Now more than ever, an economy-wide adoption of clean energy is needed to achieve global decarbonization goals. As we shared in our article – Mainstreaming Clean Energy – the S2G Clean Energy fund was launched last year to partner with entrepreneurs dedicated to enabling this system-wide energy transformation. While clean power sources such as wind and solar have gained significant traction in the power system and are being deployed at a rapidly accelerating rate, cleaner electricity generation alone will not be sufficient. Our entire economy must undergo a step-change in adoption of clean energy solutions to enable sustainable growth.
The next phase of the energy transition will see a massive expansion in clean megawatt-hours (MWhs) production. This expansion will offset emissions from fossil fuel-fired generation in the power sector, but, critically, these clean MWhs will also have to drive the decarbonization of mobility, industrial processes and our built environment.
Our S2G Clean Energy fund invests across these sub-sectors in technologies that can accelerate the transition to a clean energy-fueled low-carbon economy needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Since we launched last year, our team has had the opportunity to meet many incredible entrepreneurs working on transformative energy solutions, and we are excited to welcome seven companies to our growing Clean Energy portfolio community.
Electrification is everywhere. In addition to traditional uses of electricity, like lighting and powering electronic devices, other processes – like how we heat our homes, manufacture materials and fuel vehicles – are becoming electrified. The widespread recognition that we must change the way electricity is produced is evident in the fact that renewable sources now make up one-third of globally installed power capacity.
While the community continues to invest in renewables- emerging second-order challenges have inspired a fresh wave of clean electricity solutions. These technologies range from better ways to store, transport and consume power from variable resources to cleaning up legacy generation assets and delivering power to newly electrified use cases. The power system – once unilateral and static – is becoming multidirectional, dynamic and increasingly complex. Solutions that support the expansion of clean power production must be ready to scale and rapidly evolve as the system undergoes unprecedented growth.
Bluestar Energy Capital
Bluestar Energy Capital is a de novo renewable energy investment platform deploying early-stage development capital across wind, solar and storage in North America, Europe and Australia. Bluestar brings together a highly experienced team of renewable developers and investors, led by Declan Flanagan, the former CEO of Orsted’s (OTCMKTS: DNNGY) onshore business. The company has established its first two regional development platforms: Nova Clean Energy (North America) and Bluestar Energy Australia (Australia), which will pursue a combined greenfield project development and opportunistic M&A strategy. Bluestar is laser-focused on keeping development local with long-term, tailored capital for its platforms. The team will leverage their decades of experience in the renewables space to meet the challenge of increasingly difficult development and catalyze growth of new clean energy capacity.
Carbon America is a fully integrated carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) developer operating across the entire CCS project lifecycle, from early-stage development through construction and operation. The Carbon America team leverages experts with decades of CCS, project finance and development experience across the energy sector to deliver a one-stop solution. CCS is a critical technology to meet global decarbonization goals according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, the CCS industry today is far below the estimated necessary capacity. Carbon America is simplifying the CCS project development process to meet their mission of capturing and sequestering as much carbon dioxide as possible, as quickly as possible, while driving down the cost of carbon capture.
The first thing that comes to mind about decarbonizing mobility is often passenger vehicles. In the past decade, big brand names were born in the electric car space. However, personal transportation is just one piece of the mobility story. Commercial and industrial activities require goods to be moved over land and water, across a range of distances and under diverse environments with specialized operations. For light-to-medium duty vehicles like cars and trucks, replacing the internal combustion engine with an electrified design is a viable option. For heavier duty vehicles, the required energy density is better served by a molecular energy carrier such as green hydrogen.
Across use cases, more efficient ways to move will be critical to reducing emissions. Whether electric or molecular-fuel, clean vehicles must be supported by a range of infrastructure solutions like charging (both distributed and centralized) hardware and operational software. Automation opens the door to a rethinking of how and where vehicles are used. As always, we see the world through a system lens – mobility is no longer a standalone vehicle and fuel system. Mobility is becoming interconnected with how we operate buildings and the grid – further unifying the entire energy system.
