The world demand for energy is increasing drastically, with electricity being one of the major drivers in the increase of global energy consumption. Researchers estimate that even in a scenario that includes new policies and slower growing energy needs, the global energy consumption might increase by 30% until 2040. The majority of energy still comes from sources like coal, gas and oil. The impact of the applied processes and greenhouse gas emissions on our climate is dramatic and the consequences of climate change for us as humans, societies and our environment are already clearly visible. We need a dramatically faster transition to renewable energies. We believe innovative green technologies will soon make this transition possible, without many restrictions in our everyday lives.
Although we do have endless sources of energy in the forms of sunshine and wind, these sources are highly volatile, and we need a lot more than just efficient energy production solutions to be able to have our entire energy demand rely on renewable energies. But it’s a good way to start and with new technologies like airborne wind energy, we might soon be able to produce more wind energy, more regularly and more reliably at a lower overall-cost. Geothermal heat could be another zero-carbon energy resource, however, we need to find ways to access and use it efficiently. Another energy source, which is highly controversial but could potentially play an important part in the transition to renewables, is nuclear energy. We understand that this is a highly sensitive and broadly discussed topic, but speaking from a technological point of view, it is an option that we should further explore. The technological advances in this field allow for nuclear reactors to be operated with a substantially lower risk than before. Catastrophes like we’ve seen in the past are very unlikely to happen with the Generation IV reactors that are currently being developed. Another, far less controversial source of energy is heat. There is a lot of unused potential in industrial waste heat, around 3,000 TWh yearly, to be exact. Heat-to-Power Systems can capture this waste heat and make it available to the factories as energy. HTP’s are also used in solar thermal power plants. Further research in this area will be required in order to achieve a higher overall efficiency, but we see a lot of potential here. In the future, completely new ways of generating energy like fusion power might even lie ahead of us.
No matter how efficient our energy production is, the fact remains that solar and wind energy will always be volatile. For a successful integration of renewables into the grid we need storage solutions that are large-scale, easily expandable and ultra-low cost. Electricity or thermal energy storage could provide us with a sustainable and affordable solution to smooth the volatility of renewable energies and enable a reliable energy supply. Right now, they are the missing puzzle piece for a global transition to renewable energies. Our portfolio company Kraftblock has developed part of the solution with a large-scale, low-cost, modular thermal storage system based on nanotechnology. Still, there is a lot of room for innovation in this field and lots of challenges to be solved regarding the transport, conversion of heat to power and overall efficiency of energy storage.
Smart Energy Grid
Furthermore, we will need an efficient and cheap way to transmit and to integrate renewable energy, for example from offshore parks, onto the power grid. A flexible net infrastructure and smart grid management using the potential of Big Data, AI and IoT will further help to increase efficiency, on microgrid and macrogrid level. Ideally the future energy grid will run fully automated, provide energy when and where it’s needed and since all the necessary data would already be available in digital form, energy contracts and payments could even be handled via smart contracts on a distributed ledger network.
Capturing CO₂ from the air won’t allow us to continue producing more of it somewhere else, but it might give us the chance to reverse some of the damage we’ve done to our planet. We might even be able to use the captured CO₂ as a source of energy. We’re looking at a lot of exciting technological developments in this sector at the moment and would love to support a strong team in this field.
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