February 2021 • Volume 13 • No 10 • Published monthly • ISSN 1757-7365
THE ENERGY INDUSTRY TIMES is published by Man in Black Media • www.mibmedia.com • Editor-in-Chief: Junior Isles • For all enquiries email: enquiries@teitimes.com
Energising communities
Graphene pushes solar
Recent regulation, technology
and functioning use and business
cases are nally providing a solid
foundation for mass adoption of energy
communities. Page 13
The Graphene Flagship explains
how graphene-based perovskite-
silicon tandem solar cells could push
solar cell efciency to the next level.
Page 14
News In Brief
Low-carbon investment
passes milestone
The world invested unprecedented
amounts in low-carbon assets last
year, according to new analysis by
BloombergNEF, but auctions hinder
renewable growth.
Page 2
US slips out of coal, into
wind and solar
Wind and solar will represent the
lion’s share of new US generation in
2021, according to the US Energy
Information Administration.
Page 4
Asia Pacic storage system
costs to fall by a third
All-in front-of-the-meter battery
storage system costs in Asia Pacic
markets could decline by more than
30 per cent by 2025, says Wood
Page 6
Nuclear plans forge ahead
but implementation is slow
Bulgaria’s government has approved
plans to add a new reactor at its
Soviet-era nuclear power plant at
Page 7
Middle East ready to enter
global green hydrogen race
Abu Dhabi is eyeing the opportunity
to become a hydrogen hub in the
Middle East and further aeld.
Page 8
Investors ock to green
Investment in green hydrogen is
continuing at breakneck speed
as companies continue to make
acquisitions in the space and
investors ock to snap up stocks.
Page 9
Fuel Watch: Gas
The future of Nord Stream II is in
question following the arrest of
political activist Alexei Navalny and
potential US sanctions the EU.
Page 12
Technology Focus: Liquid
metal batteries looks hot
A novel battery technology to be
demonstrated in Reno, Nevada,
holds the promise of low-cost,
compact storage, and cycling
without degradation.
Page 15
or call +44 208 523 2573
A recent decision by the US court of appeal to scrap a rule instigated by the Trump
administration could help President Biden in his effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Junior Isles
Hydrocarbons to reach peak demand sooner than expected
Final Word
With Trump gone, it’s time
for Biden to undertake
some spring cleaning,
says Junior Isles.
Page 16
A recent ruling on regulating carbon
emissions from power plants could
help smooth the way for newly elected
US President Joe Biden in his plan to
tackle climate change.
The US Court of Appeals for the
D.C. Circuit recently scrapped one of
the Trump administration’s biggest
climate change rules with a decision
that for the rst time offers a binding
judicial opinion on the statutory scope
of the Environmental Protection
Agency’s (EPA) regulatory powers on
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Trump’s EPA administration tried to
roll-back Obama-era greenhouse gas
emission standards for power plants
with the introduction in 2019 of the
Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule
covering emissions from the power
The Obama-era Clean Power Plan
(CPP) had mandated that power plants
make 32 per cent reductions in emis-
sions below 2005 levels by 2030. The
plan gave states wide exibility in g-
uring out how best to meet the new
targets, but most coal plants would
have been forced into retirement.
The CCP, however, ran into legal
difculties in 2016, and the issues
were not resolved before President
Trump came into ofce. Trump’s EPA
administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a for-
mer coal lobbyist, signed the new rule
in June 2019, saying that it would
lower electricity costs and that the
Obama EPA had overreached. He ar-
gued that the Clean Air Act (CAA)
clearly constrains EPA to only those
improvements that can be made on-
site at coal red power plants.
The ACE rule was designed to ease
constraints on the power industry
while still complying with legal re-
quirements under the federal CAA. It
pushed individual coal red power
plants to become more efcient, with
the potential consequence of having
them run longer and more often, in
turn bolstering demand for coal. The
agency admitted, however, that this
would directly achieve only a small
fraction of the emissions reductions
that would have been required under
the Obama-era CPP.
Announcing their ruling, two of the
three-judge panel, judges Patricia
Millett and Nina Pillard, both Obama
appointees, wrote that Trump’s EPA
had put all its eggs in a defective
basket. The panel ruled that the EPA
can consider “beyond the fence-line”
options such as generation-shifting,
the strategy envisioned under the CPP
in which emissions reductions were
driven in part by utilities moving
away from coal in favour of less-pol-
luting natural gas and renewables.
“Because promulgation of the ACE
Rule and its embedded repeal of the
Clean Power Plan rested critically on
a mistaken reading of the Clean Air
Act, we vacate the ACE Rule and re-
mand to the Agency,” the judges said.
Michelle Bloodworth, President of
America’s Power, which represents
coal producers and companies with
coal red power plants, said her group
was disappointed with the decision.
“We had intervened in the case to
help defend the rule because we feel
Continued on Page 2
Aggregate fossil fuel demand is set to
peak in 2027 – with oil peaking in
2029 and gas in 2037 – partially due
to the impacts of Covid-19, according
to new research by leading global
consultancy, McKinsey & Company.
The ‘Global Energy Perspective
2021’ report nds that while coal de-
mand peaked already, peaks in de-
mand for oil and gas are not far be-
hind – falling in 2029 and 2037,
McKinsey notes that the decline in
coal use continues, in an environ-
ment where the energy, gas and in-
creasingly renewables sectors show
net growth that is being driven by
economic growth in India and the
Association of Southeast Asian Na-
tions (ASEAN).
The slowdown in oil, it says, is
driven by declining road transport
and the impact of Covid-19. Gas de-
mand continues to grow for some
time due to high growth in some sec-
tors such as chemicals, other indus-
tries and construction. “After peak,
the decline in gas demand is driven
by the energy sector, as the gas
changes its role from base load sup-
plier to exibility provider,” it said.
The pandemic has resulted in a pro-
found reduction in energy demand,
from which McKinsey expects it will
take between one to four years to re-
cover – with electricity and gas de-
mand expected to bounce back more
quickly than demand for oil.
However, demand for fossil fuels
will never return to its pre-pandemic
growth curve. Over the long-term,
the impacts of behavioural shifts due
to Covid-19 are minor compared to
“known” long-term shifts such as
decreasing car ownership, growing
fuel efciencies and a trend towards
electric vehicles, whose impact is es-
timated to be three-to-nine times
higher than the pandemic’s by 2050.
