Clean Tech Leaders on This Year’s Energy Transition
Thank you, Brad and Caroline. And thank you all again for coming today. So we're going to be hearing a lot today about how technology can help us work better, think better, Bill better. But we want to kick off today by asking how technology can solve the biggest challenge facing humanity, climate change. And there's no stretch of the imagination to say that technology this is a case where technology really can save humanity. So that's what we want to dig into today.
We all know about the amazing leaps out of a made in solar and wind and batteries over the last 20 years. But those technologies are not enough. What are the frontier technologies that can reach the parts of the economy that those technologies can't reach? How does I play a role in that? And most importantly, where is the money for all of this going to come from? So as this is a Bloomberg conference, let's start with the money angle. Rafael, I'll start with you. I mean, I think we have a chart actually to pop up on the screen. So we started the year with a huge optimism that we would see this wall of money coming into contact. We have the Inflation Reduction Act, the European Green Deal, etc..
But as you can see, see on the chart that hasn't quite transpired. We see money is has not flowed as much as we would have thought. Now, a lot of that might be down to rising interest rates, geopolitical tensions, etc., But it does sort of seem to sort of temper some of the optimism that we saw at the start of the year. Rafael, from from where you sit, you run
an investment fund for startups. Are you seeing that? Should we should we be concerned? Well, to be honest, in the last two years, we invested in 48 companies from Paris in the sustainability field. And I believe it's it's a great place to be. Definitely. Well, you were showcasing some some numbers on climate and definitely has there's been a burst maybe, but the Visy downturn is slowing down. Investment in every category of the venture world climate, I think is attracting more and more interest.
It's it's a fact In Europe we have great regulation, Article eight, Article nine funding, etc. Some funds are struggling to raise it. The climate deck is definitely performing pretty well. We have seen that on growth stage. It's actually doing doing really well. I think you have northvolt talking
during the day. If there is a great or a French company in the field, we have claimed work in Europe. So I think it's really dynamic and especially at the early stage, we have such an amazing opportunity. Well, from the French perspective, but also Europe again having subsidies and grants to help the founders do a great job.
So definitely I think we can learn from the the the mistake of the first clean take burst. And we see that a technology success, a carbon capture with the CC, US and DEC are actually growing in the interest of VCs. So I believe that maybe the interest is shifting from software to hardware and the investor just like us and the Pre-seed really, really early stage.
Are Guinea gearing up to help fund their from the DEX perspective to speed up their tech roadmap? And before we get to Bard, I mean, you mentioned carbon capture. Are there any other areas within clean tech that you where you are seeing a huge appetite right now? Yeah, definitely, I guess. Well, we'll talk a bit about nuclear. This is also where a smaller side project are actually attracting a lot of interest from the early stage. Even if. Well, the the length of investment is still a pretty long circular economy, has done a lot of things happening, whether it's about waste management, but also just upcycling and actually having a network effects and definitely water industry. We still see too few companies. Often they are related to utilities, but so many cool investment on the field.
I can only recommend looking at a great company we have called Cumulus, Creating water out of the air. I guess this is the kind of infrastructure startups that are attracting more and more interest from the VC side where before they were more, you know, talking to private equity firms or project financing. And now we are seeing that wealth. They're going much faster to the markets and actually even to the asset every company is can be really successful on detection. Thank you. Bart, let me turn to you. We're going to talk you're chairman of I, one of the most interesting nuclear fusion companies around. And we'll get into the technology of
that in a moment. But you described yourself as a geek turned business guy. I think you said that you've started you've launched six companies or so. This is a UK tech conference. I want to just to sort of start by asking you, how would you describe the investment environment or the business climate right now in the UK for clean tech startups such as such as yours? Yeah. And so maybe I related specifically to fusion.
So the UK, of course has had a very prominent role in Fusion in and in the past decade. So does the UK Atomic Energy Authority has a facility called the Joint European Taurus, which is the origin of what is now being built in the south of France of ITER. So it's got a very, very strong legacy in in nuclear fusion. Now all of that has been magnetically confined fusion to picture. Everyone has seen if you've seen the movie A Passenger, right.
