The Last Problem

Jan 30, 2017

The energy trilemma is widely recognised as the need to achieve a low-carbon, cost-effective and secure energy source. It’s like a three piece puzzle – it should be simple to complete – but the commercial models currently in use always leave a piece missing.

Fossil fuels are cost-effective and secure, but they are not low-carbon. Renewable energy is clean and cost-effective, but intermittent. As such, the majority of the world is currently reliant on generating energy from fossil fuels to fill the troughs in renewable energy supply. But if we are to meet the COP21 targets then it is vital that fossil fuels are gradually phased out.

So, what’s the solution? If we introduce energy storage to the mix it has the power to make renewables secure, but it is traditionally very expensive. It is as if every time the puzzle looks complete, another piece mysteriously disappears.

The technology is there, but smarter business models are required to allow them to take off. Bright minds are needed to convert this game-changing niche innovation into a commercially viable, embedded technology.

Take our start-up Ferroamp, for instance. The company’s EnergyHub technology combines local energy storage and solar cells in a single unit. The technology manages the energy produced from the sun, stores the spare generation and collects and processes actionable local production and consumption data.

EnergyHub by Ferroamp

Ferroamp's EnergyHub system

The EnergyHub’s built-in intelligence also automatically balances the intermittent solar generation and enables commercially viable services including frequency regulation, peak power management and voltage control to grid operators. All these offerings benefit the consumer and the grid by increasing return on investment and improving grid stability.

Furthermore, the multiple revenue streams generated allow Ferroamp to gain a competitive advantage in the energy storage space and also attract the attention of investors – turning the business into a commercial reality.

So, how do we roll these innovative business models out of a larger scale? Getting industry veterans and larger companies on board to impart the knowledge of the industry will be key.

However, it can often feel like entrepreneurs and the energy industry are opposing forces. The energy industry recognises the need to innovate, but at the same time it is under pressure to increase revenues and reduce risk. Entrepreneurs are more inclined to take risks. They are disruptive, posing difficult questions and seeking answers to solve society’s challenges.

One of my colleagues, InnoEnergy’s innovation director, Elena Bou, says that encouraging the industry to innovate is like teaching an elephant to dance. It’s hard to move a body that big in an agile fashion. The same applies for large energy corporations. Regulation, legacy systems and established processes that have proven effective over years – even decades – of operation make it difficult to be fleet of foot and react quickly to changes in the energy landscape.

But by collaborating with smaller, more nimble companies larger companies can begin to support innovation. While the start-ups can benefit from decades of hard-earned expertise, costly equipment and financial investment. it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

Another way to increase the adoption of innovative business models is to continue attracting bright minds to the potential opportunities offered by the energy industry, and more specifically by energy storage. For the opportunities to become apparent the right support has to exist and the industry needs to come together to celebrate successful breakthroughs.

This support needs to be structured and filled with great poeple having an holistic view on the challenge. We need to be active in every area where innovation happens to capture, understand and build.

In terms of the energy trilemma, do you know any startup that tries to piece the puzzle together? What are they struggling with? Usually it’s not technology. And if it’s not technology, than it’s solvable by all of us working together.

Let us solve their problems in our CommUnity, in InnoEnergy, one by one.

Let us grow their businesses and ideas to have an actual positive and sustainable impact in the world, together on all levels. That's truly game changing.

Do you think that solves the last problem?


By Arshad Saleem

30 January 2017

(Previously published at:

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