Christer Tryggestad, Senior Part-
ner at McKinsey, said: “While the
pandemic has certainly provided a
substantial shock for the energy sec-
tor across all fuel sources, the story
of the century is still a rapid and con-
tinuous shift to lower-carbon energy
“The share of electricity in the en-
ergy mix is set to grow by around 50
per cent by 2050 and it’s set to cap-
ture all global energy growth as hy-
drocarbon consumption plateaus.
However, in our Reference case, fos-
sil fuels continue to play a signicant
role for the foreseeable future.”
Indeed, while energy systems
around the world will shift to renew-
ables, which are able to compete
with the marginal cost of fossil pow-
er already today in most places, by
2050 more than half of all global en-
ergy demand continues to be met by
fossil fuels in McKinsey’s Reference
Case scenario.
As a result, while the earlier peak
of hydrocarbon demand means a
substantial reduction in forecasted
carbon emissions, the world remains
signicantly off of the 1.5°C path-
way and will run out of its carbon
budget for 2100 in the early 2030s.
According to McKinsey’s esti-
mates, annual emissions would need
to be around 50 per cent lower in
2030 and about 85 per cent lower by
2050 than current trends predict to
limit the global temperature increase
to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
US resumes
US resumes
pressure on
pressure on
GHG emissions
GHG emissions
President Biden has put climate change
back on the US agenda
Maputo, Mozambique
8-9 March
Câmara de Petróleo e Gás
sales@africaoilandpower.com www.mzgasandpower.com
#ElectricDecade #ItsElectric #PowerSummit21
Erna Solberg
Confirmed speakers include
Dan Yergin Sandrine
Peter Hinssen
Prime Minister,
Vice Chairman
IHS Markit &
Pulitzer Prize Winner
President & Chair of
the Commissions
R&I Think Tank
Co-founder &
Partner at nexxworks
For further information please contact Karl Weber
Tel: 07734 942 385
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GTW full page.indd 1 17/11/16 12:22:16
Companies News
Junior Isles
Investment in green hydrogen is con-
tinuing at breakneck speed as compa-
nies continue to make acquisitions in
the space and investors ock to snap
up stocks.
In mid-January MAN Energy Solu-
tions announced its acquisition of al-
most 99 per cent of the shares in H-TEC
Systems, a manufacturer of PEM elec-
trolysers based in Augsburg, Germany.
Subject to approval by the competi-
tion authorities, MAN Energy Solu-
tions has acquired the shares of the
previous majority shareholder, GP
Joule, adding to the 40 per cent stake
it previously took in the company in
2019. The remaining shares are cur-
rently in free oat.
Dr. Uwe Lauber, Chief Executive
Ofcer of MAN Energy Solutions,
stated: “Green hydrogen is becoming
an incredibly important natural re-
source on our journey to becoming a
climate-neutral global economy. With
the acquisition of H-TEC Systems,
from now on we will cover all process-
ing steps of the hydrogen economy
under the umbrella of MAN Energy
Solution. By doing so, we are strategi-
cally investing in our expertise as to-
morrow’s provider of sustainable en-
ergy solutions and providing H-TEC
Systems with complete access to our
resources and sales networks at the
same time. However, the current other
shareholder GP Joule will remain an
important sales partner.”
In a separate move, Sunre said it has
taken over IHT Industrie Haute Tech-
nology SA, a Monthey, Switzerland-
based alkaline electrolysis company.
With this acquisition, the Dresden-
based company continues to expand its
green hydrogen portfolio to include
high-pressure alkaline water electroly-
sis. The technology is particularly suit-
able for use in environments where
water-steam is not readily available,
such as in hydrogen mobility.
The acquisition sees Sunre take a
100 per cent stake in IHT. The com-
pany’s headquarters in Monthey will
continue to play an important role in
the production of the stacks, which are
the main component of the high-pres-
sure alkaline electrolysers. This year,
IHT will supply and install Europe’s
largest single-stack alkaline pres-
surised electrolyser to help regulate the
power grid and produce green hydro-
gen for a project partner in Tyrol.
Experts say an unprecedented rally
in green hydrogen stocks looks set to
extend as investors ock to companies
that promise to produce the gas, ex-
pecting the technology to scale up
over the next 10 years to justify rock-
eting valuations.
Share prices of companies in the in-
dustry have soared more than 500 per
cent in the past year, driven by the ris-
ing adoption of zero-emission vehicles
and a deadline set by many countries
to go carbon-free by 2050.
“Hot money is owing towards re-
newables and clean energy, and
there’s been a clear re-rating of valu-
ations in the sector,” said Emmanuel
Cau, Head of European Equity Strat-
egy at Barclays.
The frenzy in hydrogen-related
stocks has led to some concerns about
a bubble, with companies trading at
extreme prices based on expectations
that their revenue will surge in future,
despite worries about possible head-
winds for the sector.
JP Morgan analysts, however, al-
layed fears about a potential bubble.
The bank said in a recent note investors
should take advantage of any pullback
in prices and “take an unorthodox ap-
proach to valuation for the next sev-
eral years”.
Sean McLoughlin, HSBC EMEA
Head of Industrials Research, told
Reuters scarce value in the market,
unprecedented scal stimulus, low
cost of capital and debt and low yields
in other asset classes mean the hydro-
gen market’s valuation may be justi-
ed, though he cautioned it was at a
“potentially fraught level”.
In a move that reects the growing
interest in technology involving green
hydrogen, South Korean industrial
conglomerate SK Group has an-
nounced it will invest $1.5 billion in
US hydrogen fuel cells provider Plug
Power Inc. as part of a new strategic
partnership between the two.
The terms of a newly-signed deal
call for a US subsidiary of SK Group
to buy about 51.4 million Plug Power
shares at $29.2893 each. This pur-
chase would give SK Group a rough-
ly 9.9 per cent stake in the hydrogen
Subject to regulatory clearance, the
transaction is expected to close this
The companies said the alliance is
aimed at accelerating hydrogen as an
alternative energy source in Asian mar-
kets, where, particularly in Korea, they
plan to provide hydrogen fuel cell sys-
tems, hydrogen fuelling stations and
electrolysers. A joint venture targeting
the Korean market is also being
Andy Marsh, CEO for Plug Power,
said: “The current relationship with
SK Group offers immediate strategic
benets to Plug Power to accelerate
its expansion into Asian markets – and
is intended to result in a formal joint
venture (JV) by 2022. Due to the
complementary strengths in this part-
nership, we expect rapid growth and
signicant revenue generation from
the joint venture that are incremental
to our 2024 plan.”