It's like the the donut shaped thing that goes around. And I think there's a new or a new type of fusion that's that's starting to take the lead. I would argue inertia confined find fusion, which is what again in Oxford, the company I chair first light fusion that comes out of Oxford University and has a really strong ecosystem there. And I think from a environment perspective, I'm sure you've seen a couple of weeks ago the UK Government has announced a £650 million further funding into Fusion to retain that lead position. A lot of that money is going to go no doubt to magnetically confine fusion as it should, because there's a lot of, you know, effort has gone in there in the past. But, you know, we're obviously, you
know, having a lot of discussions to make sure that it's not just NCF, but also inertial confined fusion, that that will get a spot. And it's a very supportive environment. And if I can relate to the question of the IRA in the US, I think we should not forget that the IRA actually is predominantly actually solely, I would argue, a funding deployment and doesn't fund technology. And so there is however in the US in particular on Fusion, there's also really substantial funding. The US has a billion allocated to the sector in research funding to get these things to to become power plants and will later on we'll talk about all of the leaps that we've seen coming out of the US over the last year. We've talked about the money in the investment climate. I now want to sort of dig into the
technologies before I talk to some here. We have a poll that that we want to show you. You think you can on your phones. And the question is, where do you see the best returns and clean investment over the next decade? Solar, wind, carbon capture, geothermal fusion, or green hydrogen? As I say, you can vote on your phones and we'll get back to the the results. Hopefully this will be displayed in real
time on screen as the conversation goes on. So only one decade. There we go. Green. Oh, well, green hydrogen is racing ahead. As the votes come in. I think, Samir, you were going to be the you've got your job here is to persuade the audience here about the virtues of geothermal.
So you say that this is going to be the decade of geothermal. Why is that? Yeah. I truly believe that that that's the case. We've seen for the last ten years that there's been a huge focus on on electricity, on power. It's been a huge focus on wind and
solar, and rightfully so. We need as much wind and solar as possible. But I think that what we are seeing now is that the big elephant in the room is actually heating. If we look at heating in Europe, 50% of all the energy we consume in Europe is for heating and cooling. And by far most of that is for heating of our houses. And if we then look at that, then 70% of all that energy today comes from burning fossil fuel.
So if we want to reach our climate goals, we need to do something about heating. And I really think that that is the big topic right now in Brussels, in Germany, in France, in in many of the of the of the European countries that they see that we also need to focus on heating. And I think that that's the reason why it used to see such a has such a huge potential when we look at the future because if you look at heating, then geothermal has been around for hundreds of years and that's primarily been used for producing electricity. But. But there, if you want to do electricity
from geothermal, then you need plus 300 degrees water. And it's not everywhere that you have that. But actually, if you just want to do heating in compensation income together with district heating, you only need water like 40 to 50 degrees hot.
And you have that across Europe. So you actually has a huge market for this. You know, you basically just have to have two maps, one map that you put on top of each other, one map of all the water reservoirs in Europe, which are between 42 to 80 degrees.
And we know where they where they are, because for hundreds of years we've been drilling thousands of wells, trying to find oil and gas. And normally, if we didn't find oil and gas, we found lukewarm water, which we couldn't use for anything up until now. So you basically have that map over Europe. And then on top of that, you put the map
of the district heating systems in Europe and then you see a huge potential, a huge market for you, thermal for heating. And I think that that's a completely different case from doing geothermal for for for for for power where where you need much hotter water and it's much more difficult to find these reservoirs. So that's the reason why I think that we are entering into the decade of geothermal, because heating is going to be such a huge part of of the green transition and geothermal can be such a great part of transitioning heating from fossil fuel to green energy.
I can you explain to the audience that we talked about this when we when we talked last week, just the sort of the physics and the engineering of geothermal, what's the lowest point that you need to dig down before before you know, how deep do you need to go before it stops being economically viable to get all of that hot water out of the Earth's crust? So that depends very much on on the different side that you are going into. But basically this is known technology. So we've been in oil and gas for 50 years and this is what we've been doing for 50 years. When you are producing oil, you normally get a lot of water as well. In the North Sea, when we producing oil, you get 70% water, then you separate the water from the oil and then you mix more water in and you you send it back into the reservoir. This is much simpler. You have one production well, where you are taking up the hot water and then you harvest the heat and you send the water back again.
So very, very simple technology. The new thing is that there is a market for heating in in Europe. And normally we would say that you need 40 to 50 degrees. That's kind of the the lowest point in
respect to where it makes sense to harvest the heat from the reservoirs beneath. But it also depends a little bit on the cost of doing the wells. But in many of the large cities, what is the benefit is the fact that that the footprint is very small.
So what you thermal plant is around 20 by 20 meters so you can fit it into each pockets in, in large cities. And that's often the problems in large cities. How are you going to convert into green heating in the large cities and and that you thermal has a really, really small footprint and can be used. So in many of these cities, you know, you can maybe even go further down in temperature than 40 to 50 degrees where we were in London. So about three kilometers of food. And how far down you need to go. I think London the focus on London is on
on this transition that we are seeing that that for many years we've been using gas as heating. So nobody have really thought about it because you have these gas pipelines and you have we've had for many, many years had cheap gas from Russia. And and that that that time is over now. And we need to find a different way to to heat our houses then and cities by by burning gas. And I think that the answer to that is rolling out more district heating. We seeing that in Brazil. We are seeing that in Europe. We are seeing that in Germany, in Poland, that that that you are rolling out more district heating and that could be a solution for London that you roll out district heating in London and then you have a raft of different energy sources, heat sources that can tap into this heating infrastructure that you built.
