Good morning, everyone. On behalf of today’s co-hosts DSM, Eneco, Sungevity, Salesforce, Rockstart and Shell, I want to welcome you to Energy Fest.
It is exciting to see such a crowd of entrepreneurs, investors and corporates with an interest in the energy sector here today. More than 50 venture capitalists, 200 startups and over 200 representatives from the corporate world are with us today.
This is what we aimed for when we started organising this event: bringing together innovators and those who can give the launch of new technologies a firm push.
Today will be all about making connections between startups and potential investors. I have had a preview of the great ideas the startups are going to bring to the stage and expect competition will be fierce during the pitch competitions.
Earlier this week I joined a number of networking sessions with startups and it is great to see the amount of positive energy in the room.
As today is all about pitching your ideas, let me start with my elevator pitch.
The world needs more energy and less carbon dioxide. And technology is at the heart of this change…technologies to capture, store and transport all energy sources, from solar and wind to oil and gas, because we will need all available resources to transition to net zero carbon emissions and at the same time release millions of people out of energy poverty.
This challenge is so enormous that no single company or knowledge institute can solve this in isolation.
So let’s work together, not only to generate ideas but also to drive them to full deployment.
I have three further thoughts on this that I would like to share with you as part of my opening remarks for today: first, how we at Shell see the energy challenge; second, Shell also was a startup more than a century ago – and in some domains we still are; and finally, why innovation is crucial and why we like to collaborate with startups so much.
The energy challenge
Globally we see a surging demand for energy. This is driven by a number of factors.
Global population growth: by the middle of this century another two billion people will have joined us on this planet, the equivalent of another China plus half of India.
Economic growth and prosperity: by 2050, three billion people are expected to join the middle class.
The world’s cities will see their populations nearly doubling.
People will also be more mobile: by mid-century there could be two billion vehicles on the road, twice today’s number.
Electricity is moving from being one of the most expensive energy carriers to that with lowest cost, with solar generation offering highest energy utilisation and smallest footprint.
We see a potential for large scale electrification of the energy system, depending on policy, technology and market developments.
However, electrification of the energy system is technically not simple, because electricity is relatively difficult to store and transport. This is in particular a problem in dealing with large variations in demand (winter/summer cooling/heating) as well as the intermittency of supply.
Our expectation is that a molecular energy carrier will still be needed and technically the simplest solution would be hydrogen. Hydrogen could become an energy vector – linking increasingly electricity based supply with the various demand sectors, while also enabling long distance transport.
In principle we could go further – hydrogen can serve as a building block to also synthesise liquid fuels – very much needed in commercial transport and air transport as well as for the production of chemical products.
Hydrogen or liquid fuels can also continue to fuel industrial processes that are difficult to electrify, such as steel and cement production.
And finally, the “holy grail” technology would be the ability to use solar electricity and renewable hydrogen to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air as a feedstock for liquid fuels as well as construction materials. Much scientific and technological progress is still needed to make this a reality.
As Chief Technology Officer my role is to balance the short-term with the long-term view, delivering today’s energy needs as well as transition to a sustainable energy future.
Allowing more and more people to enjoy better opportunities, better health and better lives. But at the same time reduce emissions.
In both, technology and innovation are key.
Shell as a startup
Back to today’s topic: startups. Shell also was a startup more than a century ago – and in some domains we still are explorers.
When Royal Dutch started its operations in the 1890s in the jungle of Sumatra Indonesia, it was struggling to be successful. It had only three months of cash left to survive and suffered many technical challenges.
I am sure some the above may sound familiar to some of you.
But the company could clearly articulate the three challenges it needed to overcome: competition was fierce (and they wanted to disrupt the kerosene monopoly in the market); bringing downs costs was a challenge (80% of the costs went into packaging); and transport to get access to a larger market required a tremendous investment (this is where collaboration with the "Shell" Transport and Trading Company and its tankers changed the business).
Identifying your main challenges and articulating how your technologies will add value are still key to me and how, as Chief Technology Officer, I review potential new technologies.
As said, in some domains we still are a startup. We have a number of approaches where we either work like startups or partner with them.
A vehicle for collaboration is Shell TechWorks. A small technology centre located in one of the world’s foremost innovation hubs – a place where innovative companies, universities and venture capital form networks and feed into each other’s creativity and vitality. Shell TechWorks is located on the MIT campus in Boston.
An example of a Shell TechWorks collaborative innovation: between Shell’s exploration and deep-water operations and several companies including Bluefin Robotics, Oceaneering, and Boston Harbor Cruises.
This unique combination of expertise in data, autonomy and embedded systems makes it possible to do real-time detection on the seabed. This autonomous underwater vehicle technology offers the potential to identify new reservoirs and to detect leaks in existing operations.
Another example is Shell Technology Ventures. This part of our business invests in – and works with – companies that are developing promising technologies, for oil and gas and renewable energy.
In the Netherlands Shell Technology Ventures invested in 2B Energy, developing a 6 MW two-bladed downwind turbine, designed to reduce the cost of wind energy by 20-30%. Another example is Airborne Oil and Gas, manufacturer of advanced composite pipe systems for applications in for instance well stimulations.
Why innovation is crucial and how we want to collaborate
Collaborating is very important, not just within our industry but far beyond its boundaries.
The energy industry already uses exciting technologies from other industries. Just to name a few:
We use docking technology that was developed for space vessels combined with gaming consoles.
We use MRI scanners like the ones you find in hospitals to get a better understanding of rock formations.
And we have a way of displaying satellite images the way Google Earth does, but looking below the earth’s surface rather than at streets.
So, what is Shell looking for? We are looking for collaborations that: reduce the cost of our projects and operations to produce hydrocarbon energy in a responsible way and that is competitively priced and accessible to society; reduce the energy intensity of our oil and gas production and reduce our emissions; and finally, that bring us breakthrough new energy technologies – stepping up research and development efforts to contribute to fundamentally new science and technology in renewable energy systems, especially in the storage and transport of renewable electricity.
I hope we can all make new connections today and wish the startups here great business development opportunities, and for those of you pitching your ideas, best of luck!