A Climate of Change: Bridging Climate Tech Across the Atlantic

A Climate of Change: Bridging Climate Tech Across the Atlantic

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- And the idea of this panel emerged over the summer during a conversation I had with Ambassador Van Boca, and it's really great to see it come to fruition today. So let me begin by introducing the panelists to you. Let me begin with Phillip Van Boca. He is the consult general of Belgium in New York since 2022. Prior to that, he served as the ambassador of Belgium to Jordan and Iraq at the time. He also was a diplomatic advisor to Mr. Alexander De Crow,

who's currently the prime minister of Belgium. He has extensive multilateral and bilateral diplomatic experience serving at the Belgian Mission to the United Nations and the EU delegation to the United Nations between 2008 and 2016 here in New York City. When he focused on political affairs, he also served at the Belgian Embassy in Rabat in Ankara, and as the deputy head of Eastern Europe Division at Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before he was a diplomat, he practiced law at Von Bain Ball International Law Firm. He holds an LLM from the University of London and a master's of law from the University of Live in, in Belgium.

And like every good Belgian, Mr. Van Boca is an avid cyclist. Next up are the, the president and the vice president of DEME.

DEME is a leading contractor in the fields of offshore energy, environmental remediation, trenching, and maritime infrastructure. DME also engages in concession activities in offshore wind, marine infrastructure, green hydrogen, and deep sea mining mineral harvesting. It's a publicly listed company on the Euro Next Brussels stock exchange. So Te de LADA joined A DME in 2006. He spent his entire career there after finishing his MBA and he has worked all over the world from Singapore, all over South and Central America on complex maritime infrastructure projects in various activity lines of the DME group. He joined DME offshore US earlier this year as the vice president and is supporting the growing project portfolio in the United States.

His colleague, Sidney Flore, joined DME offshore as president in April, 2018. After 35 years in development and construction throughout North Amer North America, a significant part of of Sydney's career was spent working on some of the most difficult and significant heavy infrastructure projects in the United States. He has developed teams and partnerships for some of the most recognizable and notable infrastructure projects on the East Coast. It is now working closely with DME offshore European colleagues, providing guidance and leadership in representing DME offshore US in developing logistical support in the evolving US offshore wind industry. So he focuses on developing the US supply chain negotiations with unions and project labor agreements, port due diligence, workforce development and framework discussions surrounding industry related issues for construction of offshore wind farms in the United States. Then we have Roberto Friedlander closest to me here.

He serves as the vice President investor relations at Plug Power, where he has been for the past three years. Plug's vision is to guide the world to a more sustainable future with accessible, reliable, and cost-effective green hydrogen energy. As the leader of end-to-end Green Hydrogen Economy plug provides services from production to to storage and delivery of hydrogen to energy generation to help customers like Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot meet their business goals and significantly reduce their carbon emissions. Prior to working at Plug Power, Roberto spent 25 years working on Wall Street where he predominantly traded the clean tech and energy sectors, as well as managing several trading desks at firms such as Cohen and Company and Lazar Capital. He got his MBA from M from NYU Stern. We will not hold that against him.

I did spend my first 15 years of my career at NYU Stern, and he is a sixth degree black belt in karate. So I advise our moderator not to mess with him. Speaking of our moderator, Patrick Lin, MBA class of 2024, part of the Green Business Club leadership here at CBS will take it over from us.

Thank you everyone for joining us. - Thank you - All. Thanks so much, professor Van Newberg for the great introduction. Before we get started, I'd like to say a quick few words about a climate of change, which is the Speaker series that this event is a part of. So a Climate of Change was launched last year as the flagship Climate Speaker Series here at Columbia Business School. It was launched with the support of the Dean's Office, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, the Student Government Executive Board, and of course the Green Business Club.

The aims of this series are twofold. The first is to inspire more students to make climate a part of their careers, and second, to expose students to a broader range of climate ideas and perspectives than they might otherwise encounter. And we try to do this by bringing in top leaders from the worlds of policy, academia, government NGOs, foreign service, and of course business to discuss topics that are potentially unconventional, but definitely interesting and important. And we hope you'll find today's conversation to be Just that.

Before we begin, I'd also like to acknowledge several people without whom this event would not be possible to the Tamer Center, especially Karen Hasher, Diana Rambo, and Hannah Slop, who have been invaluable in setting up the event and the catering and getting it publicized. A big thank you to them. Big thank you to my fellow VP community, Manny Mueller for helping with check-in and food distribution to my Mike Runners for the audience q and a at the end of this event, Caroline Kaufman, Jack Saltzman, professor Van Newberg. You were actually the one who brought the idea for this event to us and introduced us to Philip, who introduced us to everyone else sitting on this panel. So thank you. And of course to our esteemed panelists, Ty,

Sid, Philip, Roberto, thank you so much for being here. Pleasure. Thanks. So in the intros, we heard a bit about maybe how each of you got to where you are today, but I'd also love to understand a little bit about why you chose, you know, the path that you did. So we'll start with Ty and ssid. Maybe if you could start off telling us a little bit about what Demi Group does, and then dive into a little bit about, you know, why each of you chose this role, this industry, this company.

- Okay, that's fine. Thank you, Patrick. Maybe as for Demi group, some of it was already mentioned in in the introduction as well. Demi Group is a company that is rooted in, in Belgium, but is operating worldwide. We actually brought, brought some pictures to help you understand. They, they, they speak more than a thousand words.