The government of South Korea has
set a number of hydrogen-economy-
related objectives for the period
through 2040, including achieving
more than 5 million tonnes of hydro-
gen per year, over 6 million fuel cell
electric vehicles (EVs), 1200 relling
stations and 15 GW of fuel cell power
generation. The cumulative economic
value of the country’s hydrogen econ-
omy is expected to reach $40 billion
by that time.
The deal highlights the increasing
value of fuel cell companies. In De-
cember the combined market capitali-
sation of the top three fuel cell – Plug
Power, Ballard Power and Bloom En-
ergy – companies soared by 550 per
cent year-on-year to $20.8 billion, ac-
cording to StockApps.com.
The increasing demand for clean en-
ergy sources and the development of
environmentally-friendly urban trans-
port systems in developed countries
had been driving the impressive
growth of the fuel cell industry. In the
next seven years, the entire market is
expected to rise by CAGR of 56 per
cent and hit a $24.8 billion value.
Energy entrepreneur Eddie O’Connor
and his management team have sold a
75 per cent equity stake in Mainstream
Renewable Power to Norwegian group
Aker Horizons in a deal that will enable
a rapid acceleration of Mainstream’s
global expansion plans.
The deal, which values Mainstream
at €1 billion will help Mainstream
achieve its goal of bringing 5.5 GW of
wind and solar assets to nancial close
by 2023.
The company, founded by O’Connor
in 2008, has signicant interests
across Latin America, Asia-Pacic
and Africa, as well as in the global
offshore wind sector, with over 1.2 GW
of major capital projects currently un-
der construction. Mainstream has a
major market presence in Chile, Africa,
and Vietnam, as well as assets in de-
velopment in other countries including
the Philippines, Australia, and Colom-
bia. The company will remain focused
on delivering its ~10 GW global de-
velopment pipeline and growing its
portfolio in existing as well as new
markets, with the full backing of the
Aker ASA group.
Under the terms of the agreement, the
company will continue to operate as
Mainstream, led by its CEO Mary
Quaney and supported by its estab-
lished and experienced leadership
team. O’Connor will remain as Chair-
man, retaining a signicant minority
interest in the business and all existing
shareholders will have the opportunity
to reinvest alongside him ahead of a
planned IPO of Mainstream within the
next two to three years.
O’Connor commented: “This part-
nership is the crucial next step in the
vision we set out for Mainstream in
2008 to lead the global transition to
renewable energy and rid the world
of CO
emissions. It means we can
widen our scope for entry into new
markets and further deepen and ex-
pand our leadership position in exist-
ing ones…”
French energy major, Total, is look-
ing to strengthen its position in the
renewables sector through the acqui-
sition of a 20 per cent stake in India’s
Adani Green Energy in a $2.5 billion
Adani Green Energy Ltd (AGEL) is
owned by Indian tycoon Gautam Ad-
ani, who has promised to build the
world’s largest solar power company
by 2025. Adani Green Energy already
has more than 14.6 GW of contracted
renewable capacity.
The transaction will help strengthen
the strategic relationship between the
Adani Group and Total in India’s green
energy eld. The partnership covers
investments in liqueed natural gas
terminals, gas utility business, and re-
newable assets across India.
“Given the size of the market, India
is the right place to put into action our
energy transition strategy based on two
pillars: renewables and natural gas,”
said Total’s Chief Executive Patrick
Total said that the partnership with
AGEL in the renewable sector in India
would be a key to achieve its aim to
reach 35 GW of renewable energy ca-
pacity by 2025, and adding 10 GW
annually afterward.
The investment announced in Janu-
ary was at a nearly 40 per cent discount
based on AGELs Rs1.5 trillion ($20
billion) market capitalisation. It also
grants the French group a 50 per cent
share in a 2.35 GW portfolio of solar
assets and gives it a seat on the com-
pany’s board.
India has set out ambitious targets for
renewables and gas, with the goal of
installing 175 GW of generating capac-
ity based on renewable energy sources
by 2022.
Total boosts green
Total boosts green
credentials through
credentials through
Fuel cell
Fuel cell
attracts interest
attracts interest
Mainstream sells majority stake
to Aker Horizons
Investors ock to green
n MAN Energy Solutions and Sunre takeover electrolyser companies
n Hydrogen stock share prices surge
nergy communities have been
around for some time now.
The rst was launched in the
1980s, when citizens in Denmark
joined forces to nance wind tur-
bines. Still, energy communities re-
mained a rare phenomenon. Later,
municipalities brought back and
started operating the distribution grid
to set up local energy communities.
Today, we see a wide range of en-
ergy community concepts – from
public-owned to privately held; from
island solutions to communities rely-
ing heavily on the grid the most
popular ones arguably being market-
ing-driven, nationwide communities
selling the idea of a large-scale peer-
to-peer energy exchange based on a
shared energy tariff. And whereas
the rst communities were mostly
communities producing electricity
from wind or solar, many of today’s
communities offer a connection be-
tween producers and pure consumers
creating benets for both.
So far, regulation has not helped
much. However, with the recent
Clean Energy Package (CEP), the
EU gives energy communities and
citizens a clear EU legislation status.
The CEP grants: the right not to bear
disproportionately high burdens or
costs for the use of self-generated
energy; the right to access, directly
or through a third-party, the relevant
energy markets; the right to partici-
pate in public electricity trading and
the mutual exchange of renewable
energy. In short, energy communities
may produce, consume, store, share
and sell renewable energy with ease.
Although the CEP needs to be im-
plemented in all EU countries, we
already see the rst applications in
Austria, Spain, Italy, and Greece. In
Spain, for example, the local energy
community may extend self-con-
sumption to a group of people be-
yond single owners opening up new
On the technology and business
side, signicant improvements push
the energy community closer to true
peer-to-peer sharing while at the
same time enabling business cases
appealing to end-customers and pro-
viders alike.
