Start-up of the day: Energy Floors is making smart parking spaces in Rotterdam

Over the coming year, Rotterdam’s Energy Floors wants to sell smart surfaces for public outdoor spaces that generate data, measuring how many cars, pedestrians and cyclists are passing by. These can be used to regulate traffic flows and lighting, for instance. These Smart Energy Floors also generate energy via the solar cells that are integrated in them. At the moment, the Rotterdam municipality is on the lookout for a suitable location for the application of this kind of energy surface in a city parking lot, says Michel Smit, CEO of Energy Floors. A trial of this is planned for 2020 in cooperation with the Engie energy company.

What motivated you to set up Energy Floors and what problem has this resolved?

“Our first idea was to create a Sustainable Dance Floor on which people can dance to generate energy, something that you can actually see because the tiles light up. (By converting the vertical movement of the dancer on the floor into rotational movement through a mechanism underneath the flexible floor tiles so as to generate energy, ed.) That idea originally came from two companies: Enviu and Döll. In 2017, they brought me in as a hands-on expert from the club scene. I had been running a large nightclub in Rotterdam for four years, called Off-Corso. They wanted to bring sustainability to the attention of young people and thought that the Sustainable Dance Floor could help with that.

Unlike today, it was difficult to get young people interested in sustainable energy at that time. It had a bit of a stuffy image. We initially tried out that first version of that dance floor at the Rotterdam pop stage Watt (which went bankrupt in 2010, ed.) – that made it the first sustainable club in the world. We started building our business around that first Sustainable Dance Floor.”

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“That we had customers for the Sustainable Dance Floor before we had the actual product. At first, we only had a drawing of the floor, an artist’s impression. We worked out the concept and technology with TU Delft and TU/e in Eindhoven. And together with Daan Roosegaarde, we were able to further develop the interaction between the public and the technology. This is where our Sustainable Dance Floor is unique: the interaction between people and sustainably-generated energy. When they dance harder, they generate more energy.

This is what we want to offer people when it comes to our business proposition. That they themselves have an influence on improving the sustainability of energy. We want commitment. This is what we are specifically focusing on. The second obstacle was how we could go about expanding the scale for things that this product can be used for. So that it has a real impact. That’s why we wanted a surface that was suitable for large permanent fixtures in outdoor areas. We had to drop our initial unique selling point – as in ‘human energy’ – for this type of surface. Instead, we came up with our Smart Energy Floor. We use solar energy rather than kinetic energy. Otherwise, the project would be impossible to complete. The system has to be cost-effective, robust and resistant to wear and tear.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That we sold 25 of those Smart Energy Floors to schools last year. Three of them in Germany and the rest in The Netherlands. As a company, we have three business propositions: the Dancer for clubs and discotheques, for example, the Gamer for schoolyards and the Walker for large outdoor facilities. The first Walker in the Netherlands is located near Croeselaan in Utrecht on a crossing opposite Rabobank’s head office. Rabo has partly financed this floor. There is also one in the palace garden of the President of Malta. He found us via Google. It is a public garden with a Gamer and a Walker. A Gamer costs 13,000 euros including the installation. While a Walker is available from 25,000 euros.

The fact that we appeal to people all over the world doesn’t surprise us at all. Our first signed contract was with the producer of Absolute Vodka. He wanted to make a road show around New York with our dance floor in 2009. So, that’s what we did. We get two to three requests a day. Our challenge is to be able to deal with these properly. Because we want to keep on innovating too. As an example, you could also use the Smart Energy Floor on motorways if you developed the software for that.”

 What can we expect from Energy Floors over the coming year?

“We want to start selling more Walkers. This is a new market for us that has a lot of potential. Smart city projects that you can use it in are much larger projects than what we have done so far. You could equip bike paths with our technology so that you can turn them into walkways. We are going to do a smart parking trial next year together with Engie and the municipality of Rotterdam. We will be installing  a Walker for that reason. The energy generated by the solar cells in the surface goes to the electricity grid and can subsequently be used to charge cars. Currently, we’re looking around for a suitable location.

We are also planning to enter the German market. This fits in well with our product and company. There is plenty of capital there and focus on sustainability. And the German way of doing business isn’t that different from the Dutch way of doing business.”

What is your ultimate goal?