Obviously some of our, our work worldwide. So they, a group operates in, in several highly specialized fields in the maritime engineering and construction activities. I mean, historically our group grew on, on, on dredging that used to be our core business. So that would be the, the deepening maintenance of ports and, and waterways land reclamation.

But we quickly ventured out into related activities, remediation, environmental remediation, infrastructure activities tied to our maritime ex expertise. And now, and, and that's the most relevant of course for today's discussion. Offshore energy, offshore offshore wind. I think the group has a history of, of almost 150 years.

Today we are more than 5,000 highly skilled professionals. It's a revenue of of, of close to 3 billion worldwide. And, and counting on that history and, and, and the group of professionals, we, we have in our group, we've been able to build a lot of expertise and, and, and, and, and knowledge to, to, to do what we do best. And that's offer tailor made solutions for our clients worldwide. We, we bring innovation, we bring new technologies to, to solve problems within all the fields that I, that I just mentioned across the world, maybe particularly on, on offshore wind. And DMI Group has been a pioneer and a, and and a leader in offshore wind since 2001, which is, which is over two decades.

Although in, in the US it's still quite a new phenomenon. And this, this, this, this industry is still still growing. It has been around for quite some time in, in, in Europe. And, and here I i I will do a quick shout out or at least provide credit to, to the Belgian government, which is represented by Philip over here as the Belgian government. Was, was an early adopter of offshore wind.

And by being an early adopter, it allows us, or at least the demi group to develop and perfect these technologies back home, build that expertise and then share it worldwide with, with, with, with the geographical expansion that, that we've seen so far. So I do wanna thank and recognize Philipp and, and, and the government in general for con providing that continued support even as you venture abroad as well, which is evidenced by, by the presence of the cons general here today, maybe as of of for career. I grew up and studied in Belgium. I, I knew as I, I was needing graduation that I wanted an, the national career joined DMI group from the start, actually signed up before I graduated, spent some time in Belgium learning the tools of the trade. And I have been joining in the export story of it for the past, for the past 15 years, joining Demi offshore in the us. I did that only earlier this year when, when the, the offshore renewables train in the US was already fully open running.

And I'm sure that, that you'd like to hear more from Sid who actually got that train up and running in the past five, six years. So, pass, I don't you s - Yeah, thank you. Is my mic on? Can, can you hear me? Okay. So first of all, I wanna thank the host today for having us participate in this extremely important new venture that we're about to embark on here in the United States with offshore wind and renewable energies. My history is I'm a builder and, and I like to see things develop through, through new technologies.

And I've been involved, as mentioned earlier in some of the most difficult heavy civil activities in the United States. And when, when this opportunity became available to reach out and develop a whole, whole new industry, there's not many opportunities that we have here in the United States to be able to say that you are on the cutting edge of a whole new technology that's developing right now. It's not like, it's almost like a whole new industrial revolution, if you will, when you think about where we've been, the transition of where we're going and, and where we are today. And so from my point of view, to be able to use the words passion and stewardship along with context of renewable energy is, is, was a blessing.

I was able to reinvent myself to go into something that is going to be able to, to sustain us for energy and green energy for, for the future. So when, when the opportunity presented itself to allow me to reinvent myself into something more important than building bridges and roads and highways, I, I I, I developed the framework over the 35 years in construction by developing a network of partnerships and, you know, relationships with unions, relationships with academia, and people that are involved in the supply chain. And so those, those foundations were the ability for me to help Demi offshore us to develop our, our platform. We, as Tyson had mentioned, this was over six years ago, we started this and, and it was, it was the previous administration that we as, as Demi came into the market.

We, we looked and tried to decide, you know, how we were going to sort of work through the processes of developing an offshore wind market with the previous administration, not necessarily embracing that. So what we did was take that two years before the next administration and utilize that time to introduce ourselves to the market, introduce ourselves as a US company, not a European company, and make sure that, that the, that the brand was one that people looked at as, as, as a company that wanted to do business as we do business here in the United States. So that's why I came on, on board and that's what I'm doing right now, working with, with the supply chain and the ports and the unions and, and, and just making sure that we have a very, very solid foundation.

We've been successful, we've been very, very fortunate and, and in finding projects that I think fit our, our profile and, and the profile that Ty laid out for you earlier in the, in the offshore work. So we're here to have this discussion, happy to provide any input we can, we're gonna receive questions hopefully in the, at the end of this, but thank you for coming, really appreciate it. - Thank you both. I'm gonna toss it over to Roberto. Could you tell us a little bit more about what Plug Power does and you know, maybe why you chose your investor relations role, you know, this green hydrogen industry and this particular company? Perfect.

- So Plug Power is built in the world's really first green, hydrogen end end ecosystem. So, you know, we first really created the market for fuel cells and hydrogen about 10 years ago and targeted the material handling business. So you're thinking large distribution centers, warehouses, the Amazons, Walmarts, home Depots. We've expanded it out to probably a dozen very large clients within that material handling business.

We've had quite good success with that and really building upon working with those type of clients and customers where efficiency and productivity is really at a, at a premium. So using fuel cells and hydrant for that kind of industry really fits well. So when you think about saving 15, 20% productivity gains in a large area because you're saving fuel, downtime, high productivity and building upon that to now we're a fully integrated company where we're making the green hydrogen to fuel that runs through those fuel cells. We're making the electrolyzers that produce that hydrogen and making that different applications within fuel cells. So building off material handling where you have a fuel cell that's running in a, in a warehouse that can go from negative 30 degrees Celsius to positive 30 degrees, no shock absorbers and probably putting more hours in a year than you put on a lifetime of your car.