Firstly, the growing number of
smart meters installed in private
homes provides crucial visibility be-
hind the meter. And with Germany
nally starting the residential rollout,
most of Europe will be covered dur-
ing the next years. Secondly, gate-
ways that connect distributed assets
like solar inverters, batteries, heat
pumps or wall boxes are becoming
cheaper and more capable every
year, making real-time control, in
theory, a plug-and-play task for the
end customer without putting the
business case in peril. In the end, a
good gateway can be as simple as an
Amazon Alexa device.
The third technology element,
however, remains a challenge. To
successfully run an energy commu-
nity, a central platform must control
decentralised energy assets, offer op-
timisation, visualisation and, ideally,
foster energy sharing. After all, al-
though denitions of what makes an
energy community vary widely, the
most basic and all-unifying function
seems to be “to share energy”.
In theory, all of the above is clear
and possible but the challenges arise
in real-life implementations. There-
fore, GreenCom Networks built up
an end-to-end energy community
showcase, based in Brunnthal, south
of Munich. The community is built
on several building blocks:
n A joint energy tariff: Electricity
consumers and prosumers share en-
ergy in the community – this means
there must be real-time matching of
production and consumption for all
members. To simplify things, all
members use the same energy tariff,
provided by GreenCom Networks.
n Integration of decentralised assets:
To help keep consumption and gen-
eration in balance, the community
integrates all kinds of different de-
centralised energy assets such as so-
lar PV systems, battery storage, elec-
tric cars, heat pumps or even
micro-CHP units. On the technical
side, this requires an extensive inter-
face driver library for all integrated
assets kept up to date and the collec-
tion and harmonising of vast
amounts of data in real-time.
n Optimisation on house and com-
munity level: To decrease costs and
emissions, the community energy
ows’ management aims to increase
self-consumption on the household
and community level. Here, machine-
learning-based optimisation, including
weather forecasts and market sig-
nals, helps smoothen energy ows in
the community. In real terms, this
means charging EVs sequentially
rather than all at once or balancing
house temperatures and heat pump
activity within a set frame to maxi-
mise the use of solar PV generated
n Fostering customer engagement:
In GreenCom’s showcase communi-
ty, two were used to promote cus-
tomer engagement. First, everything
happening in the community is
shown live: energy ows in the
household and community can be
seen via a web or mobile app as well
as consumption, production, or re-
ports – whatever happens in the
community is instantly visible. Even
billing is calculated every minute
and fed into a precise monthly digi-
tal bill, no down-payment with cor-
rections at the end of the year. Sec-
ond, for each kilowatt-hour
produced and consumed in the com-
munity, members receive an attrac-
tive bonus. The producer gets a pre-
mium on the regular feed-in tariff
and the consumer receives a dis-
count on the regular electricity price
leading to a strong incentive for ac-
tion and participation.
Although GreenCom’s showcase
successfully proves the technical and
commercial viability of the energy
community concept, it also revealed
two challenges in establishing ener-
gy communities.
Firstly, people want to be a part of
the great transition, and sharing ener-
gy is tangible and attractive. Howev-
er, a lot of explaining is still needed
on the marketing side, and numerous
doubts must be scattered after all,
energy communities as a concept re-
mains mostly unknown.
Secondly, although the Brunnthal
community’s IT infrastructure is
highly scalable, the hardware setup
in houses varies widely. Space in the
fuse-box may be limited, internet
connectivity in the cellar may or
may not be stable, and the local area
network may pose challenges for
stable connectivity. Here, extra effort
in harmonising the hardware works
When considering the implemen-
tation of energy communities, it is
worth mentioning initiatives like
UP-STAIRS, a EU-funded Horizon
2020 project. Throughout Europe,
many energy communities already
exist, most of them initiated by indi-
viduals or groups of individuals who
strongly believe in the concept of
joint estate and sharing principles.
To reach a much broader audience
and build up signicantly more en-
ergy communities, UP-STAIRS
aims to boost energy communities
by helping citizens plan and estab-
lish such communities. UP-STAIRS
is establishing a one-stop-shop solu-
tion providing information, advice,
capacity building, energy auditing,
nancing, and implementation of
energy efciency and energy con-
servation solutions, as well as moni-
toring of impacts and benets.
With this approach, the UP-
STAIRS project will push for an ef-
fective and accelerated growth of
sustainable energy communities. The
necessary service model framework
will be made available through lo-
cal authorities to drive the uptake
of energy efciency and energy con-
servation measures in residential
So, is the foundation for mass
adoption of energy communities set?
Now, the CEP regulations must be
converted into national law. There
is a chance that some country regu-
lations will undermine EU-efforts
for example, the German EEG No-
velle shortcomings compared to EU
regulations. On the hardware side,
prices of gateways, smart meters
and decentralised assets are bound
to fall further, paving the way even
further. Regarding IT-connectivity,
control and optimisation, however,
it remains doubtful if regular energy
industry players can provide these
functionalities themselves. Here,
partnering will offer a feasible and
scalable solution.
Considering business cases and
challenges of establishing an end-to-
end community, the Brunnthal com-
munity provides valuable insights:
the energy community is working.
The chosen bonus scheme motivates
customers to produce and consume
energy simultaneously and increases
self-consumption rates. However, to-
day, the applied bonus scheme helps
stabilise the grid but is not nanced
by the grid operator.
Furthermore, the Brunnthal show-
case perfectly illustrates that while
communities are appealing, they still
require reasonable explanation and
promotion efforts. And although
connected and controlled decentral-
ised assets provide an excellent base
for optimised energy ows, the devil
may be in the detail for some houses’
Projects like UP-STAIRS will help
solve some of the challenges by in-
forming, consulting, and supporting
a framework and proven tools. And
most likely, at the 50th anniversary
of the rst European energy commu-
nity in Denmark, it will be one
among thousands.
Christian Fiesst is founder and CEO
of GreenCom Networks.
Although energy communities has been an industry buzzword for years, only recently have regulation, technology
and functioning use and business cases provided a solid foundation for mass adoption. Nevertheless, challenges still
remain. GreenCom Networks’ Christian Feisst explains.
Energy communities gather
momentum in Europe
Industry Perspective
App showing live energy
ows in a household of the
Brunnthal Energy Community.