“Ultimately, we want our Smart Energy Floors to be used in all the world’ s major cities and have their data connected to each other. You can learn a lot from each other’s experiences. You could monitor and influence the behaviour of the users of our surfaces on city roads. For example, in order to regulate busy situations at certain locations. You can apply the technology in a smart way. If there are very few people driving or walking on the road, you could turn the lights off in the evening.”

Start-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

During his mechanical engineering studies at the TU in Eindhoven, Henk Ouwerkerk came up with a system that allows combined gas and steam turbines to generate supplemental electricity ‘on demand’. And now, fifteen years later, his idea has evolved into a product that he plans to sell through his company Heat Power. It will be on the market for the first time next year.

What motivated you to set up Heat Power and what problem does it resolve?

“I always wanted to become an entrepreneur and I always have all sorts of ideas too. I had written down a few of them and I thought they could turn out to be something. I have been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to design a prototype at the TU/e during my Masters and subsequently as part of my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

My idea was to enhance electric generation from existing combined gas and steam turbines so that they can meet market demands more quickly. So turbine can generate more electricity when there is more demand, and less when there is less demand. This innovation is particularly interesting for smaller factories that use steam, for example to heat raw materials during their manufacturing process.

Electricity on demand

A combined gas and steam turbine which is capable of generating electricity is already a reality in large power plants. But these turbines run continuously and on the basis of a consistent air flow. You can’t turn them on or off from one moment to the next. This is possible with our system, the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine (RCG). How? We let the steam turbine drive the gas turbine’s compressor. We then use a special valve in order to gauge how much air can or cannot pass through the steam turbine. The more air you let in, the more electricity is produced by the generator connected to the turbine. This allows you to generate as much electricity as you need at any time. That way you save on costs as a company. Because then you don’t have to buy energy from an external supplier.

If you generate more power than you need for your own manufacturing process, you can also sell it if there is a demand for it. You could earn money from that. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine generates electricity on demand. That’s very useful. Because when a great deal of sustainable solar and wind energy is already being produced, you don’t want to add to the electricity supply. That’s of no use to anyone. In that case, the electricity grid might become overloaded.”

Henk Ouwerkerk (right), project engineer Jeroen Schot and project leader Marc van Erp Photo: Heat Power

What has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome?

“Our turbine is an industrial hardware product. You have to finance the transition from an idea to a working system in a factory. Before you get that far, you are already talking about an investment of $1 million. And then you haven’t even done anything over the top. The steam turbine that we had to buy was the most expensive component for us. I found a used one in Germany. The new price is €150,000. But I bought this one for €10,000.

I attracted investors and issued shares for each stage of the design of Heat Power. At first, these were business angels from my own network, and then investment companies later on. I also applied for an energy innovation grant from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. Looking for funding was half the work. I also spent many years investing my own unpaid time and money in it. We did energy consultancy work for third parties through the company. That’s how we earned money. We put that back into the company. We have made steady progress thanks to this diverse mix of income.

In the early days, I was also a truck driver in the evening hours for one of my business angels who is in the meat industry. I also drove trucks full of beer crates to supermarkets’ distribution centers for a beer brewery at night. I am a night person, so that wasn’t a problem. Then at 10 a.m. the next morning, I started tinkering with the prototype for my own company again.

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“That was the pilot at the Hout Industrie Schijndel factory towards the end of last year. Our Rankine Compression Gas Turbine is actually integrated into the manufacturing process there. We were able to demonstrate that our turbine is capable of a quick change of gear without hampering the manufacturing process.”

What can we expect from Heat Power in the coming year?

“Then we will bring our first full-scale commercial model onto the market. The model used in the pilot is made up of just one module. You need several in order to be profitable because you can then generate more electricity that way. We currently have three potential customers. But we are hoping for more.”

Where do you want Heat Power to be within five years? What is your ultimate goal?

“That purchasers of steam turbines will be able to choose the Rankine Compression Gas Turbine as an extra option via the established suppliers. The market in Europe, where there are 25,000 companies that use steam, is large enough for us.  Although it continues to be a niche market. After all, these are exclusively companies that use steam in their manufacturing process and that want to generate flexible electricity.”

What does Heat Power’s innovation improve in comparison to products in your segment of the market?