It's one of the most harshest environments. So building upon that now, using that fuel cell and building that for on-Road vehicles where we have a joint venture with Renault, we're building light commercial vehicle vans in France, eventually gonna to bring those from Europe to here in the United States, eventually into heavy duty vehicles. And then also using fuel cells for stationary power. Where we find now from our main customers in material handling that they've ordered tens of thousands of electric vans and looking to put these into the US in charging stations. It just can't be done. And I think it's something that's gonna be a big problem.

The world is gonna start to be more and more aware of how are we gonna put all these level two, level three chargers on the obsolete grid, both that's obsolete here in the US and abroad. So we've developed a stationary power fuel cell stack, and this almost sounds counterintuitive, but you run hydrogen through a fuel cell stack to produce electricity, to charge electric vehicles because they can't plug into the grid. We're happy to obviously provide those solutions, but really when you think about hydrogen and what we're doing, hydrogen is, is more than just an energy source. It's really an energy medium and you can use for energy storage.

And we've now got offices in, in, in five, six different continents. We're a global company that's really expanding wildly from my standpoint. You know, having spent close to 25 years on Wall Street, predominantly trading clean tech and energy, managed a couple trading desks, I've always had a passion for the clean tech and energy business. I think that's really key. You gotta have a, certainly a passion for what you do and really, really love it. And knowing the landscape for the investors, the financial community, all the players that deal with that type of sub-sector, the language that's spoken, the nuances was a big, big catapult in helping me, not just to transition to the job I have now, but really make it a step up and really become best of breed because I, I know the landscape, I know the investors, I know this street base, but to the company I'm in, it's, it's, it's ironic and you'll see in your careers and you should look at every stage really as a step in the ladder and that there's no mistakes as long as you've learned and grown from that stage, it takes you to the next stage.

You know, my boss today, when we were speaking earlier, our chief strategy officer, Sanjay Reta, so we worked together back at Lizard in 2007. We both went over there just before the financial crisis, which was kind of ironic and, and Lizard had some of the best, obviously it was, was very big in the news with advising a lot of the financial firms that were going under and Lehman and the Bear Stearns. And so we became close colleagues. He actually was the research analyst, top ar ir ranked in Cleantech. I traded the sector. We worked very closely.

We always wanted to work together again in the clean tech, whether it be running an energy fund or in some sort of way. And we, I circled back and he joined Plug Power I guess in 2018. I joined in the end of 2019, early 20.

And so now I work directly with Sanjay and working not only heading investor relations, I, I now had our ESG reporting. I was, I was happy to lead the team. We wrote our first ESG report in 2020. We're looking to eventually have our Scope three emissions out in the next following year. And then it, that in itself is a big journey as I'm sure many of you know, sustainability and ESG and, but how that ties in with a renewable energy company. 'cause they're really, they're intertwined.

You can have a great business model as a sustainability company and be a top ESG company in the ratings as well. 'cause if you think about a circular economy, they're, you're, you're being a disruptor and that's what we're really doing. If you think about we're transitioning from oil and gas and it is a paradigm shift into something else.

You know, you could almost look at it as transitioning from when went from whale light, whale oil, light to canes, incandescent light bulbs, and then making go from horse carry, horse pulled cars to electric cars where we're going to now, you know, it's a journey and so it's a constant progression through that. But tying that in is one, but for me it's very rewarding when I now the same investors I may be spoken with 20, 25 years ago who maybe junior analysts or running a small fund now it is some very, very large pension funds or what have you bringing them to where we're going to maybe showing the Mark Gigafactory in Rochester or our green hydrogen plant in Georgia. And that it's tangible what we're doing. You can touch it and see it.

And there's a, and there's a benefit not just for our generation, but for the generations that come, because the time is now, we can't, I think many in this room would agree that you cannot wait any longer and we're probably past due. And so implementing what's been the most powerful policy tailwinds for any sector historically, ever, both in the US and Europe, translating that to executing on this transition. And as Europe learned, you know, national security is tied with energy dependence, is transition, needs to promote obviously economic growth and job security.

But at the end it's gonna be for our future generations and the times now. So happy to be here and, and pleasure to be here with you all. - Thanks so much Roberto. And finally, Philip, as Constable General of Belgium and New York, you are, I believe the top ring consulate official in not just New York, but a huge swath of the country that spans the Northeast, Midwest Upper Plains and even Texas and you know, one of the top diplomats in in the entire United States. Second, you know, maybe to the ambassador, you know, what are some of your duties and responsibilities as Consul General and why did you decide to pursue this career path of foreign service? - Thank you very much. I hope you can hear me

with, with the mic here. I wanted to thank you Patrick and also Professor Van Berg for, for organizing this event and it's, it's a real pleasure to, to be here. I always appreciate interacting with students and I was very impressed when I walk in here, when I walked in here to see this beautiful facility. You know, I wish I had this kind of infrastructure when I was a student back in the day. It looks a lot more comfortable than the seats that, that I was sitting on back then.

I've been a diplomat for, for about 22 years now. I was trained as a, as a lawyer, I, I worked as a lawyer for, for a bit, but I, I really wanted to contribute something to public service and to make a modest contribution to make the world a better place. That's a very big statement, but you know, you all need some sort of, let's say idealism when you, when you start in a job like, like this. And I've been to a lot of different places and it's fair to say that my job as ambassador in, in Jordan and Iraq before coming to, to New York was slightly different than what I do here these days.