Cargomatic has created the first and largest marketplace for local freight, managing every step of the journey from when goods enter the country to when they arrive at a customer’s house. Through a mobile application, the company connects shippers, receivers and carriers and reduces the volume of communications traditionally needed to arrange a transaction. Cargomatic is transforming how drayage, the movement of freight from ports, works. The company combines artificial intelligence with location-based matching to help shippers reduce empty truck miles and weight times. This lowers supply chain carbon emissions, enabling the company to cut emissions by 40 percent for some of the biggest shippers in the US.
Heavy-duty diesel-powered vehicles, including yard trucks designed for movement around commercial freight yards like warehouses, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the US mobility sector as well as harmful local pollution. Orange EV makes purely electric yard trucks that improve the safety, efficiency and emissions of a company’s fleet, all while reducing costs. In 2015, Orange EV was the first company in the US to deploy 100 percent electric Class 8 trucks. Each electric yard truck can save 1,700 tons of CO2 over a 15-year service life. The trucks are also capable of close to 100 percent uptime compared with around 80 percent for diesel trucks and can deliver $500,000 in cost savings over a single vehicle lifetime.
The Built Environment
The built environment encompasses the buildings we live and work in and the infrastructure that houses commercial activities across supply chains. The energy transition necessitates a rethinking of how we power, heat, cool and even build buildings. Innovations in HVAC systems are taking a fresh approach to a critical, yet historically fragmented and slow-to-change, industry. Commercial power and heating systems are becoming integrated with the broader grid, turning them into energy assets. New materials are lowering the embodied carbon intensity of buildings from the innermost structure to the façade.
Distributed energy resources enable localized power sources, and intelligent communication software allows for systems-level, rather than individual, operation. In addition to technology, new business models are changing the way buildings are developed, operated and maintained. The built environment is no longer a static collection of infrastructure assets – it is becoming increasingly dynamic as buildings interact more with the grid and each other.
Common Energy is one of the leading providers of community solar in the US, an increasingly popular electricity supply option that democratizes access to clean energy by enabling everyone to receive clean power without needing to install their own rooftop solar system and save on their electricity bill. Common Energy enables utilities to offer subscriptions to local solar projects through their easy-to-use platform. Once enrolled, customers receive clean energy credits which save them between 5 and 15 percent on their electricity bill, while lowering carbon emissions in their communities.
The industrial sector is responsible for about one-quarter of global GDP and employment as well as countless products that are essential to our lives such as fertilizer for agriculture, steel and plastics for cars and other goods, and cement for buildings. Given their massive role in the economy, industrial activities currently account for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the most of any economic sector. Industrial processes and manufacturing are incredibly difficult to decarbonize. In addition to emissions from energy used to power these processes, many also produce greenhouse gasses as a natural byproduct of chemical reactions.
Solutions in the industrial space are at the frontier of technological innovation, reimagining how materials are produced and utilized. In developing these technologies, it will be critical for companies to keep in close touch with key stakeholders in the established supply chain and leverage industry expertise to design for scale.
Cement production is responsible for about 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and 5.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Brimstone has created the world’s first carbon-negative ordinary Portland cement (OPC) as part of its efforts to decarbonize the cement industry. Typical cement manufacturing involves heating limestone, which releases the embedded CO2. Instead, Brimstone produces its cement through a process that uses calcium silicate rock without any embedded CO2. The process also creates a magnesium compound that can permanently sequester and mineralize CO2 to make the entire production carbon negative.
Hydrogen is a promising pathway for decarbonizing industries that are not compatible with electrification but account for more than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions such as fertilizer and long-range heavy-duty transport. But 95 percent of hydrogen today is produced with fossil fuels through steam methane reformation (SMR). Electric Hydrogen has designed an electrolysis process (the process of producing hydrogen from electricity and water) that is able to operate with variable renewable power and produce high-volume, low-cost green hydrogen.
We are excited to partner with each of these innovative companies as they continue to develop their decarbonization solutions and begin to deploy at the scale needed to mainstream clean energy. We look forward to forging more relationships and finding new ways to support the sector. If you are an entrepreneur, investor or potential corporate partner working on clean energy solutions, we would love to hear from you.