Photo: GreenCom Networks
Feisst: The Brunnthal
showcase perfectly
illustrates that communities
are appealing but need
explanation and promotion
and metal front grid, replacing expen-
sive and nite metals such as silver.
Taking tandem cells even further,
Graphene Flagship researchers at the
University of Rome Tor Vergata, the
Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT)
and its spin-off, Graphene Flagship
Associate Member, BeDimensional,
in cooperation with ENEA have suc-
cessfully combined graphene with
tandem perovskite-silicon solar cells
to achieve efciencies of up to 26.3
per cent.
Graphene will also help the produc-
tion of large-area solar cells. A paper
published in Joule during 2020, a
reference journal in the eld of energy
research, sets out a new manufactur-
ing method envisioned by Graphene
Flagship researchers that promises
reduced manufacturing costs, leading
the way to the production of large-
area solar panels.
The benets of the new approach
to manufacturing graphene-enabled
tandem solar cells are two-fold.
Firstly, it can be applied to enhance all
the different types of PSCs currently
available, even those processed at
high temperatures. More importantly,
graphene can be incorporated using
widespread manufacturing methods
– key to further industrial adoption.
Francesco Bonaccorso, co-author of
the paper and co-founder of Graphene
Flagship spin-off BeDimensional,
commented: “This innovative ap-
proach, proposed in the context of the
Graphene Flagship, is the rst step
toward the development of tandem
solar cells delivering a higher ef-
ciency than the limit of single junction
silicon devices. Layered materials
will be pivotal in reaching this target.”
Emmanuel Kymakis, Graphene
Flagship Energy Generation Work
Package Leader, added: “There are
some compatibility issues that have
to be tackled before the full exploita-
tion of the perovskite-silicon tandem
solar cell concept. This pioneering
work demonstrates that the integra-
tion of GRMs inks with on-demand
morphology and tuneable opto-elec-
tronic properties in a tandem struc-
ture, can lead to high-throughput in-
dustrial manufacturing. Graphene
and related materials improve the
performance, stability and scalability
of these devices.
“The stacked silicon-perovskite con-
guration will act as the foundation
y 2050, the European Union
(EU) aims to be climate neutral.
In pursuit of this goal, the rst
half of 2020 saw renewables includ-
ing solar, hydro, wind and bioenergy
– produce more electricity than fossil
fuels in the EU. To continue this trajec-
tory, more efcient renewable power
generation will be necessary.
With solar becoming the fastest
growing zero carbon technology,
there is great interest in how the ef-
ciency of solar generation can be im-
proved. The Graphene Flagship be-
lieves graphene and related materials
(GRMs) could be the answer to en-
abling a new generation of solar
Current mainstream solar cell tech-
nology has, for a couple of decades,
been based on silicon, mainly due to
its relative abundance in the Earth’s
However, the silicon-based solar
cell technology is reaching the limit
of its economic and practical ef-
ciency. The laws of physics limit their
maximum efciency to about 32 per
cent, and even reaching that level has
so far proven either unachievable or
not cost-effective. As a result, scien-
tists have spent decades trying to
come up with alternatives.
Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are
widely predicted to offer a solution,
promising much better performance
than their silicon counterparts. Prog-
ress in PSCs means that they are
primed to become an affordable and
exible solar cell option for smart,
low-intensity applications. This is
because PSCs are less complex to
produce, are made with cheaper ma-
terials and, due to their exibility, can
be used in locations where traditional
silicon-based solar cells cannot.
In lab settings, PSCs are made by
depositing chemicals by spraying or
painting them onto a surface. This
easy application onto substrates
opens perovskite’s potential in mar-
kets wanting exible and lightweight
solar generation options.
Although PSCs have shown excel-
lent performance at lab-scale, their
efciency declines quickly as the
module size increases. Their stability
is also problematic. The longest life-
time reported is about one year, which
is much shorter than the 25 years ex-
pected from commercialised tech-
nologies. This is where graphene
comes in.
The Graphene Flagship is Europe’s
biggest collaborative research initia-
tive. Funded by the European Com-
mission, the Graphene Flagship has
the aim of bringing graphene tech-
nologies out of labs and into society
within ten years including technolo-
gies to support and advance renew-
able energy generation.
Since the Graphene Flagship’s
launch in 2013, the applications of
GRMs in solar energy generation
have been a strategic priority. In the
current phase of the initiative, there
are several projects and working
groups doing research and innova-
tion within the eld of solar energy
The Graphene Flagship spearhead
project GRAPES aims to make cost-
effective, stable graphene-enabled
perovskite-based solar panels. Along-
side the Graphene Flagship, the in-
dustrial partners Greatcell Solar, Be-
Dimensional and Siemens, introduce
GRM-based layered technologies to
boost the performance and stability of
PSCs to new record levels. The end
goal is to use the graphene-enabled
PSCs in functional panels, tested in
the eld.
As one example, the collaboration
between research institutions and in-
dustrial partners has yielded a GRM-
based ink, which is layered over PSCs
to give them drastically increased
stability. This was achieved by an-
choring the GRM molybdenum disul-
phide (MoS
) to reduced graphene
oxide. This allowed for both materi-
als’ properties to be applied and the
ink not only increased the stability but
also the performance of the PSC.
Due to their exibility, PSCs can be
applied to nearly any surface and
produce electricity. Stable PSCs
could therefore change the way we
power our homes and devices, as ev-
ery available surface could be made
to generate electricity.
Another Graphene Flagship partner
involved in GRAPES is Enel Green
Power SPA, Italy. Enel Green Power
holds the world record power conver-
sion efciency (PCE) for a silicon
hetero-junction cell, 24.63 per cent,
but believes graphene will help it beat
that number.
By using GRMs as interlayers in
tandem cells that combine PSCs and
silicon cells, Enel Green Power and
Graphene Flagship partners have
reached record stability and efcien-
cy, demonstrating a PCE increase of
9 per cent for GRM-based perovskite-
silicon tandem cells, as opposed to
tandem cells without GRMs.
As well as taking advantage of the
transparency and stability of graphene
in the interlayers of the solar cell, a
highly conductive graphene-based
paste will be used in the back contact
Energy Outlook
Solar power is one of
the key technologies
central to achieving
the EU’s net zero
carbon ambitions. But
with today’s solar cells
reaching their limits
in terms of practically
achievable efciency,
further innovation
is needed. The
Graphene Flagship’s
Patrik Johansson
believes graphene-
based technology
could be the answer.