“That you only need to generate extra electricity with this turbine when there is a demand for it. In order to supplement the supply of renewable energy from the sun and wind, which is very difficult to regulate.”

 

 

Read moreStart-up of the day: Heat Power generates extra energy when there is no sun or wind

Hardt rules the hyperloop market with their lane switching technology

Optimism is putting a smile on the faces of Hardt‘s founders in Delft. This week they announced that they had once again managed to attract major investors. Including the renowned Tukker, technician and investor from the very outset in Booking.com. As well as Kees Koolen, one of the original investors in Uber. They are investing millions in the construction of a new, longer test track at an as yet undisclosed location in the Netherlands for the high speed suspended metro system – the Hyperloop. Within ten years, it should connect all the major European cities to each other. That means you could, for example, travel from Rotterdam to Milan in the blink of an eye.

But why Hardt instead of the competition?

The question is – why are they buying shares in Hardt’s hyperloop? And not in any of the other four hyperloop system developers that are currently out there? There is Zeleros in Spain (in Valencia) and Hyper Poland in Poland. You have HTT (Hyperloop Transportation Technologies) in the US, and Transpod, a Canadian-French company. Then there is Hyperloop One, a company that is also designing a hyperloop and has built a test track in the desert near Las Vegas with capital from the British Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson. Not that it matters at all, but Branson is rather more well-known than Kees Koolen from Hengelo. Though Hardt has the former professional football player Gregory Van der Wiel as an angel investor. He is world famous as well, albeit that Van der Wiel would rather stay in the background when it comes to this kind of thing, or so it seems. The key question is what distinguishes Hardt from these four hyperloop companies which all seem to be making good progress too. And are they rivals?

‘Lane Switching’ is the magic word

If you ask the investors in Hardt why, you always get the same answer: “Lane switching,” Anne Koolen says. In other words: the possibility to change the route of these magnetically-suspended capsules.

Koolen has a technical qualification and is spokesperson for her father Kees’s company Koolen Industries. The two of them assessed the potential for an investment in Hardt. “Hardt has been the only one of all those hyperloop developers who has shown that they have the technological know-how to do this.”

That’s what marketing manager Martijn Koerts at InnoEnergy (an investment company that invests money from the European Commission and from private investors in innovative, sustainable start-ups) says. “The most important thing about the lane switching technology is that you are able to plan several routes in a single tube which the hyperloop moves through.” You can use it to divert a hyperloop to a stop in a city between, say, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. If you didn’t have that lane-switching technology, you could only go from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. Therefore, a stop in for instance Cologne, a city of 1 million residents, wouldn’t be possible. “Because all the hyperloops that come afterwards will then have to wait until that one moves on. That takes too much time and is not what the intention is.”

‘Lots of carriages makes the Hyperloop affordable’

Without lane switching a hyperloop network would just not be affordable, says Jelte Altena, marketing manager at Hardt. “Then you would have to build separate tubes for the various stops and routes. This isn’t feasible because it takes up too much space on land. What’s more, it’s far too expensive. Those costs can’t be recouped. You have to make sure that enough carriages can glide through one tube, so that the construction costs for those carriages can be repaid.”

Regardless of how you look at it, if the European Commission, in consultation with the individual member states, decides to build a network of pipelines for the hyperloop, then Hardt’s lane switching technology will be indispensable. After all, what can’t be paid, can’t be built. It is that simple.

It’s not that the other hyperloop companies should pack up and dump everything just because they lack this lane-switching technology, according tto Altena. Hardt is currently discussing the standardization of hyperloop technology with the other four developers – including the American and Canadian developers – as part of a workgroup led by officials from the European Commission. Hardt took the initiative for this with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. Altena expects that at some point there will be a tender from the European Commission which the various companies can respond to. “It is conceivable that we might work on specific points in cooperation with each other. That we will form a consortium of companies where we would combine the necessary technologies together.”

Magnet in tube that diverts route can be switched on and off

The Hyperloop technology used by Hardt is based on a tube which is 3 meters in diameter. The carriage that glides through it is pulled by a magnet located at the top segment which it almost but not quite touches. There is therefore no contact at all with the tube walls. The tube itself uses vacuum pressure to move. This means that there is no resistance from air. As a result, the suspended metro can reach a speed of up to 1000 kilometers per hour using less energy than a train. The motor will be electric so there aren’t any CO2 emissions.

