Energy Transition

Advanced energy solutions: The innovators scaling up clean power

Wind turbines on a snowy mountain: Members of the World Economic Forum’s Advanced Energy Solutions are leading in making clean energy viable.

Members of the World Economic Forum’s Advanced Energy Solutions are leading in making clean energy viable. Image: Unsplash/Jason Blackeye

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
Sophia Akram
Writer, Forum Agenda
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This article is part of: Centre for Energy and Materials
  • Many of the innovations we need to get to net zero are already out there—but how can we scale them up fast enough?
  • The World Economic Forum’s Advanced Energy Solutions community brings innovators together with regulators and investors to chart a path forward.
  • Listen to the Radio Davos podcast here, on any podcast app via this link or YouTube.

“Unless the clean products become competitive, price competitive, it's very difficult to create markets. In wind and solar, it took almost four decades for that to happen. We know that we don't have this time.”

This cautionary tale comes from Ann Mettler, Vice President, Europe at Breakthrough Energy, an organisation that seeks to 'develop and scale the critical solutions we need to reach net-zero emissions'.

Mettler was speaking on the Radio Davos podcast episode about the World Economic Forum's Advanced Energy Solutions community. Also on the programme: VK Samudrala, CEO of Amara Raja Energy & Mobility, India's largest automotive battery and supporting capabilities manufacturer, and Maarten Michielssens, CEO of EnergyVision, which installs solar panels on homes in Belgium for free.

All three guests are members of the Advanced Energy Solutions community, which brings together players in the energy game to chart a way forward in terms of scaling and maximizing viable clean energy globally.

Here are some highlights from the podcast, co-hosted by Forum Managing Director Jeremy Jurgens.

Have you read?

What is the Advanced Energy Solutions community?

Jeremy Jurgens: We have a range of individuals here: startups driving new energy solutions in a specific domain, which could be in solar, fusion, [or] in connecting grids. Then you have policymakers, who are important to understand how these new technologies are evolving and what we must do to ensure the regulatory environment adapts as well. You have financiers helping fund the rollout, where we're clearly underfunded... we will need to put in much, much more capital to help try these solutions forward.

Of course, there's the expertise and knowledge that comes from the large, established energy companies. And then, as well, you have a broad set of consumers who are actually using this energy and these new solutions. And they're really important to bring together the right demand signals.

So we try to bring all of these groups together where they might not necessarily normally meet around this specific topic, and actually understand how we can actually accelerate, investment in advanced energy solutions.

Reducing the ‘green premium’; the role of data

Ann Mettler: The green premium is essentially the difference in price between a clean product and one that has to compete with a product that is probably cheaper because it is CO2-intensive, a polluting product.

And we are working to bring down the cost differential because unless the clean products become competitive price competitive, it's very difficult to create markets.

So if you look, for instance, in wind and solar, where we have, broadly speaking, reached price competitiveness, it took almost four decades for that to happen. We know that we don't have this time. So this is why this is so urgent: the reduction of the green premium.

I'm a firm believer that there is a strong intersection between digital technologies and clean technologies. And I'll tell you why. If we are looking to reduce the carbon footprint, how do you do that unless you actually have metrics? So, if we were to digitize the power grid, we would have much better metrics over when the power is used and who is using it. And if everyone had access to this data, including at the household level, you could aggregate that data right in a big data pool. You could gain very important insights.


Tailoring electric mobility solutions for India

VK Samudrala: If you ask, will India lead the energy transition momentum around the world? Yes, it will. But the solutions that we are going to develop would be more applicable to economies like India. We need to look at these global technologies but bring them to the country in a manner that addresses the specific needs of Indian society.

As an example, if you look at mobility as a challenge, India consumes a lot of oil for its transportation equipment and we don't have enough oil resources, so we import a lot. So transitioning to electric mobility would solve some of the problems by developing domestic capability and creating the electric vehicle component ecosystem...

Now, what India needs is not a large, long-range vehicle because the Indian commute requirements are very different. So we see a big revolution happening in the light electric mobility solutions. The two-wheelers and three-wheelers provide for 70% of the mobility needs of the country. And when you have such very different end-user applications, it's important for us to develop solutions that are aimed at and customized for those requirements.

Solar power - for free (or at least cheap, and predictable)

Maarten Michielssens: In production, we have a very simple model. You don't pay for solar panels; you pay for electricity. In consumption, we direct the excess energy here towards our customers or chargers. And that allows us to have very predictable revenue streams. We know the investment costs of our installation, we know the outputs, and we know the lifetime. So we know the cost of electricity—cheap—and we sell it here at a fixed price as well.

The result is that those people—drivers or people who can't have solar panels on the roof—have predictable energy costs. Even during the crisis, we did not increase our energy prices. We kept them stable, and we made a profit.

And those energy suppliers that tripled their price, they still acted at a loss, basically.

What we built is a virtual or decentralized or digital grid, so to speak, and we match production consumption while using the normal grid. That's basically what we do.

I hope in five years from here, it will happen everywhere. Today it's pretty unique, but it's really something. I mean, we ask companies to copy us.

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