Taking solar to the
Taking solar to the
next level
next level
of the new Graphene Flagship Spear-
head Project GRAPES,” Kymakis
continued. “During the project, a pilot
line fabrication of graphene-based
perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells
will take place, paving the way to-
wards breaking the 30 per cent ef-
ciency barrier and a signicant de-
crease on the levelised cost of energy.”
GRAPES will play an essential role
in improving Europe’s uptake of solar
energy projects and meeting its envi-
ronmental targets, particularly by
improving the stability and efciency
of solar cell technology when de-
ployed on a large scale.
Alongside GRAPES, the Graphene
Flagship has built and launched the
world’s rst graphene-based
perovskite solar farm. Located in
Crete, the farm has been fully operat-
ing since June 2020, with promising
early results.
The project is a collaboration be-
tween the University of Rome Tor
Vergata, the Hellenic Mediterranean
University, the University of Cam-
bridge, the Istituto Italiano di Tecno-
logia (IIT) and GreatCell Solar. It
consists of nine graphene-perovskite
panels with a total area of 4.5 m
and a total output of approximately
261 Wp. The project aims to enable
the commercialisation of graphene-
perovskite solar cells.
Each solar module incorporates
technology developed through the
GRAPES project, relying on GRMs
to help increase the module’s perfor-
mance and stability. The panel’s ac-
tive layer is a mixed triple cation lead
halide perovskite.
A full year of operation of the solar
farm will be needed before full results
can be published, but with strong
early results in terms of power gen-
eration, and competitive manufactur-
ing costs, the system represents a
signicant further improvement for
solar cells.
For the EU to meet its goal of be-
coming climate neutral by 2050, ad-
vances in renewable energy genera-
tion must be made. Thankfully,
innovations in photovoltaics, such as
graphene-based perovskite-silicon
tandem solar cells, offer great prom-
ise, bringing Europe closer to a
brighter, more sustainable future.
Patrik Johansson is Vice Director of
the Graphene Flagship.
Johansson: Although PSCs
have shown excellent
performance at lab-scale, their
efciency declines quickly as
the module size increases.
Their stability is also
problematic – this is where
graphene comes in
The Graphene Flagship
Funded by the European Commission, the Graphene Flagship
aims to secure a major role for Europe in the ongoing technologi-
cal revolution. It gathers nearly 170 academic and industrial part-
ners from 21 countries, all exploring different aspects of graphene
and related materials.
Bringing diverse competencies together, the Graphene Flag-
ship facilitates cooperation between its partners, accelerating the
timeline for industry acceptance of graphene technologies.
The Commission’s Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Flag-
ships enable research projects on an unprecedented scale. With
€1 billion budgets, the Graphene Flagship, Human Brain Project
and Quantum Flagship serve as technology accelerators, helping
Europe to compete in global markets on research and innovation.
Technology Focus
A novel battery
technology is to be
demonstrated at a
data centre to be
built in the desert of
Reno, Nevada, USA.
The battery holds the
promise of low-cost,
compact storage,
capable of cycling
without degradation.
Junior Isles reports.
Liquid metal battery
Liquid metal battery
storage looks hot
storage looks hot
Flow schematic of the Ambri
liquid metal battery
ccording to the International
Energy Agency data centres
consumed around 250 TWh
in 2019, accounting for about 1 per
cent of global energy demand. That
gure is predicted to rise to 270
TWh in 2022. Ensuring these build-
ings are powered by clean renewable
energy sources going forward will
therefore be crucial in avoiding what
is fast becoming a major source of
carbon emissions. But the goal to
have these facilities powered by
wind and solar calls for the deploy-
ment of energy storage to store and
supply energy when the wind is not
blowing and the sun is not shining.
US company TerraScale recently
announced a project that will see it
build a data centre near Reno, Ne-
vada, that will be powered by solar
energy and use a novel battery that,
among other things, is designed to be
cheaper than lithium-ion batteries
and not degrade over time.
TerraScale is a global clean infra-
structure design and development
rm that works with partners to de-
sign, engineer, build and operate
large scale, sustainable data centres
and digital infrastructure projects.
Commenting on the main project
driver, Mark Schonberg, President,
TerraScale, said: “Most data centres
in the US are powered by the tradi-
tional utilities, which means their
electricity is a mixed bag. Providing
100 per cent carbon-free energy is
not a problem but getting to 100 per
cent renewables is a challenge. We
want to make green energy real and
tangible to our customers.”
The company is taking its rst step
to achieving this at Energos Reno – a
3700 acre mixed-use development
near Reno – where it intends to de-
velop a data centre with 500 MW of
on-site renewable power generation
within ten years to power an inside-
the-fence microgrid.
The original plan was to use geo-
thermal energy to power the data
centre. However, the length of time it
would take to develop a geothermal
project led the company to kick-off
with solar.
“There’s a lot of geothermal energy
there and from a data centre perspec-
tive, geothermal is perfect because
it’s 24/7, 365. But the construction
time is protracted. We are still work-
ing toward using geothermal but that
would be part of Phase 2 of the proj-
ect,” said Schonberg. “In the rst
phase of the project, we will there-
fore start with 20 MW of electricity,
primarily solar, with the capability to
expand up to 100 MW for the data
centre in Phase 2. Once we’ve suc-
cessfully leased out the 20 MW to
our clients, that will be the trigger for
the second phase.”
The campus will be built in 20 MW
chunks, with “doors opening” in
spring 2022. The next phase, which
will be four more 20 MW blocks of
primarily solar, is likely to start in
the summer of 2023.
“We will build the renewables in-
frastructure to support each building.
All of our buildings for the data cen-
tres are in 20 MW segments, so we
will execute the renewable power
build at the same time. We will get to
100 MW probably around 2027,”
noted Schonberg.
At installations such as data cen-
tres, having back up power in differ-
ent forms is critical and that includes
a robust battery system, says Schon-
berg. This is especially important for
intermittent renewables. “If you’re
going to have a large renewable en-
ergy source, it needs to run through
your battery system. It allows you to
ip between power sources. If I’m
running off solar energy and at some
point cloud rolls in, my battery back-
up kicks in and gives me time to
switch over to whatever my second-
ary power source is. Batteries are an
intrinsic part of your plan.”