But what we work on here is, is very exciting and, and and important stuff. We, you know, as a general statement, we promote Belgian interest in the, in the US and we enhance Belgium US corporation within the context of, of the European Union. That is a very important framework for us. But one of the important topics that we're currently working on is, is obviously the energy transition. And for me personally, it's one of the most exciting areas that I've, that I've ever been involved with. There are a lot of other things that, that we are doing here.

It's a lot of economic diplomacy in, in, in my case, from, from where I'm sitting, our embassy in DC is doing most of the interaction with the federal government in, in, in dc. But so we, we act on the, the levels of the, of the states and the cities and we, we engage with officials and, and with companies. So what we are trying to do is identify concrete opportunities for our businesses here and for us business in, in Belgium.

And we structure that on a number of key areas. The energy transition is obviously one of them. You have critical technologies, the, the whole biopharma cluster.

There's, there's a number of areas that, that we're very involved in and, and where we can make a difference as diplomacy. But on the energy transition, so many things are, are happening on, on, on both sides of the Atlantic in, in recent years. We obviously have ambitious climate targets to meet in Europe with our European green deal. And a lot of exciting things have changed in the, in the US as well with the new regulatory framework. Up until a few years ago from a European perspective, we didn't really consider the US as an important partner for the energy transition.

But that has completely changed now. And we have opportunities not just for our, you know, companies here like, like Deme in in offshore wind, but, but in other areas as well. But offshore wind is typically one of the areas that, as Sta mentioned, that we've been involved in for and we've invested in for decades in, in Belgium. It has also something to do with the fact that we are a small country, a densely populated country, and there is not a lot of space to put, you know, any kind of energy producing facility on land.

So environmental concerns were, were lesser when we started doing this, but obviously the fact that we already did it made it easier to factor that into the, the whole transition. And companies like, like Deme and, and some others from Belgium have really developed an expertise that is quite unique in the world. And that is why when, you know, this, this area became, this market opened in the, in the US as, as SIT has has described that, you know, companies like Demi were able to, to bring that expertise and, and bring it to a, a market that is, you know, we have to admit it's rather protectionist. But there are ways to, to work around certain types of legislation when you have the right expertise to offer that the, the industry in this country is, is asking for next to offshore wind.

There is, there's a bunch of other areas that we really invest in incorporating with, with the us For example, next week we have a visit of our prime minister with a, with a large business delegation to Texas Houston in particular, where we'll having some, we'll have conversations about a green energy partnership and a future import export coalition for renewable and and low carbon molecules. The production of of hydrogen and other molecules in, in the US is with, you know, the the financial incentives, incentives that are coming will, will significantly increase. And we, as Belgium in the center of Europe, we, we are an, an energy hub. We currently are already an energy hub for l and g and there is a lot of storage capacity and there are pipelines to neighboring countries, Germany in particular, which is a, a very large offtaker.

And what we are currently doing for traditional energy, we are also already converting our infrastructure to be able to do it for renewable energy. And that's where companies like blood power, for example, come in and, and are working on investments in, in the industrial tissue around the Port of Antwerp in, in Belgium. But that's what we bring to the US for example, to be that that energy hub, if and when the US becomes an, an exporter of low carbon and renewable energy like it currently is for, for l and g will be, will be offering an interesting market and, and a win-win type corporation to, to work on. So those are some of the issues specifically focused on, on the green transition that we are working on. - Thanks so much Phillip. So bringing it back around

to Tyce and ssid. So you mentioned that Demi group is, is a company with Belgian roots. Obviously the offshore wind industry got started much earlier in Europe than it did here in the United States. I'd love to ask a little bit about sort of the driving factors behind DE group's establishment of a US offshore business. You know, firstly, how did this geographic expansion fit into de group's overall strategy and what opportunities did you see here in the US that were, you know, potentially unique? What characteristics of the market, regulatory frameworks, other, other sort of characteristics that you saw that made it attractive to establish a US offshore business? - Yeah, I, thanks Tyson. I I think that, you know, when, first of all, I, I really appreciate the words that you had mentioned that, you know, we as as Demi have the unique ability to look at certain markets and understand that the resources that we have by way of, of our, of our fleet of vessels and auxiliary vessels bring a lot of value to a a, an area such as offshore renewable energy.

And so when Deme started looking at where they could deploy these assets, the one market that was sort of beginning to emerge, even though there were risks associated with it, was, was the US. And they, they looked at it hard and they, they said, okay, let's, let's see what the US market has to hold. And again, I mentioned earlier that, you know, the, the timing of this whole thing was rather critical in a way.

I mean, when, when the management of Demi decided to take that leap of faith and come to the United States to begin developing a, a market that had yet to exist, they'd done it. They have done this in Belgium, they have done it in Europe, and they knew what the, what the price of entry was going to be to develop this market. And so the word perseverance comes to mind. And, and I would encourage all of you as you go through your careers to understand that, you know, perseverance is a key word in as you continue to develop your own career and it's served Demi well, when we came in, we, we, we took some time, we in that first two years to understand how we wanted to be looked at, how we wanted to be branded and we wanted to be branded as a US company, as I said earlier. So there was a lot of challenges along the way with that.

And, and we, we, we looked at each one of those challenges and, and worked our way through them. And technology's a wonderful thing and, and Demi offshore has the assets and the resources to be able to bring it to the United States. And, and you know, there are certain regulations I think that we're about to be discussed when you mentioned the issue of, of workarounds. And so one of the greatest assets we have is our business and our engineering capacity.