Switching lanes can be done at the junction by switching on the magnet in the segment of the tube that curves towards the other route and by switching off the magnet on the main route. This way the magnetic field draws the suspended metro into the other tube going in a different direction. “It sounds so simple,” says Altena. “But someone had to come up with that bright idea.”

Will we soon be living in Rotterdam and working in Paris?

According to Altena, passengers should be able to board the Hyperloop in 2028. He can’t say how much a ticket will cost. “If it turns out that the tube needs to have a larger diameter, this will affect the price. But we are already looking into what passengers are willing to pay for their daily commute using the various modes of transport that are currently available, such as airplanes or trains.

If the Hyperloop really does get going in 2028, that will drastically change work-related commutes. You will then be able to commute between Paris and Rotterdam, for example, in the time it now takes you to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam by train. You won’t have to move. “That’s exactly what we predict,” says Altena. And when seen from this perspective, the suspended metro should be packed.

Start-up of the day: ‘Happy to get rid of gas thanks to Woon Duurzaam’

Rense van Dijk worked in the energy sector for many years yet always felt uneasy about the amount of CO2 that is emitted. That’s one of the reasons why he eventually he went on to do something else. Last year he launched a company which is dedicated to making homes more sustainable. In the past month he has signed several agreements with investors that will enable the company to expand into this new market, including, amongst other things, the installation sector.

What motivated you to set up Woon Duurzaam and what problem does this resolve?

“When my own central heating had to be replaced three years ago, I wanted to find out what the alternatives were. I wanted to stop using a gas boiler so I asked several installation companies tocome up with a solution and give me a quote for it. Most of them said they couldn’t, so they wouldn’t give me a quote. Others did give me a quote with a solution that didn’t suit my house. That was because they hadn’t looked into my living situation. Then I started to find out for myself how I could make my house more sustainable. I installed a heat pump which draws in heat from the outside air. It heats the water in my radiators. I replaced the radiators with a type that, thanks to an improved technology which uses less hot water, still generates a lot of heat. This also saves a substantial amount of energy. I also installed a heat pump in the attic. This works as an airco during summer and provides heating in winter. And I had insulation material installed in the cavity walls. Chips that were blown into these walls through little holes. These holes were then cemented up again. I haven’t done certain things because they didn’t really offer much energy savings compared to what they cost. You could also insulate the floor and I could have replaced double glazing that isn’t HR++. But the return on those kind of investments was outweighed by the costs. All in all, the whole process cost me about €20,000. I borrowed this at a low interest rate through a government scheme. This loan can be deducted from your income tax, just like your mortgage. On balance, I am saving money, despite the loan that has to be paid off in 15 years. While I was doing all this in my own house – which was built in 1938 – I came to realize that a lot of people must have been asking the same questions. And that there was a need for advice on how to make homes more sustainable. That’s how I came up with the idea to start Woon Duurzaam.”

The founder, Rense van Dijk van Woon Duurzaam (second from left), with new business partners Els Hoenkamp from Greenchoice, Wouter van Westenbrugge from Stichting DOEN, Jaap Willems from Mijndomein and Alexander Goos from InnoEnergy. Photo: InnoEnergy

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

“We still haven’t completely overcome the biggest obstacle yet. We have to get rid of gas over the next 30 years. What has been difficult so far is that politicians and the media are giving out mixed signals about this. In the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, you read about how none of this is affordable. Former leader of the Dutch Labor Party, Diederik Samsom, was at the head of the negotiating table on the built-up environment at the climate conference in Paris. He told the media that he himself hadn’t done anything to eliminate gas from his own home either. He said: ‘I’m not going to do anything yet. I’ll wait a little bit longer.’ Because the Netherlands was so shocked by biased articles in the media and he just wanted to reassure people. I get that. But they just fail to understand that there is a real need to get rid of gas in houses and make these buildings more sustainable.”

What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?

“When we realized that in order to make 80 percent of the homes that were built after 1930 more sustainable, a financially attractive deal could be made. We are talking about around 5 million homes across every category: terraced houses, detached houses and apartments. That was in November 2018, half a year after its foundation. A second breakthrough happened this year when we entered into agreements with large market players who want to work with us. This month, we signed an agreement with the energy supplier Greenchoice to run pilot projects next year in order to make their customers’ homes more CO2 neutral. Various manufacturers of heat pumps such as Vaillant and Panasonic as well as Nathan, a representative for Alpha Innotec pumps, have asked us to do their installations for them. That’s because the regular installation companies are not able to do this. Generally, they are only specialized in the installation of gas boilers.”