It could be surplus heat from carbon capture, from power to X, it could be a surplus heat from waste incineration, it could be from geothermal as well, but it could be a mix. But if you have that infrastructure for heating, then suddenly you have a vast amount of green heating sources that you can put into that infrastructure and thereby get rid of the fossil fuel for heating of the houses in London. Thank you. Bart, let me turn to you. So a year ago, nearly a year ago, the world was set alight by headlines coming out of California from the national Election facility stating that the holy grail of nuclear fusion had been achieved. Net energy gain, i.e.. And I'm sure I'll get the physics wrong here, but essentially you use energy just to smash more energy out and then correct when you're fusing together hydrogen nuclei, this is the opposite. For those of you who've seen Oppenheimer, this is the opposite of the energy task force sufficient as a fusion. Can you tell us a little bit?
So that was the big story a year ago. How have things evolved since then? Yes, So it was the National Ignition Facility. Lawrence Livermore achieves actually what they achieved is just what the name says, what's on the tin. Ignition.
Meaning that they were able to ignite the fuel so itself heats. And that actually theoretically allows you to get to much higher than where they are today. And so they were able to do that with inertial confined fusion. So which is the same technology as that's what we're doing too. We just have a simpler way of getting
there. They have a lot actually, you see on the on the picture here. So we have a little target, as we call it, which is just thing out here. And then we fire a projectile at it from one direction. That's that it. This is for anyone that wants to see it
in real life. Find me for a coffee and I'll show you. And what we do is we will unwrap that pressure that we create around a fuel capsule, the identical fuel capsule that's used in at Lawrence Livermore. And we make that collapse. And then when you collapse it, you get huge pressure, and then you create the energy that creates that reaction and that NIF has now shown can actually create what's called ignition so that the fuel in itself starts to burn fuel burned, as people call it.
And that's the first time we've done ignition with fusion for energy generation. And obviously we've seen ignition and infusion in different applications, right, in weapons applications. But and magnetically driven fusion is at this point at point seven X in terms of gain the launch Livermore guys they've repeated that experiment and of course are climbing up the ladder. So they're at 1.9 times now with ignition shown. So my bet which you know, I became part of first light seven years ago so my bet was seven years ago was that inertial confined fusion was going to win today. And at least I think today it looks very promising. Now, what we I think as this country and
I consider myself from this perspective, be part of this country, we need to make sure that we don't let the Americans eat our lunch here because and they actually spent 4 billion on a facility in Lawrence Livermore. They have Sandia Labs just on the road, which is also working on inertial confined fusion, where it's actually the private company. That's the lead by far is first fusion in Oxford.
So I think we've got a real opportunity to not just be, you know, the leader in the Fusion, which I think the UK is, but also remain from a private company perspective, delete inertia, cloud fusion. That's that's what we're fighting to, to, to make happen. And of course this has been one of the most exciting developments in physics and energy of the totally the geeky me, the geek in me loves it. Exactly. Exactly. But can you talk a little study physics for no reason, after all.
Can you talk to us about the roadmap to commercial deployment? Of course, It's one thing to be able to prove you can do the lab. Yeah, if you. If you saw the story. Yeah. So. So when you. When you get the physics of fusion to
work, so you get the energy come out. And again, let's, let's also be super honest about that. It's transparent. So we're talking about gain at a fuel level. So we're not talking about the efficiency of, in our case, launching a projectile in the case of Lawrence Livermore, you know, firing and I was there at three weeks ago and I walked to the facility with at Moses to guide and actually build it. And there's 192 lasers. It's five American football fields in science cost 4 billion to build.
And so it's just it's beyond imagination. Then you go to first light in Oxford still. It's still you know, it's not like, you know, my work shirt, which I'm very proud of to, by the way. But so it's a lot more complex than
that. But it's nowhere near the complexity of what they are doing there. So that I think, is where and where we are. We have a real advantage is a much simpler technology, and that also allows us to take it into a power plant in a much simpler way because instead of coming at it from the than 92 different angles to get that spherical implosion that you need to have, we actually come at it from one angle. And then what we do is we are able to
wrap that that a shockwave around the fuel capsule and make it implode as if there was a spherical shockwave coming from all angles. And and so in the end, if you look at first life, we've got a hundred people and the vast the largest group of people in there. Ah as Nick more could have found over says, I basically got a block, which is about an inch by an inch by an inch and I can do in there whatever I choose to do. And so we've got a group of people doing simulation to simulate these targets before we actually fire them using, you know, I think it was a question that was there earlier. You know, like we have a lot of air that
we used because it becomes super complex, a lot of different simulations that we run for every experiment we fire on average, for every experiment that we fire, we run on average 2000 simulations on a on a on a on on our own cluster in in Oxford. Actually, I want to go the investment perspective from Rafael in the moment, but is very quickly how many years have I thought and this is the pitch too far along for it Very quickly sorry before we how many years the best guess before we see commercial deployment? 1023. So I think there's about I would say there's about six credible approaches to fusion in private companies.
