innovation

Hygge Power at NREL’s 2019 Industry Growth Forum

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Hygge Power presented at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)’s Industry Growth Forum (IGF)— and we couldn’t be more humbled by the recognition. 

 IGF is the premier event for cleantech entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts to build relationships, showcase innovative technologies and explore disruptive business solutions. For companies like Hygge Power, IGF is a great event, not only because it’s heavy on the energy side, but also because it provides up-and-coming enterprises the unique opportunity to spend one-on-one time with industry heavyweights who can help take our business to the next level.  

 At IGF, attendees get access to some of the world’s biggest cleantech investors and industry experts. With the unmatched opportunity to build relationships and connect capital with the attending innovators, IGF aims to create significant impact on the world of energy. And as you’re making the right connections, the trusted NREL “stamp of approval” is a significant benefit as well. The impact of the relationship-building that has occurred at IGF since 2003 is staggering — companies that have presented at the IGF have gone on to raise a collective $6.3 billion in follow-on funding.

 Designed to connect the cleantech community, IGF brings innovative research, entrepreneurship and investor money together in one place. Beyond organized networking opportunities and one-on-one meetings, this year’s event, which took place this week in Denver, featured compelling panel conversations and presentations from 30 emerging clean energy companies. And, for the first time at IGF, Hygge Power will be onstage as a presenter! 

 Proactive Engagement

But we weren’t simply invited just because. It required proactive engagement, solid relationship-building prowess and applying the expert advice we received from IGF last year to get to the point we are at today — and it will take more of the same to deliver on our goal of Better Energy. Better Lives.  

 Similar to speed-dating, the One-on-One Networking Session provided investors a venue to quickly host numerous 1:1 meetings, forge new connections with cleantech entrepreneurs and hear some pitches before moving on. Because time is limited in these rapid-fire discussions, it’s crucially important to proactively reach out to investors and strategic partners ahead of time.

 Fortunately, NREL provides the tools to do so. There’s a portal set up allowing companies to immediately engage with investors and other important people to ensure the alignment is right ahead of the meeting. This allows companies and the individuals they are meeting with to get on the same page and immediately establish goals so that time isn’t wasted during the brief one-on-one session. NREL provides the tools to effectively engage with the experts, investors, accelerators, incubators and other cleantech industry leaders who matter most to cleantech innovation. 

 Expert Advice

One of the most significant takeaways from attending last year was the amount of expert advice companies receive at IGF. From manufacturing and working capital to the risks and mitigations seen by experts in the energy space, attendees receive unsurpassed expert advice and get a "big picture" overview of the emerging industry and the issues affecting technological innovation, capitalization and commercialization.

 While some advice is just noise that needs to be filtered out, the expert feedback received at IGF can be incredibly accurate and useful, better aligning companies to provide additional value moving forward. Experts, startups, technologists and thought leaders with experience navigating the clean energy industry provide feedback as a pro bono service, and they allow attendees to be better prepared for the next stage of growth after learning about best practices and successful strategies.

 Next-Level Presentation

We’ve heard that every year at IGF, the quality of the presenters goes up. As such, we were honored and excited to present our company and technology to an audience of hundreds of potential investors at this year’s event. Every time a company presents at an industry event, it typically invites questions from industry-related individuals, scientists and investors, and we believe that provided us an opportunity to show the investors we’ve already connected with what our story is from a more general perspective.

 It’s exciting to be talking about products and services that we can execute into the marketplace to provide value to customers. Our presentation answered specific questions about the company, our technology, financials and end-customers, before we opened the floor for a question-and-answer session focused on accelerating how Hygge Power will be able to provide value.  

 At Hygge Power, we have a track record of doing something once and then going back and doing it better the next time. Since last year’s IGF, we’ve in many ways repositioned ourselves to better define how we’re communicating our story to the people who matter most. The Forum was an excellent opportunity to collaborate and explore partnerships with the cleantech community and being selected to present is a significant milestone. It’s wonderful to have the support of NRELand leading partners and their expertise.


The Future of the Power Grid and Climate Change

Since the summer of 2014, investigators have blamed more than 1,500 fires on PG&E power lines and hardware and the company’s equipment is suspected to have caused the Camp Fire. Because California law requires utilities to pay damages for wildfires if their equipment caused the blaze even if the utilities were not found negligent, the question around PG&E filing for bankruptcy soon became a case of when, not if. When the utility company officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the prospect of facing more than $30 billion in liability made clear the implications of building resilience into business operations.  

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This isn’t a litigation of how PG&E conducted itself, mostly because it’s too early to say what will happen. Instead, let’s look at some lessons that can be drawn from the toxic mixture of climate change and faulty equipment and infrastructure. More specifically, we’re interested in thinking about how our reliance on the grid — any grid — can jeopardize business continuity and emergency preparedness during extreme weather events.

We can’t get around the effects of climate change and its impact is only growing more extreme over time. Consequently, PG&E, other utility companies and the business community in general needs to be prepared to address business continuity and emergency preparedness in the event that one of these extreme weather occurrences happens.

How many operations can you think of that require unimpeded power? For the majority of modern businesses, connectivity is crucial, and they require uninterrupted power from the country’s energy grid. When looking at the country's aging energy infrastructure, there’s no wonder that it’s failing in certain places. 

The equipment has a 50-year life span, but because much of it was installed in the 1950s, it’s already approaching 70 years in operation. Additionally, a 2015 review of U.S. infrastructure found climate change to be "by far" the biggest threat to it. Compounding the issue, our country’s growing population places increasing demand on the grid as new developments that require electricity are being built and more electronic devices are making their way into homes and offices. While generation is flat, the demand for energy is increasing, and as a result, increased pressure is placed on utilities and the power grid.