And, and when, when we looked at the US we knew there were gonna be some constraints and one of those constraints was a little known act called the Jones Act. And so we had to figure out a way to work around that and, and, and we did, we did it through imagination, through innovation, through technology and, and, and through partnerships with us companies. And, and that opened the, that opened the door wide for our first offshore wind project, which is a vineyard wind one project in Massachusetts that has 62 turbines being installed and, and just off, off of Martha's Vineyard.

But that couldn't have been done without help from the resources that we brought in from Belgium and the resources that they've already had in place by developing the market in Europe. So we, we have a great deal to be proud of when we start thinking about opening up our shorelines to people that can come in and help us. And, and they've done that with the capacity that Demi has and the engineering capacity as well as the perseverance.

We've been able to, to work down the supply chain and into projects all the way down to Virginia now. So we have projects from Virginia all the way up to Massachusetts that we're working in and on. And so I I think that, you know, with all that said, you know, you know, our ability to bring this new market here and and create an environment for all of you to be able to take advantage of in the future as you, as you continue to grow is, is something we, we should all be proud of.

- Thanks so much. If I may add, I just wanted to pull up this, this, this picture to visualize some of the things that, that Sid was talking about that perseverance has led to earlier this year and, and that perseverance is, is a work of, of many years has led to the first steel for, for the offshore wind foundations being in the water at Martis Vineyard earlier this year. And, and as Sid already mentioned as well, the first towers being, being erected, I think this was, this was in September-ish October as well. There's a lot, there's a lot that, that precedes these, these, these achievements of course. But I just wanted to pull up these pictures.

So, so you can visualize what what the end product of, of that, those efforts are and, and what, what, what we mean when, when we talk about the, the, the, the assets we're bringing in as well. And - Back, back up one slide there, Tyson, this, this slide here is, it probably doesn't mean much to you, but it does, it, it it's, it's a revolutionary sort of a, an approach towards building an offshore wind farm in the United States. What, what you see here in front of you is a, a picture of a, of a, of a whole complete generating nest cell set with blades being pulled out of New Bedford in Massachusetts out to our offshore wind farm.

And what makes this a critical piece of information is that this technology was completely developed by and with Demi from our people in Belgium to work around this Jones Act, which means we, we couldn't bring our vessels into port, we had to keep our vessels out in the ocean and we had to transport product to the vessels using US flag vessels. So all of these vessels that you see in front of you is a barge, it's us barge, the tugs are us tugs. So we couldn't have built this wind farm without this technology and this is motion compensation.

So if you can imagine being out in the ocean with waves moving back and forth and having these towers sit up there 300 feet, you, you need to be able to control that. And our engineers found a way to do that and through motion compensation. So we're out there installing right now and, and, and this is all related to the Jones Act, the workaround of the Jones Act and the technology required to do that and that, that's engineering, that's, that's something we didn't have here in the United States to be able to do this.

- Thanks so much and entice throwing it over to Roberto again. So, you know, you mentioned plug power has, you know, really started in the US here, you know, you guys have built a bunch of facilities here to not only produce green hydrogen but also to manufacture electrolyzers and all the other components that go around this sort of green hydrogen ecosystem. I'm curious to hear from you how you see that expansion into the EU fitting into plug power's overall strategy and you know, what were some of the characteristics of, you know, the Belgian market? You know, I know you guys signed an agreement with the Port of Antwerp to reduce hydrogen there as well as the broader EU market. What were some of those, those characteristics that made it attractive to expand? - So like many, many journeys you go on, you don't know where you're gonna wind up being.

We didn't plan on, if you look back and, you know, we signed on our first pedestal client Walmart back in 2014. We didn't think about becoming vertically integrated. So when Walmart agreed to, okay, we'll we'll we'll try out your fuel cells in a, in the test pilot distribution center for a million square foot facilities ven us inside and they could feed out 8,200 retail centers said great. And they said, okay, you'll supply the fuel also, you'll supply the hydrogen. And we said, okay, great.

And then we had to go figure out where are we getting the hydrogen from, right? So the liquid hydrogen market is a very tight market in the US it's only like 325 metro tons a day. So we use now about 20% of it. So we, we use a lot of it. So we went to the industrial gas companies like the Lindy's air leak, liquids, air products and mers. And we worked out supply agreements to supply the, the hydrogen, which is all today all green. Oh, it's not green, it's gray hydrogen, right? So it's produced from natural gas SMR turbine.

So we, we contracted to receive that gray hydrogen and then have that shipped over to our pedestal clients. And then we realized through time it's a very tight network that goes down a lot and our prices were continually going higher and we were losing money in this fuel business. So we said, okay, the, the more we expand than we signed on Amazon, we signed on Home Depot.

And then of course it's been STIs and and GM and we've signed on a whole bunch of others globally, Asda and and Lidl and others in Europe that the larger we grew, we were growing at about 30, 40% CAGR that the more money we lost, right? So it's economics 1 0 1 if it can't continue. So we said, okay, we have to make our own fuel and bring that in-house. So we acquired a company called United Hydrogen. And so that came with a, a team that was the only non-industrial gas company to produce hydrogen and produce liquid hydrogen, which is very, very difficult to do.

So we acquired that 10 ton per day plant and then we said okay, we need to produce more of these plants. And we expanded on this vision originally of a hundred metric tons a day through five plants in the US to now 500 metric tons a day by 2025, which will probably be over 10, 12 plants in the US green hydrogen is what we're looking to do. Produce from an electricity source coming from renewable energy source, run that through our electrolyzer, which we now produce. And then you put that through a fuel cell that's really the only end-to-end zero carbon solution from, from wells to wheels as you would say.

