Norwegian start-up EnergyNest broadens fight against climate change from Hamburg

Thermal battery module © EnergyNest

In the fight against climate change, decarbonization of industrial processes is one of the biggest challenges. For this purpose, the Norwegian tech company EnergyNest has developed an innovative heat storage system. The ThermalBattery™ is designed to enable the use of industrial waste heat as primary energy or the use of renewable power in industrial heating processes. The company settled in Hamburg in 2020 with the support of Hamburg Invest. Just recently, EnergyNest secured a record investment of 110 million euros from the investment fund Infracapital. We spoke with CEO Dr. Christian Thiel about his company, the branch in the Hanseatic city and his plans for the future.

Dr. Christian Thiel © EnergyNest

1. How do thermal batteries work and what makes the technology so special?
Thermal batteries are a simple way to decarbonise industrial processes. As a method of thermal storage, they can also minimise the problematic fluctuations in output associated with renewable energy. For example, the high temperature storage ThermalBatteryª from EnergyNest can store waste heat, which can then be used elsewhere. In addition, when wind or sun is plentiful, it can store renewable electricity for use as heat or steam in industrial processes on windless or cloudy days. Our battery is special because it gets along with no frills. The ThermalBatteryª is made of environmentally friendly materials that are widely available. The carbon steel and our high-performance concrete are both sourced in Europe and are both recyclable. Once in operation, it takes only about eight weeks for the reduction in emissions to cancel out the CO2 generated in the manufacturing process. The ThermalBatteryª is highly standardised and comes in a practical container. That makes it both easy to integrate and scalable, irrespective of the application. Another bonus is the choice of heat transfer media – you can charge it using air, steam or synthetic oil, depending on what it’s used for.

2. How can this technology help achieve climate change targets?
According to the Mission Innovation global initiative, EnergyNest’s ThermalBattery™ technology has the potential to save 100 million tonnes of CO2 per year. That is twice the annual emissions of the state of Norway. What is more, our solution can help a lot of industrial companies to meet the climate goals they have set themselves. On the one hand, by using less energy sourced from fossil fuels, on the other hand by replacing fossil fuels used for process heat with electricity.

3. What’s the economic potential of thermal batteries? Which industries stand to benefit most from their use?
The German-British analytics institute Aurora Energy Research has estimated the market potential of thermal batteries at 300 billion euros. For an individual company, in just a few years the energy and CO2 savings more than cover the capital expenditure for our ThermalBattery™. We recently sealed a partnership with Infracapital that will enable us to offer fully funded batteries, which means our customers will no longer need to finance the technology upfront and the investment will pay for itself from day one. Given the near-unlimited suitability of the ThermalBattery™, our target market is extremely wide-ranging – from the manufacture and processing of steel and other metals to the chemical and building-material industries through to food manufacturers. We also work with the energy sector, for example on projects to make solar energy plants and incinerators more flexible.

4. What kind of player is EnergyNest in the thermal battery market?
EnergyNest is a thermal battery pioneer and the market leader, and right now there is a huge boom in the market for thermal energy storage – not only in Europe but in the US, Asia, and Australia too. That means there is a lot more interest in our technology but also a lot of other firms developing their own thermal storage solutions. Having said that, we are currently the only company to have brought a finished product to market and to have already installed it in a number of different projects.

ThermalBattery™ © EnergyNest

5. Can you tell us more about those projects? Are you involved in other significant collaborations?
I’ll give you three examples. We have already delivered a ThermalBattery™ to the energy company Eni for a project in Italy. They will use it to store solar energy for use in industrial processes, irrespective of whether the sun is shining or not. Yara is the world’s largest producer of fertiliser and we are now realising our third project with them – a ThermalBattery™ facility that will recover reusable waste heat from Norway’s biggest industrial park. Thirdly, in the industrial sector we have sealed a close partnership with Siemens Energy and for a joint project we have just delivered a feasibility report to the largest energy supplier in Japan.

6. What is the strategic goal of your partnership with Infracapital?
For us, Infracapital is more than an impressive investor with an international network – it was with them that we developed the model for full and upfront project funding that I mentioned before. It is a new offer that uses prior investment to lower entry barriers to new customers. Together with Infracapital, now we are bringing both the technology and funding to market. This offer is aimed at any customers looking to decarbonise their industrial processes and achieve their climate objectives.

7. It’s some time since you chose to set up an EnergyNest facility in Hamburg. Why was that and how has it worked out?
Our main market focus is central Europe, so Germany – with its strong industrial base – is particularly attractive. For us, Hamburg is perfect because it has all the benefits of a global city and at the same time acts as a kind of bridge between our Oslo HQ and our customers in central Europe. This year, the pandemic has reduced the impact of those benefits but I am sure that will change soon.

8. What does Metropolitan Hamburg offer as a location in your opinion?
As a transport hub, Hamburg is easy to access, and its Green Tech suppliers have big potential. So we feel this is a good place to actively pursue an environmentally sustainable agenda. On top of that, Hamburg has strong local industry, which facilitates the exchange to our technology. It is also a good location for attracting qualified personnel, and our recent growth means we are looking to hire across the board.

9. Do you work closely with commercial or political organisations based in Hamburg?
Hamburg Invest is one very valuable partner here in the city. We are also fortunate to be involved with lighthouse projects with both business and politics. Moorburg is a good example, where thermal storage could have a key role to play in ensuring an affordable heat supply for housing and industry. Besides that, the port of Hamburg is a base for a lot of large industrial businesses that could make good use of a ThermalBattery™.

10. Looking ahead, do you have specific plans for your Hamburg facility?
We want to bundle our full range of commercial activities at our Hamburg facility – from project development and supply networks to financial services. We are aiming for substantial and rapid growth in all these areas. And of course, Hamburg’s industry cluster is home to a lot of potential customers, so we see excellent potential for our ThermalBattery™ applications.


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