Interruptions in electricity service vary by frequency and duration across the many electric distribution systems that serve about 145 million customers in the United States. In 2016, the average U.S. electricity customer was without power for 250 minutes and experienced 1.3 outages.

Procedures and Processes

What procedures and processes are in place to ensure the minimum level of service to utility customers? Across the United States, the power sector is struggling with its vulnerabilities to climate change. Utilities around the country are fortifying their infrastructure against hurricanes, wildfires and other extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. But because projects such as moving power lines underground to prevent wildfires are extremely costly, price hikes could be passed along to residential and commercial customers as utilities and other major infrastructure players attempt to deal with climate change. As PG&E’s bankruptcy illustrates, we need to cut down the costs of climate change and we’re going to have to find a different way to structure the system, otherwise no utility will be able to survive.

Renewable Energy + Energy Storage = Better Emergency Preparedness

While some customers have backup generators that provide auxiliary power, most customers are without electricity when outages occur. Many current energy solutions are too expensive for the majority of homes and businesses — whether discussing energy storage or renewable generation. 

Fortunately, as technology progresses, renewable energy and distributed energy storage are becoming increasingly vital aspects of how forward-thinking utilities design, manage and maintain their distribution grids. 

In fact, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, noted that distributed energy storage has the potential “to significantly alter the grid as we know it.” Additionally, renewable energy is accounting for an increasing percentage of domestically-produced electricity. Optimal climate emergency preparedness will ultimately involve coupling renewable generation for cost savings with backup energy solutions in the event that some equipment fails on the other side of the grid.

With each extreme weather event, the socio-economic impacts of climate change continue to grow and it’s too expensive for most companies to become completely grid independent, but there’s a case that exhibits how working with grid operators and owning a decentralized storage solution can save money and deliver an extra level of emergency preparedness. There’s no magic bullet solution to solve all the climate-related energy problems, so we have to work together. Disaster preparedness will not mitigate the impact of climate change, but it can drastically reduce the impacts upon people, business and the community.

About the authors: Caleb Scalf is the founder and CEO of Hygge Power, a Boulder, Colorado-based energy startup working on the future of energy generation, distribution and storage.Chris Chen is an independent consultant. He recently retired from SDG&E as their Strategy Development Manager, focusing on business model innovation and advanced technology. He has two Smart Grid-related patents and is a frequent speaker at industry events. 

Hygge Power is Returning to Free Electrons!

We are pleased to announce that Hygge Power has been invited to Free Electrons, arguably one of the most prestigious and selective energy startup programs in the world. Each year, Free Electrons offers startups the chance to collaborate with 10 global energy giants. Free Electrons seeks the most promising later-stage energy startups and is committed to supporting energy entrepreneurs and startups in transforming the energy market by co-creating the next generation of ideas in energy, energy efficiency, e-mobility, digitization, data-driven business models and on-demand customer services.

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About the Free Electrons Program

The 2019 Cohort begins this week as a one-week bootcamp in Dublin, Ireland, followed by successive modules in Ohio, Hong Kong and Lisbon, Portugal. During the bootcamp, the top 30 companies are invited to showcase their respective solutions and teams. After, selected startups participate in three modules of roughly a week each, competing for the coveted “Free Electrons World’s Best Energy Startup” recognition, with a prize of $200,000.

Value of Free Electrons Program

For Hygge Power, the program offers an unprecedented opportunity for us to share our OPO smart plug and home energy storage device with clean-tech investors and leaders across a global network of potential customers. On top of that, Free Electrons helps us quickly “level up” with curated support and access to a network of utility giants, which is crucial. Utilities, in general, have barriers and a lot of red tape to deal with, and we have seen firsthand how the Free Electrons program can help remove those obstacles.

With Free Electrons, energy startups are afforded the luxury of legitimate face-to-face time with 10 utilities during workshop sessions in order to determine whether a pilot aligns to their objectives, what the success criteria are, and what additional resources are needed from the utility. From there, the program kicks off pilot programs for immediate testing, allowing for true innovation.

Beyond in-depth meetings with leaders of global energy giants and opportunities for strategic investments from utilities, startups chosen for Free Electrons receive unparalleled exposure to Australian, Asian, European and U.S. markets through three separate week-long ‘customer adoption’ modules. Each startup benefits from spending one-on-one time bouncing ideas off mentors and other mentorship support, and the program is structured to facilitate ongoing conversations between startups and utilities to seed pilot projects, investments and other commercial relationships.

What We Learned From Our Participation Last Year

Our interactions with utilities like American Electric Power (AEP), AusNet Services and Electricity Supply Board (ESB) all contributed to shaping the last 12 months at Hygge Power. Whether or not a company that makes it through every module, the mentor conversations the program facilitates can be invaluable if the company demonstrates the capacity to learn.

For example, AEP offered great feedback on improving customer satisfaction. Focused on building a smarter energy infrastructure and delivering new technologies and custom energy solutions to customers, AEP is aiming to become more of an energy partner with customers rather than being an energy provider, and because of that conversation, we were able to determine the value we can leverage customer-centric utilities like AEP to create highly satisfactory experiences for utility customers. We also spent a great deal of time with AusNet and ESB, major energy players in Australia and Ireland, respectively, discussing load shedding and the grid edge tipping point, alternatives to upgrading substations. These discussions brought us back to the drawing board, which helped shape our enhanced commitment to shifting critical plug loads without negatively impacting a customer’s energy uptime and therefore experience.

We look forward to this week’s opportunities to collaborate with these select utilities to receive further feedback, develop near-term “proto-pilots” and use case scenarios for our OPO products.

Stay Tuned!