Janina Benz

Brian Moffat: “It’s possible to transform the world we know”

Brian Moffat is one of the CODE_n13 finalists and the founder of Spindrift Energy, a device that produces energy from the motion of waves. Brian has been joined by a team of professionals who share his conviction that the Spindrift Energy device will deliver truly affordable renewable power to the world. Before founding Spindrift, Brian Moffat worked for Disney Imagineering and Google; Google is currently patenting one of Brian’s inventions. He received three undergraduate degrees from the University of California at Irvine, in the fields of computer science, chemistry and biology.

JB: What was the idea behind Spindrift Energy?

BM: After studying existing alternative energy technologies, I realized that many were quite limited in one way or another. The most popular—wind and solar—are intermittent and somewhat unpredictable. And very few are cheap enough to compete with fossil-fuel alternatives without generous government subsidies. The energy in the waves traveling across the deepest parts of the sea seemed to be the optimal target for energy extraction for several reasons. Being far from shore, such deep-sea wave-energy devices would not conflict with the recreational, commercial and aesthetic needs of coastal communities. So I set out to invent a cheap and simple renewable energy technology that could operate in the deep sea for 20 or 30 years with little, if any, maintenance. More…

Janina Benz

Priti Ambani: “Sustainability is a life-long process”

Priti Ambani is a thought leader and prominent writer on social and environmental enterprises, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses. She is the Managing Editor of Ecopreneurist, a notable business blog. Specializing in her ability to work with impact organizations from the ground up, Priti has developed successful business and communications strategies for fledgling start-ups, social and environmental enterprises. She also serves as a sustainability consultant at GreenDen Consultancy and advises on corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line. Priti is a Professional Engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Biological Resources Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Janina Benz: What’s changed most about sustainable business within the last five years?

Priti Ambani: The last five years have been quite transformational. The recession made many people re-think sustainability in extreme ways. Some business owners distanced themselves from their “good business” goals as a cost-saving measure, while others doubled down on environmental and social responsibility as a way to increase the bottom line. The conversation has moved on from “what can I do to help our environment?” to “what can I do to sustain my business?” and the answer has involved being more efficient with resources and minimizing waste. Some new trends have emerged that replacing traditional business models. More…

Janina Benz

Tobias Schütt: “Renewable energy is the fourth revolution of mankind!”

Tobias Schütt is the founder and managing director of DZ-4, a distributed utility company which sells solar PV energy to residential home owners in the first German “behind the meter” concept.

Tobias Schütt - Founder and CEO of DZ-4

Tobias Schütt – Founder and CEO of DZ-4

Janina Benz: How were you inspired to start DZ-4?

Tobias Schütt: When I lived in California, I saw similar business models [to DZ-4] being successfully implemented in the US (like Solarcity and Sunrun). Up to now, the German solar photovoltaic (PV) market, specifically in the residential segment, has worked very differently: people buy PV systems to get a financial return – the energy produced by the systems is not consumed in the household. This somehow felt wrong. With the cost of solar PV energy coming down and electricity prices from the grid rising, I saw an opportunity. That was the main driver to start DZ-4.

JB: In your opinion, what’s the main challenge startups face when entering the renewable energy sector?

TS: In the past, renewable energy was a market driven by policy and subsidies. In that context, it was not really a sustainable business because the economics were driven by laws and regulations. That meant that in some cases, a lot of flexibility was required in order to adapt business models to (still) fit with applicable legislation. Fortunately, with decreasing costs of basically all renewable technologies, this situation is about to change dramatically. However, there are new challenges. With DZ-4, for example, we need to comply with the regulations of the energy market if we want to be a distributed utility company. That is not easy when you consider that the energy regulatory framework was mainly written decades ago, when the idea of distributed generation (feeding energy into the grid) and self-consumption of energy or “prosumers” were unheard-of concepts.

JB: Do you feel that people have become more aware about the importance of renewable energy solutions?

TS: I am convinced that transferring the energy sector from fossil-based production to renewables is not a question of “if,” but a question of “when,” and that many people see it the same way. We see that change happening all over the world right now. Of course, some countries are quicker in implementing their renewable strategies than others, but that “the fourth revolution of mankind” cannot and will not be stopped.

JB: What is the most exciting thing about being an Ecopreneur?

TS: I really like the combination of working and thinking in economic dimensions – a business model needs to be profitable and still do something good and sustainable. And you don’t have to compromise on the well-being of stakeholders or the environment.

JB: If you could give one piece of advice to a startup entering the renewable energy section, what would it be?

TS: Try to make yourself independent from subsidies so that the business model is sustainable. And don’t fear the competition (from the conventional power world).

Note: Views and opinions expressed in this interview are the author’s do not necessarily represent those of GFT or CODE_n.

Lena Gaede

A New Entrant on the Global Green Scene

The launch of a new business hub in Nairobi is a great reminder that Energy IT and sustainability is a global concern: The Kenya Climate Innovation Center (CIC) has opened with the goal of developing climate technology startups in the East Africa region and generating 24,000 new jobs in the next decade. CapitalFM reports:

The centre is the first of its kind in the world and it is expected to provide an integrated set of services, activities and programmes that empower Kenyan entrepreneurs to deliver innovative climate technology solutions, while offering financing and other services to a growing network of climate innovators and entrepreneurs. The CIC is supported by the World Bank’s infoDev in partnership with the government of Denmark and Britain’s UKAid, as an innovative model to accelerate locally owned and locally developed solutions to climate change.

Read the original article for more information on this exciting new business hub.

Lena Gaede

Green Button: Setting the Standard for Sustainability Apps

Last year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched the “Green Button” initiative, which aimed to “create an open data standard for utility customers to download information about their home’s electricity use, and software developers and other entrepreneurs would have a sufficiently large enough market to develop an array of new web and smartphone apps to help consumers make the most of their energy usage information.”

The goal of the project was to help utilities, developers, and customers become more efficient. But how popular was the new program? The “Green Button” One Year Later” report from the IEE explores some of the successes and challenges encountered over the past months, and identifies some of the ways the initiative can grow in the future. Check out the full report here.

Lena Gaede

“Hello Materials” Explores Advances in Material Innovation

Although a new exhibit at the Danish Design Center features futuristic products like air-purifying clothing and biodegradable golf tees, many of the materials used are easy to find at home and sometimes, in the trash. As GigaOM reports, “Hello Materials” aims to demonstrate how companies like Coca-Cola and Puma are using recycled materials and developing sustainable substitutes to help develop the products of tomorrow.

For more pictures of the exhibit, check out the original article. And if you’re in Copenhagen, be sure to visit the Danish Design Center for yourself, but if not, you can still follow the exhibit’s blog.