now to flatten the local weather curve, Bushell informed TNW: “I believe there’s no silver bullet within the power transition. If anybody tells you what they do is the one key factor, I’d be very skeptical. A mixture of options is what is definitely wanted. I do consider that we offer an important service – the power transition can’t succeed with out flexibility.”

Giving waste a second life

Till not too long ago, plenty of the give attention to tackling the local weather curve has been centered on enhancing power effectivity. It’s solely in recent times that waste and the top lifetime of a product or supplies have come beneath nearer scrutiny. 

In a TED Speak, Extra Supplies Trade founder, Maayke Aimee Damen, highlighted that, whereas enhancing power effectivity is essential, this solely accounts for 55% of greenhouse fuel emissions. Guess the place the opposite 45% come from: the precise supplies/product we produce (together with waste).

In keeping with a report by the Ellen MacArthur Basis, if we simply targeted on designing out waste, preserving supplies in use, and regenerating farmland in 5 key areas (metal, plastic, aluminum, cement, and meals) we may remove 9.3 billion tons of greenhouse fuel emissions. To place this into perspective, this could be the equal of slicing the emissions of each automobile all the way down to zero.

Whereas this seems like a tremendous alternative to chop emissions, the reality is, many corporations don’t actually know the place to begin. As Damen defined, 

Corporations aren’t all the time conscious of what they’ve as a result of it’s all in numerous databases and it’s unstructured. Proper now they don’t actually have an concept of what’s going by way of their group. And if they’ve that, it’s all the time unfold out over completely different departments, in numerous codecs and databases, some on paper, some on-line. So if the data is already there, it’s not comparable and it’s dispersed. And that’s the place we turn out to be useful.

In 2017, Damen and her co-founder, Christian van Maaren, created Extra Supplies Trade (EME), a self-described ‘courting website’ for extra supplies. The staff begins out by serving to corporations to construction the supplies and merchandise they’ve accessible by offering each with a ‘Useful resource Passport’ containing insights into the composition, origin, toxicity, or deconstructability of the merchandise. 

This then permits EME to trace and hint these supplies all through the availability chain and match them with different reuse alternatives, both inside or outdoors of the group. 

For instance, they have been capable of assist one in all their clients, Dutch railway firm ProRail, match extra rail tracks in a single metropolis to different worksites in want of supplies throughout the nation. 

This additionally results in some unlikely matches. For instance, the Netherlands is known for its tulips, however what occurs with leftover flowers after the rising season ends? Whereas in some instances growers have even paid to have somebody eliminate the surplus flower waste, EME as a substitute has helped join growers to pigment makers who can reuse them. Clearly, opposites do appeal to.

And Damen has seen that having a system in place helps make the enterprise case for recycling a lot simpler:

I believe having standardized bookkeeping for sources goes to be an amazing assist in making data-driven selections. As a result of that’s what we’d like if we need to sort out this. We will’t simply go on our intestine feeling. We see that lots with circularity ending up as a gimmick. That’s why gathering knowledge is so essential.

With plenty of enthusiasm and help coming from their present purchasers, Damen informed TNW that the corporate’s primary objective for 2021 is to draw the funding wanted to scale up their operations. 

One piece of recommendation she would give to corporations who actually need to start making a distinction is to have clear KPIs in place. 

“The largest hurdle we see is that the urgency is kind of low. Folks discover it exhausting to narrate to one thing that’s not tangible. It’s on corporations proper now to scale back their emissions or to begin exchanging supplies, however they don’t essentially have a technique or KPIs to steer them in the best path. This makes it very exhausting for people inside corporations who need change to succeed as a result of, in the event that they succeed, there’s no KPI they’re going to be rewarded on and, in the event that they fail, they’ve an issue. So the motivation scheme isn’t tailor-made in the direction of taking motion within the majority of organizations,” Damen informed TNW.

Making worldwide journey sooner and greener

Maybe one of many harder sacrifices we’ll should make to decrease our carbon footprint might be our wanderlust. Whereas there are increasingly more choices to chop emissions from our every day commute, for worldwide journey we’re nonetheless reliant on flights to get us the place we have to go. 

Whereas business aviation is barely liable for 3.5% of the EU’s greenhouse fuel emissions, it’s additionally rising sooner than every other transport sector has elevated by 130% over the previous 20 years. Though electrical trains are rising in popularity, a prepare journey from Amsterdam to Paris or Frankfurt nonetheless takes round three to 4 hours. 

However Hardt Hyperloop is making some thrilling new developments that would minimize a three-hour intercity journey down to only half-hour. The corporate’s imaginative and prescient is to interchange short-haul air journey throughout Europe with a ten,000km community of tubes that may zip individuals and cargo throughout borders. Not solely is the hyperloop system anticipated to take much less time, it’s additionally powered by renewable power. 

The energy-efficient tech behind the system is probably essentially the most fascinating half. Every hyperloop automobile is pushed by way of the tube system utilizing a mix of electromagnetic suspension and electrical propulsion. This know-how, together with the low-pressure setting created throughout the tubes, helps to propel the autos ahead at excessive speeds. 

Whereas it could be some time earlier than we will all jet-set throughout Europe by tube, Hardt plans to open the primary European Hyperloop Heart in 2022 the place engineers, researchers, and governments can collaborate collectively to make this futuristic-sounding imaginative and prescient a actuality. 

From progressive know-how to gathering the best knowledge to government-backed laws and incentives, there’s nonetheless lots to be achieved. However one factor we did hear from all of this yr’s cohorts was that a very powerful ingredient is there: the desire and motivation to alter. As Bushell of Sympower stated:

I believe it’s positively beginning. I don’t assume we’re there but. However you positively see that increasingly more corporations are saving power and decreasing CO2 and it’s turning into extra essential for them. However there’s nonetheless plenty of consciousness that we may carry.

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Revealed January 6, 2021 — 13:27 UTC

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