Sustainable transitions

This week, the main topic was evaluation about what the different groups have come up with so far. Before that, we had a lecture on the transition to energy independency by Cor Leguijt from CE Delft. This fitted nicely in this weeks’ overarching theme; Energy Transitions. Since this connects really well to the Climate-KIC affairs, I will return to my Climate-KIC start-up concept for this weeks’ column.

One of the major themes of Climate-KIC is “Making Transitions Happen” and this focuses on changing the behavior and culture of companies, communities and individuals to reduce their impact on the earths’ natural environment. Just like CE Delft, this theme focuses on the non-technical aspects of the transition towards a future sustainable world.  Within the lecture of Cor Leguijt, it became clear how this message reflects on Texel. Different types of communities (e.g. rural vs villages vs cities) need different types of strategies for their transition towards, in this example, better energy performance of buildings.

So, if you are a start-up and you focus on the non-technical part of the transition, what kind of start-up do you become? Since it is the end of the year when this column is written, I will introduce a top-3 of Climate-KIC start-ups involved in this theme. Ranked on relevance for Texel, in my humble opinion.

  1. Canary Control – UK based Canary control is a cloud based control of the domestic heating system. It basically is a remote for the heating system that always allows the user to adjust the heating according to its wishes. The user can even fill in his or her monthly budget for heating costs and the system will ensure that this budget is not overspent! It also adopts to the routines of its users. The relevance for Texel is reduction in domestic heat use, which means that there is a lower amount of energy needed in the final transition.
  2.   Milk the Sun – This German start-up offers a ‘photovoltaic marketplace, connecting large scale private equity investors with developers of new solar power plants. For Texel this might be a relevant start-up because once the transition really gets going, there will be a need for serious investment and private equity might be able to bring this. Read more about the interesting (financial) mechanics at Bloomberg.
  3. DutchEES – Dutch start-up DutchEES has designed an intelligent thermostatic valve - the thing on your radiator that you always forget to turn off when you leave the house – which can prevent energy waste by automatically turning down the radiator if no one is in the house. The relevance for Texel is that it addresses the heat demand of existing buildings, something which indeed is a problem according to Cor Leguijt. It seems especially relevant for the tourist sector, because tourists do not have to pay the energy bill of their homes and are thus less encouraged to turn off the heat when they leave. However, there are multiple solutions to such problems. The edge of DutchEES is that there are very low initial investment costs (about €120 per valve) which can be retrieved with a €75 profit in three years. Maybe we should give this Dutch start-up a small playground in Texel?

I have to admit, the final one is in fact a small technical solution, but maybe that is also needed for the sustainable transition… Finally, I should quote Geels’ theory on the multi-level perspective on transitions. I have discussed several start-ups that could influence the current system and there is a willingness in Texel to change the institutional conditions (like laws and subsidies) of the socio-technical system. However, Geels says that there can also be landscape developments that influence the (sustainable) transition. The question remains if these landscape developments will happen. This piece on the Correspondent is at least rather positive (maybe too positive) about the developments in 2015. Let’s hope for the best!


Thijs Schaap