 What can we expect from Woon Duurzaam in the coming year?

“Next year we want to remove the gas systems from a hundred homes and offer a deal that will help consumers make their homes more sustainable step by step. You don’t have to do everything at once. But it’s important that you do all the right things properly and not do anything that’s unnecessary.”

Where do you want Woon Duurzaam to be within 5 years? What is your ultimate goal?

“We would like to have made 10,000 houses more sustainable by then. We are working in the Netherlands at present. Through our relationship with InnoEnergy, one of our investors, we see that markets in other countries differ from those in the Netherlands. But we also see that there is also a need there for a reliable party who is prepared to make homes more sustainable. So we want to work on that as well.”

What does Woon Duurzaam’s innovation do better compared to other products in your segment of the market?

“Our sole aim is to offer solutions when it comes to making homes more sustainable. These must be geared to the situation of the people we work for. We don’t work with standard quotes. We offer well thought-out plans that are carried out properly. Such a service wasn’t available in the past. It is now.”

Multi-million-euro injection for large-scale Hardt Hyperloop test track

An international business consortium led by the Dutch green energy conglomerate Koolen Industries has made a multi-million dollar investment in Hardt Hyperloop, which is to set up Europe’s first fully operational and emission-free Hyperloop test facility.

This investment round is supported by the renowned German fund Freigeist Capital, several Dutch and Belgian investors and one of Uber’s first engineers. Several other current investors are also taking part in this investment round. The company has raised more than €10 million so far.

Major projects

“Koolen Industries not only brings in money, it also has phenomenal strategic knowledge about how to build a leading company in a new industry. This partnership will pave the way for several large projects that will guarantee a successful commercial implementation of our hyperloop solution,” says Tim Houter, CEO of Hardt Hyperloop. “Furthermore, it is great to have such a broad and international group of investors who also help us with local projects. As well as the long-term support of our original investors.”

From left to right: Founders of Hardt Hyperloop Marinus van der Meijs, Sascha Lamme, Mars Geuze, Tim Houter and the newest investor Kees Koolen Photo: Hardt Hyperloop

Sustainable

“Hardt Hyperloop fits in well with the family of sustainable energy companies at Koolen Industries,” says Kees Koolen, CEO of Koolen Industries.

Track switching technology

“With its revolutionary hyperloop track switching technology, the Hardt Hyperloop will change the way we travel. Just like Uber did for personal mobility in cities. By using high speed, emission-free hyperloops, everybody will be able to participate in the transition to clean energy without having to quit traveling. As the hyperloop which Hardt has been developing is much further than just an idea, it is already in a position to offer an affordable and sustainable alternative for the heavily-polluting aviation industry,” says Koolen. He is the former CEO of Booking.com and an early Uber investor.

Test facility

The CTO of Koolen Industries, Gerben Hilboldt, agrees. “The Hardt Hyperloop team has successfully realized Europe’s first operational hyperloop test facility. This is a major step forward for mobility. As a green energy conglomerate, we are proud to be part of this future,” Hilboldt states.

Larger test circuit

This investment round will bring hyperloop technology closer towards becoming a commercial reality. Hardt Hyperloop demonstrated the operation of Europe’s first hyperloop test facility earlier this year. The company is preparing for the next step with this investment: The creation of the European Hyperloop Center, a facility with a length of three kilometers for testing and demonstrating hyperloop technologies at high speeds.

Larger team

“It also allows us to further expand our team with talented people and attract investors for future investment rounds. And to attract even more companies in cooperation with our existing partners, e.g., EIT InnoEnergy, the Dutch and German national railways, Tata Steel, Royal IHC and the Royal BAM Group. We are making this world-changing form of mobility a reality together,” says Lamme.

Example of what the European pipeline network for the Hardt Hyperloop could look like Source: Hardt

European network

In the future, a European hyperloop network will need to connect all major cities. The aim is to be able to travel from one European (capital) city to another under two hours at competitive ticket prices compared to current modes of transport such as aircraft and trains. A study carried out in 2018 showed that this would reduce the travel time from Amsterdam to Frankfurt to less than 50 minutes, compared to the four hours it currently takes.

