ClimateLaunchpad is an intense, year-long program that gathers early stage startups from around the world and with the assistance of team leads in each country, helps them flesh out their ideas to see if they might have potential to take flight. As the program progresses, the teams hone their pitches to compete against other teams in their country to earn a chance to compete in the Global Grand Final.
This year, the Global Grand Final was in Edinburgh and CleanTechnica was on hand to talk with the organizers and the competitors to see what this year’s competitors are doing to combat catastrophic climate change. We spoke with the Frans Nauta, the founder of ClimateLaunchpad, at the Global Grand Final to get the inside scoop on what early stage startup themes were really taking off, which areas he wasn’t seeing teams do as much work in, and what keeps him going.
Frans has an infectious optimism about him and is energized by the hundreds of new startups he works with every year to build the solutions that the world needs to combat catastrophic climate change. This year at the ClimateLaunchpad Global Grand Final in Edinburgh, Scotland (which took me a few days to pronounce correctly), we talked about what Frans is seeing on the cutting edge of climate change solutions stemming from the early stage startups they see at ClimateLaunchpad.
Transitioning From Oil To Renewables
Frans shared that the energy from countries that have historically produced oil is exciting and a trend that we have seen more broadly as well. Frans related that the Scotland, where the Global Grand Final took place, was formerly an oil producing country and has transitioned to renewables. Scotland’s offshore wind production has led the transition for the country, resulting in a reduction in emissions of 45% versus the 1990 baseline.
“It’s great news that Scotland has hit the annual target and reduced its climate emissions by 45% compared to the 1990 baseline and is well ahead of the 42% 2020 target,” added Tom Ballantine, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS). “Everyone who has played their part in achieving this reduction should be proud.”
Denmark is also living through the transition from oil to renewables, which Frans shared is playing out in Danish corporations as well. Oil giant DONG Energy, which stood for Danish Oil and Natural Gas, rebranded itself as Ørsted, divesting its oil and gas assets and focusing on wind as the future of the company. The world is transitioning off of the ‘put a straw in the ground and burn it’ practices that have sustained us for several decades to new sources of energy that instead rely on the fusion reactor in the sky for power.
Impressive Clean Technologies
Frans shared how batteries have really surprised him with the impact they are having on energy and electric vehicles in such a short time. The rapid fall in battery prices have made them competitive with natural gas peaker plants in many markets and are disrupting the energy systems in entire countries, like we are seeing with the world’s largest battery installation in South Australia.
Many people in the country were skeptical about the Hornsdale Power Reserve, as it’s called, before it was installed, but since the switch was flipped on the installation, it has save ratepayers millions and has started to push natural gas peaker plants out of the market on price alone. Think about that: adding a massive battery to the grid in South Australia is not only saving ratepayers money, it is also cheaper than natural gas peaker plants. That is the future, playing out today in South Australia.
Frans shared that he was surprised that he had not seen more companies working on nuclear, desalination, or carbon capture technologies. As the world’s emissions continue to soar above historical levels, it is clear that carbon capture and carbon sequestration need to be included in the discussion. Frans postulates that we are not seeing companies attacking this, “because simply, there’s no market.” Nobody cares if we can capture something that has no value. Well, it has value to the planet, just not to the market.
That is all but the definition of an unpriced externality and the sooner we can apply a price to carbon and methane emissions in the form of a carbon tax or California’s cap and trade program, the sooner we can at least start building a pipeline of new companies building technologies and solutions to pull carbon back out of the atmosphere.
“If we agree that we would need carbon-negative technologies in the next 20 years to sort of start sucking carbon out of the atmosphere,” Frans said. “What I would want if I was a sort of policy maker, is a portfolio of options that we’re gonna play, where we can place all sorts of small bets.”
Unbridled Energy To Solve Climate Change
In short, Frans is energized by the success of climate change solutions in the time he has been working in the space. He has seen technologies move from wonky ideas from wild people all the way to fully built out solutions that power countries.
“When I was studying environmental technology in 1985, you know how we spoke about solar and wind? It was “alternative” energy,” Frans said. “That’s not alternative in a positive term, it means that the alternative people have their hobbies. That’s what it meant. Look at where we are now. It’s 30 years, and it’s a long of time, but in a way, it’s a short time. Offshore wind has gone cost competitive in the Netherlands on the grid.”
The progress of renewables and the wide spectrum of climate change solutions is only set to increase as more people come to terms with the reality of the science and the reality that the effects of catastrophic climate change are here to stay. More than that, they are only set to increase and get more and more intense as the climate continues to change.
The thicker the jacket we put on this one earth that we have in the form of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more energy we keep in the system. It’s like giving a kid tons of candy then asking them to sit still in a car for a ten hour road trip. It’s not going to end well.
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