So then the natural progression from that was, okay, use that fuel cell now into why not use it for vehicles on road vehicles, why not use it now to provide prime power to go into stationary power, air ate, you know, prefer airplanes and infrastructure. And we have a partnership with Airbus to produce hydrogen infrastructure in a major US airport, which we'll be talking about more shortly. We have a partnership with HY V, which is Renault to produce light commercial vehicle vans partnership with SSK to produce stationary power in the South Korean peninsula where SSK has a, a host of refineries and chemical plants.

So you find out that hydrogen is in everything, it's used in green steel, it's used in concrete, it's used in so many different chemicals and fertilizers, et cetera, et cetera. So for us then expanding that once we got vertically integrated using that same model here in the United States, bringing that to Europe and the first step was really what helped us a lot. When you look at Europe, it's a much different landscape and you need, you need boots on the ground per se.

So having that partnership and finding the right partnership is like having the right relationship with a spouse or a significant other, right? It's gotta be a good culture fit, it's gotta be beneficial for you both and it has to fit. So we know it fit really, really well. And they have the service network, they're top three in the kind of middle market delivery van segment in, in Europe.

And so adding onto that joint venture on the production of that vehicle with them and then building infrastructure around that to provide green hydrogen in Europe. And we've had a partnership with Axion. So we're producing a 15 metric ton per day plant in Spain, Portugal, where there's abundance of solar. We're building with partners with the Belgian government and the Port of Antwerp second largest port in Europe where it's probably the largest chemical cluster within that 500 kilometer radius.

We're building a hundred megawatt green hydrogen plant that'll be online by the end of 2025. And we're building three green hydrogen plants in in Finland. And we've expanded our material handling business to multiple players in Europe, like I mentioned, Lido, LDA freeze pack. So it was a natural progression for us.

And then prior administration. So you look at 20 18, 20 19 the US really fell way behind Europe and the world in a push for renewable energy and energy transition. And so the green deal that Europe came in 2019 certainly gave a big push to renewables in Europe. And then that was followed on by multiple other layers, which have been good, but somewhat problematic in Europe, whether it be repower eu, the hydrogen innovation fund, and these other strong policy tailwinds.

So that created another kind of problem for us. But the tailwinds for policy have never been greater in Europe. There's huge sponsorship from governments like Belgium. And then when you look at governments like Norway, France, very, very firmly behind energy transition adding bankability to it, which is something that probably a lot of those in Columbia Business School, if you can work and, and find out the bankability financial solutions in this next energy transition and how to make these bankable, you'll have a job for the next 20 years that'll pay you really, really well.

'cause that's a big problem. And having bankable PPAs and power purchase agreements, you know, you have to now many parts of Europe and, and still in the US you have to have a bank guarantee so that you're buying that power from that renewable operator and that they have a guarantee they're gonna be paid. And, and only countries like Norway and France currently back those and say, okay, we'll back that PPA agreement where otherwise it's problematic for a company that's growing and that's just starting up or even that's in, in kind of middle stages to, to bank that and to pay for that power purchase agreement. So, you know, there's still a lot of policy that needs to be ironed out.

And here in the US we're still waiting on guidance from Department of Treasury for how the production tax credit where you'll receive $3 a kilogram for each green hydrogen kilogram you produce. So we're still waiting around for guidance, but you know, there's the infrastructure act which has produced these hubs in the United States. We're a part of seven, all seven of the hubs, five intimately as corporate partners.

So for us, going to Europe was a a, a seamless transition, but finding the right partner was crucial for us. And then in Asia with SK as well, and ssk obviously, you know, one of the biggest conglomerates in South Korea, but also their ties into Vietnam, into China and stationary power, like I said there with their fleet of refineries and chemical plants, taking that byproduct hydrogen that comes out of these chemical plants, putting that now through our fuel cell for us that's producing stationary power, put that power back into the grid, all of a sudden hydrogen becomes that medium providing energy. It's flexibility. But when the grid goes down, you have hydrogen and storage, you put that back into the grid and you're producing electricity, right? If you think about a fuel cell in Electrolyzer, they're just one of the same running in reverse, right? You need, you take a fuel cell, give it electricity, water, you're making the fuel, you're running electricity, you take the electrolyzer and you know, you run it through with an electric hopefully coming from renewable source and then you can make that hydrogen. And so you're just really doing one in a reverse and eventually having that in a field where could do that optimally. But for us it was, it was the next, that next rational progression for us.

I think when I started plug power, we had 800 employees, we now 4,000 over five continents and we, we've grown significantly and the tailwinds have never been stronger. And so really 20 24, 20 25 and beyond is really gonna be really key to to, to get this energy transition moving. So it's really can be something that's gonna be firmly planted. - Thanks so much Roberta. So, and to Philip, you know, you occupy a really unique position, being able to see these energy transition activities on both sides of the Atlantic.

I'd love to ask you sort of what further opportunities you see for cross continent collaboration between the US and eu, the US and Belgium more broadly on, you know, climate tech and climate solutions. - Thank you. Well, you know, we first, from, from several speakers here that, you know, there are several things that are still in, in, in Fluxx in the, in the regulatory environment. So providing clarity there is, is important. On the European side, we try to do this by, you know, rolling out the, the green deal and everything that it entails. You've already referred to programs like Repower eu, there is a whole industrial plan that is linked to the, the green deal.