‘Market value 6 billion euros’

According to an independent study carried out by Verified Market Research, the hyperloop technology market is expected to be worth nearly €6 billion by 2026. The market is driven by growing demand as a result of rapid industrialization, a rising population and the need for shorter travel times. Hyperloop’s lower costs are also driving market growth, partly due to its scaled-down requirements for land areas and infrastructure that is easier to build, plus its resistance to natural disasters.

CEO InnoEnergy Pavía: ‘Timmermans, show some vision and don’t let lobbyists dictate the Green Deal’

Diego Pavía, the CEO of InnoEnergy, (which is a European investor in innovative start-ups), is firmly convinced that we will no longer emit CO2 in 2050 and will all be using green energy. Innovation Origins asked him why and how he views the Green Deal that European Commissioner Frans Timmermans is due to deliver at the end of this year. This outlines how Europe will become CO2-free by 2050. “The most important thing is that Timmermans should have his own vision for the energy transition. He should not be influenced by lobbyists,” Pavía states.

How do you feel about the European member states’ roadmap to 2030. That’s when they should have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by half. And what about 2050, when they will no longer be allowed to emit any greenhouse gases at all?

“This energy transition will become reality. Why? Nowadays, you can choose between generating energy from windmills or from burning fossil fuels. Generating energy from a wind farm is cheaper. This means that technologies that can meet the targets for the energy transition already exist. And they are ‘in the money, as we like to call it. They are competitive. If this wasn’t the case, the consumer would go for what would yield them the most profit. What is most competitive in this day and age is already based on green technology.

Is that due to subsidies?

“No. That was the case during the early stages of sustainable energy generation. But now the business is able to stand on its own two feet. The innovations and inventors of new technologies have demonstrated that they have what it takes to do this. These innovations are feasible from a business perspective. But there are always two sides to a transition. That of the business to business, and that of the business to consumer, or citizen. The business-to-business side is at the forefront. Companies involved will meet the targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions sooner than agreed. Just because it makes good business sense to use the most competitive technology. As far as the business-to-consumer side of things are concerned, the use of innovative technology and the mindset of consumers will have to change. A lot needs to be done before consumers make the switch and buy a new type of car, or a heat pump for household heating, for example. This transition will be much more difficult.”

Is it because people’s ingrained behaviour has to change?

“Yes, the way they deal with the products they use is in their heads. That’s why we organized a conference [last week, ed.] on humanizing the energy transition. We have to take this transition to the citizens so that they don’t become spectators or sufferers, but instead become actors. This is a problem that you simply can’t solve overnight. We all come from diverse cultures in Europe. There are Germans, Spaniards, French, etc. We all behave in different ways and we all react differently to the stimuli that comes from the energy transition. We have to work together as participants in the system in order for that to happen.”

What do you expect from the Green Deal’s European Commissioner Frans Timmermans? If you could contribute something, what would that be?

“I definitely don’t have the answer to that question. But I would say: hey, Mr. Timmermans, you need a vision! Then he needs to provide the tools for implementing his vision. Since Timmermans has the money he received from the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen for the transition, he has been pulled in all directions by practically every lobbyist conceivable. The danger that this presents, is that if Timmermans does not have his own vision and the accompanying tools, he will allow himself to be influenced by these lobbyists and he will make a hotchpotch of all these influences. That’s a mistake.”

The Member States must approve the Green Deal

“No. The Member States must submit their own national climate plans. Already there are concepts of how they will contribute to the climate targets for 2030. But they still need to be streamlined, of course.”

Is it conceivable that there are obstacles that stand in the way of getting this Green Deal approved?

“The Green Deal is the political strategy for accelerating the process of energy transition within the EU. Yet the way in which we are supposed to achieve these targets has already been determined. The groundwork for the legal regulatory system that is needed for this is already in place, so I don’t see any obstacles there.”

You also don’t see any difficulties that might prevent this process from being sped up?

“No. The [requisite sustainable, ed.] technology is there and is valuable. If we stop using fossil fuels for industrial production processes right now, the companies involved would lose money. So we have to help them. Not only the industry and the companies, but also citizens who have to go through the transition.”