It's going to come from a private company. It's not going to come from one of the national laboratories. They're not even targeting to do that. They all have a timeline that's similar.
I mean, some are more aggressive in what they communicate. But in the end, it's all at some point in the will, it's early thirties and then some things will go wrong. So, you know, but 38 to 32, we'll have the first power plant on the grid, which is going to generate. You can charge your iPhone with energy coming from fusion.
Isn't that cool? Oh, very cool. What's the investment perspective on fusion? Obviously, a lot of talk about a lot of excitement about it. Are you seeing a lot of appetite to put money into fusion? Yeah, definitely. We are participating to a big event actually on the nuclear energy topic in Paris. So in the coming months we invested also in a company called and DB Technologies. A recycling radioactive waste to create a fusion does not generate any radioactive waste out of the restaurant, to be clear. So that's that's the differentiation
between fission and fusion. There's no the product of the reaction is to neutron, is it So a neutron and a helium core and helium, we've got 2% around us, right? I guess this is a great topic, but we've been talking a lot about renewable energy and I think there is also going to be a change of paradigm, typically going from a centralized way of producing energy to a mix of different solution, and not only about energy, energy production, but also that I was talking about waste management, talking about what are all the utilities. And so, well, definitely a facility. My target as an investor is how do we solve climate change? We have less than 20 years remaining. Big, big ambition when it comes to lowering the the the rays of heating on our planet. And I strongly believe that there were
some line missing on the people you sense in the audience. And definitely. Well, talking about batteries, yes, solar or wind is going to help us get more electricity on the grid.
But then how do we manage degreed? How do we do peer to peer? How do we do better charging a system for our cars and our homes. So I'm not a specialist about nuclear. I invest in a wide range of companies. I told you 48 companies within two years. We have great specialists working with our our funders. But definitely I think this kind of the problem we want to solve is going to be with a wide mix of technologies, whether they are really high tech with longer roadmap and big impact, but also with companies that can have an immediate impact within two years, but still with the ambition to make up to 50 millions within these two years. Yeah.
Before we wrap up, I want to get some closing comments from all of you on AI. But before we do that, can we get the pole back up again just so people can see the final results as we as we conclude that this panel, a C green hydrogen, which we haven't talked about, people change now from from solar to nuclear fusion. I think that I think the polar flow is the close, but it shows the scale of the job you have to do to persuade people.
So we can I very quickly, I use a lot of talk about that that's here today. In terms of your work on clean tech, what you know, what sort of action points, what sort of use cases do you see for the technology? Of course, we can use it for optimizing the use of the reservoir. But I think what's much more interesting is the use of it in in balancing the electricity grid, because in the future you will have much more electricity from wind and solar. And we see. How important it is to balance the electricity grid. And in geothermal, we use quite a lot of of of electricity as well. It's the most efficient way of of of converting electricity into heat.
But we still use quite a lot of electricity. And I think that we can use that to help with better balancing the electricity grid and thereby, you know, shutting off our heat pumps at the time where where electricity is is very expensive. And at that time, then the district heating system would normally use another heat source.
But you can really use the district sorry geothermal and I to to help with with balancing the electricity grid in the future where we will have much more wind and solar. Thank you. Quick closing comment from you. And I definitely, especially in the mining industry where we have seen a lot of progress using I but I would say last year we're talking a lot about web3. This year it's all about I definitely those two technologies are just the new tools that some cleantech can use to optimize better their application. All right. So, so I'm an old semi-conductor guy, turned energy guy. And in semiconductors, there's a lot of device physics work there.
And in device physics, the guys that can do the best simulation always win. That's just if you look at history, the companies that won did the best simulation. We now are able to do so much more simulation by not having to do it as humans, but actually using AI. And it's not just AI by itself, right? It's not as if, you know, we through if we ask the computer, can you please come up with this guy? Right. That's not the case. So I think it is incredibly important to increase the ability to do simulation in a much bigger way than we've ever done before.
So the simulations will favor simulations will save us. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.