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Piecing together the Smart Grid Jigsaw

Alan Gooding of Smarter Grid Solutions chats with Anne McIvor, Cleantech Investor - November 2012 on the occasion of the GP Bullhound Cleantech Connect Awards: Celebrating the Entrepreneur

Alan Gooding, an electrical engineer by education, began his career at PwC. Back then he knew he wanted to run his own company, but hadn’t figured out how. So he set out to equip himself with the experience and the very broad skill set he would need to become an entrepreneur. He positioned himself – from a career perspective – wherever there were opportunities to be around people with whom he could exchange ideas.

Alan’s advice to young people with entrepreneurial aspirations is to follow his example: find an environment where ideas are being talked about and get to know different people or you’ll never generate any sparks. “You won’t come up with the next Facebook by sitting at home and watching TV,” he says.


“Let’s do something amazing.”

Anne McIvor chats to Mike Fister, CEO of Enecsys - November 2012 on the occasion of the GP Bullhound Cleantech Connect Awards: Celebrating the Entrepreneur
Mike Fister describes himself as “an old computer guy” – a computer designer by trade, a “Silicon Valley guy – the sort of guy who doesn’t fool around, works hard, plays hard, and generally succeeds”. His passions are teamwork, ideas and partnerships, and he says he is a maniac – working 16-hour days, six and a half day weeks. He’s also passionate about music, drags an acoustic guitar around with him and was in bands for ten years (mostly rock & roll and country). Music, to Mike, is “just like business and life: it’s interesting – full of complex theory”.

“It’s not just about cutting a deal.”

Anne McIvor chats with Chris McBean, CEO of E-Leather - November 2012, on the occasion of the GP Bullhound Cleantech Connect Awards: "Celebrating the Entrepreneur"
A few minutes into my conversation with Chris McBean, CEO of E-Leather, the penny dropped for me: it’s about weight! Of course, that’s why the focus on the airline industry! I’d been familiar with E-Leather, which has developed a ‘sustainable’ replacement for leather, but a throwaway comment from Chris that the operator of an Airbus 320 can save $25,000 on fuel costs annually by changing the seat covers to E-Leather, simply because of the weight reduction, was a revelation to me.

Later, Chris described his own reaction to the E-Leather technology when he’d first learned about it. Asked by its investors to assess the company, it had not taken him long to grasp the massive potential market for the product. Not only did Chris give a positive verdict on the company, but he also quickly decided to join it!

Beauty, Broadband and the ‘Internet of Things’

Anne McIvor chats with Mary Turner, CEO of AlertMe - November 2012, on the occasion of the GP Bullhound Cleantech Connect Awards: Celebrating the Entrepreneur
‘Girl talk’ is rare in cleantech, so my interview with AlertMe CEO Mary Turner was memorable for kicking off with a girly chat about the offices of Internet fashion retailer ASOS Plc, which she describes as “a fantastic place to be: wonderful products and catwalk experiences”.  But Mary tells me she’s frustrated that she can rarely enjoy the perks of involvement with ASOS, where she has been a director since 2009. Mary was sympathising with my frustration at having to squeeze an interview on her extensive career into a short phone conversation. But even in our short conversation Mary proved infectious, inspiring me with insights into the historic part she has played in the roll-out of the Internet – and her excitement about the future ’Internet of Things’.

Interview: Andreas Schamel, MD of the European Ford Research Centre

First published in Cleantech magazine Volume 6 Issue 4. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd

Andreas Schamel, MD of the Ford European Research Centre in Aachen, spoke at Investing in Future Transport on 16 August 2012 and a video of his presentation is below. Before the event, he caught up with Denis Gross of Cleantech Investor to talk about the electric vehicle market:

How do you see the EV market evolving?

The market for pure EVs cannot really be called a market yet, as it is characterised by distorted supply and demand and legislative support. As of today it is not yet a consumer market, rather an arena for early adopters, and companies and governments making statements.

For the EV market to become a high volume market, a number of things must happen. The infrastructure has to be set up and costs have to come down. Even if pure EVs can meet 90% of commuters’ needs, they don't cover long distances and thus don't cover 100% of all trips so that they are mostly owned as the second car of a household. In addition, many of them don’t meet the needs of families due to tiny interior spaces.


Interview: Jerneja Loncar, GM Ventures

First published in Cleantech magazine Volume 6 Issue 4. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd

By Anne McIvor

Jerneja Loncar moved to the UK last year, to establish a European presence for GM Ventures. GM Ventures (www.gmventures.com), the corporate venture fund of General Motors, was established in mid 2010 to identify and make equity investments in start-up companies developing future technologies that could be integrated into GM vehicles. Although GM had made a few investments in new technology prior to its bankruptcy, there had been no single platform to focus on identifying innovative companies. The focus for the ‘old’ GM had been very inward-looking, according to Loncar. GM Ventures was created with a mandate to focus on bringing in externally-developed technology.