So there has to be enough money to help existing companies.

“Yes. There must be clear incentives, though not necessarily in terms of subsidies. But it does need to be like this:  If I have a factory which is currently using coal, I should be able to easily invest in a much cleaner wind farm. Right now, as in today. And then be able to write off that coal factory.

But as an entrepreneur you have to be able to afford that

“Yes, but there is plenty of money available. That’s not the problem.”

There is no obstacle in your view

“Yes, there is. The obstacle is us: we citizens. For example, think about locations where wind farms will be built. We have to accept these changes.”

High-level French official: “Involve low-income households in the energy transition”

The French Government, like the other EU Member States, is faced with the complex task of involving the entire population in the process of making the French economy climate neutral by 2050. As it turns out, there are concerns about this. “It’s not just about devising the very best new renewable energy technology,” said Laurent Michel, Director General of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity, at InnoEnergy’s conference on innovative energy start-ups held in Paris last week.

Low incomes

It is very important that scientists invent new and better technology, Michel pointed out. For example, think of better batteries for electric cars that will have a greater range as a result. “But this should be accessible to all low-income households as well.”

“They must also be able to participate in the energy transition. The transition to products that use renewable energy will have the greatest impact on them.” After all, they have very little money to spare and therefore run the risk of running into problems if they have to buy new appliances that they cannot afford. At the same time, subsidies for innovative energy applications are paid out of the tax revenue that they themselves contribute to.

That this paradox exists is obvious, even if the French senior official did not explicitly refer to it.

Millions for energy start-ups

As is the case with the other European member states, France has prepared a roadmap to meet the EU’s 2030 target. Each EU member state must emit 45% less CO2 than it does at present. All economic processes must be free of CO2 emissions by 2050. This task requires a major upheaval of the industry. In France, this industry is predominantly based on energy from fossil and nuclear sources. France will have to make the switch to the production of renewable energy. The same applies to French households.

According to the French climate change official, the government is committed to subsidizing start-ups that are developing forms for renewable energy generation or energy conservation. Many millions are being made available for this. In the so-named PPE plan, launched at the beginning of this year, the French Government promised to double the production of renewable energy within 10 years. Wind and solar energy will be used first and foremost for this purpose. The country also wants to close four to six nuclear power stations. France emits relatively little CO2 within Europe, mainly due to the large use of nuclear power stations. Several of these are outdated.

Sociological framework

Nevertheless, the aim is for everyone to be able to benefit from this, Michel said. “It is important for the state to develop a sociological framework whereby all French citizens will be able to participate”.

An initial condition is that French citizens first accept that the transition will actually take place. Otherwise, they will not take part. “That’s a challenge,” according to Michel. But once that has been achieved, our citizens must be given the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to do so. Which means that if they want to recycle plastic so as to conserve raw materials and energy, they need to be able to do that somewhere. That’s what the French government must do when it comes to guiding society.

Call for proposals

The goal is for French buildings to undergo thorough renovations which will drastically cut down on their energy consumption, Michel states. Transport must be innovated. Engines should run as much as possible on electricity and hydrogen. In his view, this also applies to heavy trucks and other industrial transport.

Start-up entrepreneurs in France who have come up with ideas for this are able to count on subsidies from the French state. “A call for proposals was issued in September for this,” Michel says.

Director-General Laurent Michel of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity Photo: InnoEnergy

Former Secretary of State of the United States: Quadruple the CO2 price and let the polluter pay

The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to make the polluting industries pay at least four times as much for the quantity of these emissions as they do now. So says Steven Chu, the former Secretary of State for Energy of the United States, Nobel Prize winner and physicist.

The price for CO2 emissions is currently around 20 euros per ton. Far too low, says Chu. According to him, this should be at least 80 euros. Otherwise, there is no financial incentive for reducing CO2 emissions. It is also not attractive for companies to collect CO2, nor for processing companies to make a product out of it or to store it.

Innovative start-ups

Chu made his views known during The Business Booster, the annual conference of the European investor InnoEnergy that was held in Paris last week. It focuses on innovative start-ups in the energy sector.

