By Anne Liu and Peter Sopher
While the entire economy must decarbonize to avert catastrophic climate change, there is a short list of subsectors that are hardest to decarbonize where innovation will be especially impactful and additional. While long haul trucking, aviation, and plastics rank highly, industrial heat is atop the list as the energy application most in need of decarbonized solutions.
Industrial heat accounts for 20% of global energy consumption and 10% of global CO2 emissions. Due to how difficult it is to decarbonize industrial heat, International Energy Agency forecasts this sector potentially ballooning to 25% of global CO2 emissions by 2040.
Within industrial heat, hot-ness matters. At present, there’s a dearth of clean, economic solutions for heat greater than 500oC.
Clean Energy Ventures (“CEV”) recently led the Series Seed financing of Electrified Thermal Solutions (“ETS”) because we believe this company has innovated the best solution for this existential global challenge.
Doping Bricks to Store Hot Heat
Electrified Thermal has developed technology for storing solar and wind power and releasing it as industrial-grade heat when needed at temperatures up to 1,800oC (and potentially hotter) to enable drop-in electrification of the hottest sectors like steel, cement, glass, ceramics, and others.
The ETS product, the Joule HiveTM thermal battery, bases its novel approach to industrial heating in patented circuit designs, stacking patterns, and conductive brick oxides. More specifically, Joule Hive is a thermal energy storage system that converts electricity into heat by directly resistance heating a large stack of electrically conductive ceramic bricks, effectively “charging” the stack to very high temperatures. The system then “discharges” this stored power as heat by blowing air or another gas through the brick stack’s air channels enabling delivery of hot air to the target location.
Clean Energy Ventures does not consider a bet on ETS a bet against alternative solutions. The target market – electrification of industrial heat – is massive, and segments where metallic wire-, graphite-, or salt-based may also surface and be economically-viable solutions.
Our evaluation, however, is that Joule HiveTM is hotter, cheaper, and more economic than alternative approaches. Wire-based solutions are limited to service temperatures at or below 1,200oC, salt-based solutions are challenged to break 1,000oC, and graphite solutions face substantial capex and plumbing hurdles. Relative to broader storage alternatives, Electrified Thermal’s system is over 3x cheaper than green Hydrogen and 9x cheaper than li-ion battery storage with 98% thermal efficiency. For sectors like cement and steel that require 1,400oC+ heat, Joule HiveTM is the clear choice.
Importantly, Joule HiveTM entails a modular brick stacking design, so that it is scalable and flexible to implement and can be easily integrated into existing industrial systems. It can attach to a furnace or boiler via a slight piping modification, so that the plant’s incumbent combustion gas stream is instead heated by Joule HiveTM, rendering it a drop-in replacement to fossil fuel heat.
Strong Team and Enormous Scaling and Impact Potential
The startups that most excite Clean Energy Ventures are those with remarkable leadership teams innovating highly scalable, impactful solutions with clear sources of sustainable competitive advantage targeting enormous markets.
The most compelling aspect of this investment is the remarkable founding team. Dan Stack (CEO) and Joey Kabel (CTO) are both Nuclear Engineering PhDs from MIT and Berkeley, respectively. They’re deeply motivated, impact-driven, and technically brilliant individuals whose leadership qualities root the foundation for a growth-minded, people-first culture.
The product has achieved strong milestones at the lab stage, and early partner conversations are directing beachhead markets. What’s clear is that some of the largest industrial corporations across sectors consider the ETS solution compelling, and the overall market for ETS is in the trillions of dollars.
As for GHG mitigation potential, few if any startups could compete with ETS. For cement and ethylene production alone, emissions reduction potential between now and 2050 is in the tens of gigatons, and ETS is applicable and additional to many other emissions intensive sectors.
Clean Energy Ventures’ mission is to finance sophisticated, cost-effective solutions pioneering a more sustainable world. Our investment in Electrified Thermal embodies this mission.