This led TerraScale to partner with
another US company called Ambri to
demonstrate a new type of battery,
known as a liquid metal battery at
the Reno site.
“With our pilots, we are looking at
testing new technology. The thing
that drove us to look at Ambri is the
fact that, unlike Li-ion and Li-sul-
phur batteries, they are 100 per cent
recyclable, are completely safe from
a re risk perspective and have a
small footprint. This is important to
us because as we go forward, data
centres will get smaller and will be
increasingly located in buildings in
urban areas.”
It is expected that the new battery
system, which could ultimately pro-
vide 250 MWh of storage, will have
a number of advantages over exist-
ing batteries, including low cost,
smaller footprint, safer operation and
negligible degradation. According to
Ambri, capital cost of the battery
will be 25-50 per cent less than the
cost of a comparable Li-ion battery
for a project that is cycled once per
day and has a 20-year lifespan.
Development of the battery began
in the lab of Professor Donald Sado-
way Massachusetts Institute of Tech-
nology (MIT) and Ambri was
formed in 2010, when the project
achieved signicant technical break-
throughs. From the outset, the team’s
goal was to develop a completely
new type of battery technology in-
stead of trying to improve existing
battery technology. It therefore de-
cided to look at other technologies
within electro-chemical industries.
Adam Briggs, Ambri’s Chief Com-
mercial Ofcer, explained: “They
looked at industries like aluminium
smelting and the ways in which very
low cost materials could possibly be
used in order to generate and store
electricity. They eliminated materials
that were very expensive or not read-
ily available around the world and
stuck with those that are already in
the ground… start with dirt. If you
want something to be dirt-cheap,
start with dirt.”
The team decided that operating
the battery at high temperature was
the key to using these low-cost mate-
rials. Briggs notes that for stationary
batteries, operating at high tempera-
tures is not a concern.
The liquid metal battery is com-
prised of a liquid calcium alloy an-
ode, a molten salt electrolyte and a
cathode comprised of solid particles
of antimony, whereby the active ma-
terials in the cells reversibly alloy
and de-alloy while charging and dis-
Briggs explained: “When you ele-
vate the temperature of those materi-
als they readily form alloys and de-
alloy relatively easily without any
catalyst. The calcium anode melts
into a liquid, as does the calcium
chloride electrolyte, which is a rela-
tively common material, to create a
battery where the constituents are ei-
ther salts or metals melted into liq-
uids. Those liquids can move around
without being constrained by separa-
tors that are normally included for
safety reasons.”
An important advantage of the ma-
terials used, says Briggs, is that they
cannot generate gas under any cir-
cumstances. This means that unlike
other batteries there is no venting of
gas which, if ammable, as is the
case with Li-ion batteries can pose a
re hazard.
“The batteries operate at 500°C and
can be overcharged for extended pe-
riods of time, short-circuited or over-
discharged without generating gas or
resulting in an unsafe increase in
temperature,” said Briggs.
A unique aspect of a high tempera-
ture battery is that, if used daily, it
stays at its operating temperature re-
gardless of ambient temperature
without any need for electricity for
cooling or heating. This makes it
well suited to hot environments like
the Nevada desert.
Noting the signicance of this,
Briggs said: “It’s almost as efcient
as Li-ion but doesn’t need any auxil-
iary power to keep it cool. This is
one of the reasons TerraScale chose
Another important feature is that,
unlike Li-ion batteries, it does not de-
grade with usage. Because the materi-
als easily alloy and de-alloy when
they are being charged and discharged
and are liquids, they do not have the
same degradation mechanism that
many of today’s batteries have.
This says, Briggs, brings a signi-
cant economic benet compared to
Li-ion batteries. He notes that not
only do the batteries last longer,
there is also no need to install more
capacity than is actually needed in
order to compensate for the degrada-
tion over time.
“People usually don’t factor this in
when comparing different battery
chemistries… you have to guarantee
it will deliver a certain amount of en-
ergy every day for 20 years,” he said.
“So our battery will not only cost
less upfront, it will last longer and
have a lower operating cost over its
life relative to Li-ion.”
The footprint is also impressive.
Commercial-scale systems will come
in 10 ft x 10 ft shipping containers
that contain electric heaters that will
be connected to the grid on the day
of commissioning to heat the system
up. The battery is then available for
use and will generate its own heat
going forward.
“You would really want to use it in
applications where it is going to be
charged and discharged at least once
every other day. This will keep it
warm without any extra energy to
heat it back up,” said Briggs.
This is perfect for pairing with so-
lar and the general requirement for
shifting energy daily from the day-
time when it is generated to the eve-
ning when demand is at its peak.
The rst systems will go into the
eld as 40 kWh trial systems to
demonstrate their effectiveness and
operation. The pilot battery for Ter-
ra-Scale, which will be one of these
trial systems, will be installed late
this year. Briggs says a larger
1 MWh commercial-scale trial sys-
tem will be installed next year. “For
our early customers, like TerraScale,
we will install that in late 2022.”
Volume production will then start
in 2023, at which time Ambri will
build battery systems that are avail-
able in 1 MWh blocks and have dis-
charge rates of 4 hours or longer.
Schonberg said its pilot will help
TerraScale “ush out things like,
what is the cost point”. He conclud-
ed: “Here’s a small battery company
with a phenomenal battery but now
has to commercialise it… we are
looking at allowing them to proto-
type it.”
Final Word
ew US President Joe Biden has
begun the task of some urgent
spring cleaning, literally. Just
hours after his inauguration, the Dem-
ocrat leader signed no fewer than 17
Executive Orders, among the rst of
which was one to rejoin the Paris Cli-
mate Agreement as promised in his
campaign. Yet signing orders is the
easy part.
In rejoining the global effort to curb
the accelerated heating of the planet,
President Biden has brought renewed
hope that the world can move more
aggressively in curbing greenhouse
gas emissions.
Biden’s move was immediately
welcomed by the US’ small vulnerable
neighbours. Following the signing, the
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean
States (OECS) said it “ignited great
expectation among Small Island De-
veloping States (SIDS)”.