GM Ventures, which was funded with an initial investment of $100 million, focuses – not surprisingly – on ‘auto related’ investments. Loncar points out that, although there are two biofuel investments that pre-date GM Ventures in the portfolio, GM Ventures is currently focusing on companies that are developing technologies or services which can be applied in GM vehicles. Specific subsectors of focus include ‘automotive cleantech’, advanced materials, infotainment – as well as other automotive-related technologies and companies which fit into the broader GM value chain.

Interview: Dominic Emery - BP Alternative Energy

First published in Cleantech magazine Volume 6 Issue 4. Copyright Cleantech Investor Ltd

Dominic Emery, Chief Development Officer of BP Alternative Energy, discusses BP’s cleantech investments – and the future of transport – with Anne McIvor. 
It may come as a surprise to some to learn that BP is an active investor in the cleantech sector. However, the oil giant is an important developer of wind projects in the US, with 13 operating wind farms – and is a major investor in the cane to ethanol sector in Brazil. Within BP Alternative Energy, BP Ventures has a particular focus on investing in early and growth stage companies. According to Dominic Emery, Chief Development Officer of BP Alternative Energy, a key mission of BP Ventures is to provide support to other businesses within BP Alternative Energy and the BP Group generally. For example, BP Ventures has supported the BP Group’s biofuels programme by investing in companies which offer the potential to provide alternative, more efficient pathways to the biological transformation of feedstocks into fuels. 

Ten Questions: Miguel Ferreira of MegaJoule

This interview was first published on the BWEC Blog - March 2012

Miguel Ferreira is the founder of Megajoule, a consultancy which operates in many different wind energy markets around the world, from Poland and Portugal in Europe and, of course, including Brazil. He is a member of the European Wind Energy Technology Platform.

Miguel will speak at Brazil Wind Energy Conference, BWEC 2012, on 2 April.

1.    How does the Brazilian wind energy market compare to the other markets where you work?

The Brazilian market is one of the most promising in the world and we clearly expect higher growth rates than in Europe for the next years.

5 questions with Professor Joachim Luther of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS)

First published on the Cleantech Investor website, October 2011
Professor Joachim Luther has spent over 30 years engaging in the physics and the development of renewable energies.  He will be speaking at the PV Asia Pacific Conference, which is part of the Singapore International Energy Week taking place from 31 Oct to 4 Nov 2011. For more information, visit www.siew.sg

How has the turmoil in the global solar PV market since SERIS' inauguration in April 2008 impacted the institute and its work on technology innovation?

A lot has happened since 2008 and while it has been a very challenging situation for the industry, SERIS has met this challenge and helped the companies it works with to adapt and, more crucially, to continue to innovate. Module prices have declined, so all new technologies are under pressure and must either cost significantly less or perform significantly better to make any headway in this market.  As an indication, three years ago, SERIS had a focus on thin film technology, but this is emphasised far less now as a result of the large falls in silicon wafer technology prices. Silicon wafer based modules are strongly in place, and while SERIS is investigating a range of technologies, the near future is likely to be more evolutionary than disruptive.

There are still good reasons to work on thin film – in fact SERIS is – but the efficiency has to be improved beyond 12 percent.

There is considerable interest globally in optically concentrating photovoltaic devices with unit cell efficiency greater than 40 percent and system efficiency of 25-30 percent. However the application of such technologies is limited to regions with a high fraction of direct (beam) solar radiation, thus it is not suitable for the tropics.


5 questions with Willem van Putten of KEMA

First published on the Cleantech Investor website, October 2011

Mr Willem van Putten leads KEMA activities in Asia Pacific, particularly in smart grid initiatives, research, design and developments. He will be speaking at Asia Smart Grid, which is part of the Singapore International Energy Week taking place from 31 Oct to 4 Nov 2011. For more information, visit www.siew.sg

Willem van PuttenHow would you define the KEMA smart grid vision/what is a 'smart grid' and what does it mean for all involved? Can you also explain the role of SmartGridSherpa?

The smart grid is a dynamic system modernising transmission and distribution, which intelligently relays energy and information both ways between utilities and end users. Smart energy grids will be required for the transition to an energy system using renewable energy sources and the associated decentralised electricity generation facilities. Mature smart grids require a transparent coordination mechanism which allows these various energy sources and appliances to be interconnected on a non-segregated and plug-in basis. In essence, smart grids should seamlessly combine distributed generation with demand response.

This transition is largely perceived as the greatest disruption to the energy industry in a century and KEMA’s services allow for reliable consulting, testing, and certification of the many and varied technologies involved.

SmartGridSherpa is an online knowledge base designed to provide information and engage parties in dialogue around smart grid issues. It is a hub for content developed by KEMA (including podcasts, white papers, e-books and other articles), as well as for outside experts to share news and views. The site engages and educates existing and potential customers, media, and other stakeholders.

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