Former Secretary of State for Energy of the U.S. Government, Steven Chu, recommends a higher price for CO2 emissions Photo: Lucette Mascini

The former State Secretary for Energy in the Obama administration responded to the question posed by one of the participants in the congress, namely Robert Rosa from Climeworks. This is a company that is currently extracting CO2 from outdoor air and resells it to fruit and vegetable growers for their greenhouses. They also are storing CO2 in the ground in Iceland. In combination with the subsoil of basalt there, it then crystallizes and within a few years it turns into a type of white rock.

Get CO2 out of the air now

Rosa wanted to hear from Chu if it wasn’t better to focus on a technology that is already able to extract CO2 directly from air. As opposed to waiting until there is a technology that can be manufactured without CO2 emissions. After all, as long as this technology does not exist, large-scale industrial CO2 emissions will simply persist. The climate is suffering as a result, while you could help alleviate it right now. That’s a better strategy in his view.

Chu, (who told us himself that he is on the board of Inventys, a company that captures and recycles CO2), says that the current CO2 price is still far too low at the moment to be able to successfully steer in that direction. “As long as the world doesn’t raise the CO2 price, we’re stuck,” Chu says.

As much as 100 euros per ton

As much as 100 euros per ton is needed to be able to transform CO2 from outdoor air into rock in a cost-effective way, according to him.

In order to raise that price, the various trading bodies in the world have to make agreements about the costs of CO2 emissions, Chu says. “My dream is that the EU and China will sit down together at the negotiating table and make agreements about this. The best thing to do is to raise the price of CO2 from 20 to around 80 euros per ton over a period of 10 to 15 years. This will allow industry enough time to prepare for this.”

‘Dream of CO2 agreements between the EU and China’

This means that the industry will have to adapt its manufacturing processes and emit less CO2. Or else anticipate a higher price per product because of the extra tax that is charged for CO2 emissions. Chu’ s idea is to estimate the amount of energy used for the production of goods at the borders where they enter the country. The extra tax based on this estimate must be reinvested into the community.

Hardt Hyperloop to go on tour around Europe with their mobile experience center starting early 2020

Early next year the Delft-based company Hardt Hyperloop will start a tour around European cities with their mobile experience center. There, consumers will be able to become acquainted with this new way of traveling, whereby passengers are seated in a capsule that is shot through a vacuum tube at a speed of up to a thousand kilometers per hour. That’s what Hardt Hyperloop commercial director Mars Geuze said at the annual Business Booster conference held by InnoEnergy in Paris, InnoEnergy is a European investment company that has already invested 5 million euros in the development of the company from Delft.

Wherever they and their experience center set up, the founders of Hardt Hyperloop hope that the tour will interest municipalities and provinces in investing in the construction of a station platform and perhaps a part of the tube network.

Test site

Geuze doesn’t want to reveal which cities Hardt has in mind quite yet. Discussions are still ongoing about where the test site with a 3 km long tube should be built. “We are probably only going to cities where a station platform will be built. They are the ones who are most interested in participating in the project,” Geuze says.

Hardt will only announce which cities the mobile experience center will be set up once it is clear where the test sites will be located. It is likely that it will be installed at central railway stations. This is where the boarding platforms for the hyperloop are expected to be in the future.

InnoEnergy invests in start-ups which focus on sustainable energy. The Hardt Hyperloop should become an alternative for regional flights. According to Hardt, the Hyperloop will use less energy than a train and is as fast as an airplane.

Since the vehicle is electric and moves through a magnetic field, there are no CO2 emissions or other harmful gases.

Clock is ticking

Geuze confirmed that the idea for a hyperloop has been around for more than a hundred years. But now that CO2 emissions will have to be halved in Europe by 2030, the clock is ticking. When Elon Musk first launched the competition a few years ago to design a hyperloop, we all sat down together with a few students in Delft. We then very quickly listed the options and decided that this had to be it. Our concept fitted on the back of a beer mat, so to speak.”

The aim is to have an operational network for the transportation of passengers across Europe within 15 years, states Geuze. Freight transport via the hyperloop should be possible sooner because it is less complex to comply with the safety requirements. After all, no people are involved in that.

Saudi Arabia

According to Geuze, countries from other continents are also expressing interest. We have received requests for information from Saudi Arabia, for instance. They want to know what our standard will look like. Then they don’t have to come up with it themselves.”

Model for the European network of tubes through which the Hardt Hyperloop is to float. Source: Hardt