Predictability of the regulatory environment is an important aspect of it. And also access to financing, access to financing is extremely important. I mean, at the European level, you can provide a certain guidance and a certain extent of support, but many of the, of the tools are in the hands of the member states in, in Europe when it comes to, you've referred to individual countries. So they, they, but the, what the European Commission can do is sort of, you know, provide some flexibility, for example, in the rules around state aid that when it comes to investing in Cleantech, that there, that there is a little bit more leeway for countries to, to provide support. But when it comes to the, you know, the across Atlantic corporation, I mean if you look at the bigger picture, the US and Europe are, are really the, the, the strongest strategic partners that you can imagine on on, on many different levels.

We've had a, we have another war in, in Europe at the moment with, with the war in Ukraine that we never thought would, would happen again on our, our continent. And you see that, that security aligns with the US is really extremely important. Europeans have been, you know, certainly too complacent when it comes to security in the broader sense of the world for many decades. And we've, we've had a rude awakening and we are, you know, extremely lucky that we still have, you know, the transatlantic alliance and, and, and NATO as its, as its security anchor.

But security is much broader obviously than, than than hardcore security and preventing wars. It's energy security is an important as aspect of, of that partnership. Energy security is a key component of, of national security.

So the US is in a very different position than Europe. Obviously the US is completely self-sufficient and is an ex exporter a net exporter of, of energy. So it's a, it's a, it's a much more, in a much more secure position than Europe. We've done a lot of work to, you know, right, diversify our supply, reduce energy consumption and so on. And in terms of diversification, the US has become an extremely important provider of, of traditional energy, LNG at the, at the moment. But as I said before, we want to make that, that partnership work in terms of low carbon and renewable molecules in the, in the future and hydrogen will be, will be an important component of that.

Obviously it's a complicated undertaking. First of all, you know, the, the production needs to go up in a, in a profitable way on the US side. We will do some of our own production in Europe. But you have also the link to that, the whole decarbonization of the maritime business, for example. Very important component because you can, you can produce a lot of green hydrogen, but if you're going to transport it in, in, in, in, be it in ammonia form or otherwise on a, a vessel that is, you know, is, is is producing a lot of CO2, that's, that's not, you know, the, the way of the future. So we're talking about pilot projects on green shipping corridors linked to import export coalitions around green molecules.

So there's a lot of big pieces of work in, in, in, in play when it comes to other components of, of let's say the, the green transition and cooperation between the US and Europe. Yes, there are certain problems. I mean you've, you've all followed the discussions I'm sure around electric vehicles and, and the inflation reduction act, inflation reduction act. First of all, we have to recognize it's, it is a good thing for the world that the US is becoming a leader in, in climate transition.

The reaction in Europe, in, in, in my personal opinion, has been a bit too defensive. In the beginning there was a lot of surprise at how fast it was, it was being implemented and a big part of the concern was around electric vehicles. 'cause a lot of electric vehicles in the US get imported from Europe. And the fear was that there would be a, a huge re localization of production of electric vehicles from Europe to the us. Now that fear has, has proven to be wrong.

The Inflation reduction Act has increased the demand for electric vehicles in the us but the demand was already going up before that legislation came in force. And it's true that there is a number of, you know, there is a, a credit of, what is it, $7,500 provided for the purchase of an electric vehicle produced in North America with certain other conditions. But there is a loophole in the Inflation reduction act that allows for leased vehicles to be imported or imported leased vehicles to benefit from the same tax credit or purchase in, in incentive. So when you look at the, the import of European made electric vehicles in the us it has increased as much since the implementation of the, or even more since the implementation of the inflation reduction Act than, than before. Now we don't know how things are going to evolve in the future. There is a lot of delicate negotiations going on, for example, on a critical mine minerals agreement between Europe and the us.

It's a project that was announced by President Biden and commissioned president from the line in, in March of this year, I believe. And the purpose of that agreement is to consider, you know, under the application of the inflation reduction Act to, to consider components, critical materials coming from Europe as if they were made in in the US or free trade partners of the, of the us Very important obviously for production of batteries, for EVs and, and, and, and and such things. So a lot of things are in fluxx, but I think the overall, the overall evolution is positive. The US and Europe need each other. The motivation is different from both sides of the Atlantic, but we definitely need each other and we can only reinforce each other as strategic partners in, in a crucial field like energy and energy security and meeting our ambitious climate climate goals in the, in the energy transition. - Thanks so much for that, Phillip.

So bringing it back to Ty and ssid, you know, I'd like to address one of the, the elephants in the room when it comes to US offshore wind. Obviously it's been a bit of a rough year with a couple project cancellations, write downs from the major developers, supply chain issues, what have you. I'd love to hear a little bit about, you know, how that's been affecting your business. If you could talk about maybe other challenges that, you know, you encountered, you mentioned the Jones Act, but if there were other challenges that you encountered establishing a US offshore business and, and maybe speak a bit about where you see the industry going from here.

- Well, I I think some of the things that were, were mentioned by, by Philip earlier is energy security, right? If you think about renewable energy security in, in, in the United States, it, it all come, comes back to the, the bankability and, and the timelines and the support you're getting from, from, from, from the government as a sector as well. When I say this, I I, I'll explain a bit more in detail what what I mean with this. When, when developers are bidding for a a lease area, they, they kind of lock in their, their offtake prices, the purchase power agreements.