The organisation noted that the
governments of the OECS and the
wider Caribbean have all heavily in-
vested in prolonged diplomatic advo-
cacy, drawing attention to the grave
dangers and the damaging impact of
climate change throughout the world
but particularly in the region. “We
have consistently called on the largest
contributors to climate change to
commit to urgent climate action such
as carbon reduction targets and invest-
ment in new technologies that can
safeguard lives and livelihoods,” it
said in a statement.
Director General of the OECS Dr
Didacus Jules applauded President
Biden for signalling that climate
change, along with tackling the Covid
pandemic, has now been elevated to
the top of the US domestic agenda.
In signing an order that promises “…
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
to bolster resilience to the impacts of
climate change…”, notably the Presi-
dent moved to take executive action
to limit methane pollution from new
and existing oil and gas operations.
Methane is a powerful greenhouse
gas and the second largest contributor
to climate change. Air pollution and
climate change expert at the Univer-
sity of York, Dr Johan C.I Kuylensti-
erna, noted: “Prior to the pandemic,
methane emissions were growing
rapidly. To achieve the Paris agree-
ment, countries need to change this
trajectory, with rapid reductions in
The week after taking ofce, on a
day dubbed “climate day at the White
House”, Biden signed a slew of Ex-
ecutive Orders to address climate
change including orders to freeze new
oil and gas leases on public lands and
double offshore wind energy by 2030.
“We have already waited too long,”
Biden told reporters. “And we can’t
wait any longer.”
But while these moves are important
and set the tone of the new government
going forward, it is only a beginning.
The International Renewable Energy
Agency (Irena) hailed the US decision
to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord as
a “crucial” step forward in the ght
against climate change. “Coming from
a superpower, one of the big emitters
in the world, this is really crucial and
it’s very important,” said Francesco La
Camera, Irena’s Director-General. “I
think it will make a difference.”
The Biden administration plans to
make the US a 100 per cent clean
energy economy with net zero emis-
sions by 2050. The administration also
plans to decarbonise the US power
sector by 2035, tapping into renewable
energy solutions and technology that
can be deployed at scale and compete
with fossil fuels on cost.
Getting there, however, will be no
mean feat. “The commitments are very
high, and very difcult to get,” La
Camera said. “I hope they will full
their commitment.”
With a pretty much even split in the
Senate, Biden will still need the sup-
port of some Republicans in order to
pass legislation. He will also have his
hands full with tackling the pandemic
and stimulating the economy. Some
therefore believe that the quick moves
have happened but nothing signi-
cant will happen for a while.
But with the US keen to re-assert its
leadership on the world climate stage,
it will need to show concrete progress
in legislation, especially with COP26
fast approaching in Glasgow, UK, in
November. The UK has already en-
shrined its net zero 2050 target in law.
With strong climate credentials, the
US would be better placed to use cli-
mate policy as a tool to leverage foreign
policy. Speaking during a panel at the
recent online annual Global Energy
Forum held by the Atlantic Council,
Meghan O’Sullivan, Director of the
Harvard Kennedy School’s Geopoli-
tics of Energy project, said: “The Biden
administration and Secretary Kerry
are talking about infusing climate into
every foreign-policy interaction.”
It will certainly be interesting to see
how climate plays a part in the frac-
tious relationship between the US and
China. Certainly, the two superpow-
ers will have to work together if the
world is to have any chance of meet-
ing the Paris goal of limiting global
temperature increase to 2°C above
pre-industrial levels.
Gavin Thompson, Vice Chairman, at
research and consultancy group Wood
Mackenzie, said: “We can expect both
collaboration and competition on
tackling climate change,” noting that
the US will have to “collaborate with
China, particularly to bring others
on-board”. He added: “But at the same
time, China and the US will increas-
ingly compete to be the global leader
in tackling climate change, with both
seeking to expand control over low/
zero carbon technology.”
Speaking in another panel session
at the Atlantic Council event, David
Mckinley, a Republican for West
Virginia, who is a Member of the
Climate Solutions Caucus in the US
House of Representatives, claimed
that whatever the US does, it would
make no difference to climate change
unless the “the rest of the world buy
into their responsibility on climate
This was to some degree echoed by
new US Climate Envoy John Kerry at
a White House news conference held
during the House “climate day”. He
said: “He [Mr Biden] knows Paris
alone is not enough. Not when almost
90 per cent of all of the planet’s
global emissions come from outside
of US borders. We could go to zero
tomorrow and the problem isn’t
Singling out China and India Mckin-
ley argued that the Obama administra-
tion had “let them off the hook”. He
said: “If you look at the language of
the Paris Accord, it was quite frankly
just playful theatre… the language
says developing nations should con-
tinue enhancing their mitigation ef-
forts and are encouraged to move over
time to economy emission reductions
That’s not shall, that’s not must…”
Kathy Castor, the other member of
the same panel discussion largely
agreed but noted that the US must
essentially lead from the front. Castor
is a Democrat from Florida and Chair
of the House Select Committee on the
Climate Crisis. She is part of the Com-
mittee that unveiled the 500-page
climate crisis action plan last summer.
“We have a lot of work to do inter-
nationally,” she said. “[but] we cannot
expect other countries to meet their
nationally determined commitments
and targets unless we’re part of it and
we’re walking the walk as well.”
It is clear the world needs a unied
and global approach to the climate
problem but Biden can do much to
raise spirits. He is setting about it the
right way and appears to be getting his
House in order.
Many of the key architects of the
Obama Clean Power Plan have been
assigned key administration jobs.
Gina McCarthy, the former EPA ad-
ministrator, will be at the White House
as national climate adviser; Janet
McCabe, who ran the EPAs air ofce,
has been nominated for deputy admin-
istrator; and Joe Goffman, an adviser
who wrote much of the CPP, is a
member of the EPA transition team.
Notably President Biden has given
his science advisor, who is Director of
the White House Ofce of Science and
Technology Policy, a seat in his Cabi-
net. It is a move that is unprecedented
in the history of White House science
Biden’s January spring clean and
roll-back of the Trump administra-
tion’s most egregious acts against the
environment are perhaps a little early
in terms of season but they could not
have come soon enough. Now we can
all look forward to a brighter spring
with bluer skies as we move towards
COP26 with renewed vigour.
Spring cleaning
Junior Isles
Cartoon: jemsoar.com