And, and the first sets, let's say of of lease areas have been, have been awarded with very rigid conditions. This is followed by rather long permitting processes for the developers until they, they, they reach the point where they can do a financial close, take their final investment decision, which is followed by the construction phase. This is typically where we come in the engineering and the construction phase, which is then followed by the first revenues for, for the developers and, and, and that that is quite a long, long, long time span. I think a lot can happen in that time span.

I mean the first, the developers signed their agreements in, in 2016, 1718. Since then we've seen, we've seen a global pandemic since then. We've seen a war in Ukraine, which was also mentioned earlier, that that has sent supply chain shocks throughout, throughout the industry. That that obviously affects the, the, the outlook of the business plans of, of, of the developers and bringing it back.

So, so what could help there of course is, is convincing the government that these permitting timelines need to be shorter, which will be be much more beneficial for, for the the business plans and of course allowing a bit more flexibility for, for the developers who are or clients. And to, to be clear as for the, the local US industry to, to make sure you have a, a reliable or security in the, the renewables energy sector in the us One great way to de-risk it is to have a local supply chain. You have a local supply chain, you need companies willing to invest in, in a local supply chain to be able to invest. You want a clear pipeline, you want some security on your pipeline. This is, again, the developers knowing that when you invest a couple of hundred millions in the production plant, four components for these offshore wind farms, that you'll have an offtake for them. And, and this is today a bit indeed shaky.

My personal opinion is, is that this, this is certainly not the US steering away from, from offshore wind. It made temporarily, let's say sh shift. There may be a timeline shift in, in what is happening when, but, but this will continue to come. And, and, and, and that is very clear.

I know Sid, what, what do you wanna Yeah, - I, I think thanks Chase. Good, good explanation. I I would also add that, you know, when, when you're looking at the, I go back to technology most ev every time and you know, these times that we're working in, right, living in right now, we've seen the technology evolve on these, the cells and these wind turbines that as technology evolves, it's gonna bring down the levelized cost of energy. And I, I think everybody was sort of hit by, by the issues of inflation and, and interest rates and, and tripled the, some of the projects because they were bid with a rate that they couldn't, that wasn't sustainable.

So yeah, there has been some, some troughs along the way, but you know, the projects that are out there right now that we're still working on and still developing are, are strong and they have the capacity to produce opportunity for the continuation of, of offshore wind. There's going to be some, you know, hiccups along the way. There always are. And in this particular case, you know, as far as Denny is concerned, we've, we've been able to look at the industry and, and, you know, help the industry along through what I consider strong technology and, and helping get that levelized cost of energy down.

And, and that'll continue to evolve. And although there's gonna be some pitfalls there as well, you know, the evolution of, of these projects, there's, there's gonna be some that don't get started the way we want 'em to, and others that are ramping up right now. There are other projects that we didn't think would be coming that are now showing up again on our radar screen. So, so I, I think there's gonna be peaks and troughs here, but in the end you're gonna see a whole new industry evolve offshore.

There's gonna produce, you know, energy for, for our country that we had never even dreamed about four or five years ago, you know, so I'm optimistic about that - So much. Sid entice. So over to Roberto.

So obviously there's been a lot of exciting traction with everything that's been happening with Plug Power in Europe. I'd love to hear a little bit about what, you know, maybe some of the challenges that Plug Power encountered when it was setting up these joint ventures in Europe expanding over to Europe and you know, maybe speak a bit about where you see the green hydrogen industry evolving in Europe and here in the us. - So, you know, one of the two very different policy approaches, if you look at the United States and Europe and talking beforehand, you know, United States has a big incentive program, right? It's, it's very carrot based if you would towards just like if you look at say supply side economics, you know, there's the production tax credit, there's the investment tax credit. And really these have kind of just morphed from what they were from the wind and solar business from 2007 eight to where they are today to help that commercialization of that.

Whereas Europe looks more towards building framework and rules more stick base if you would. So the issue with, with, with Europe there are great policy incentives, but there's continually updating what were prior frameworks on top of overlaying new policies on top of that. And so it becomes this more convoluted process that winds up leading towards what are very long lead times and permitting times. That's a big, big problem. We didn't have that problem because we had great sponsorship at the Port of Anto with the Belgian and, and the local governments there and the local port. It was, that was instrumental in helping us cut those lead times and permitting.

But that's a big problem. Most of Europe also mentioned, again, going back to bankability and financing, there's the hydrogen innovation fund, which is great. I think it's currently 800 million euros and will be another 2 billion plus point some time in 24. Applying for this is, is a multiple a hundred, 300 page document that you need outside parties to help opine in and build this outwards that could take six months plus. And not every company can has the resources to do that. So the funds are there, it's how do you get them then and the framework's there.

But how do you, how do you maneuver through all these? You have to bob and weave through all these different frameworks and different, you know, different states have different policies and like you've got, like I mentioned, great sponsorship because you've got back PPAs from Norway and France in other states. You need to have these backed and guaranteed by banks. And that's a big, that's a big stopping point for us. You know, we're looking at really replicating what we've done in the us. So we've really been working on building our service network out the last two, two years in Europe.

We've got a great service network in the us like something like 400 service techs over multiple regions. You've gotta have that infrastructure and that service intact first. And we build that manufacturing in Germany. We build out our service network and now building the green hydrogen plants. Looking at that in kind of two stages at the end of this, what's instrumental in really bringing this to the forefront is, is is adding pipeline to the mix.

So the first stage is like at the port of Antwerp, we think about these tier one plants being up to a hundred metric tons a day, though they, you know, in Europe and elsewhere looking at it on a, on an annual basis, call it a hundred megawatt production plants to produce the hyd

2023-12-17 08:02

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