The last flight I took was a helicopter to an offshore oil and gas platform in the middle of the North Sea. One of the reasons for going there was to talk about mental health from my own experiences. It is not easy talking about mental health to the people who like to call themselves the ‘North Sea Tigers’. Shortly after that trip, I left the business. It was not until a few months afterwards I was able to connect my lack of performance with my own mental health, one of the reasons I exited the business. More importantly, I realized that my mental health and performance were connected to the fact that I had become uncomfortable with the ethics of what I was doing, working for a business in which profit was the primary motive, and even worse I was working on ruining the planet. I did three things to change my life, I became chair of a charity focused on mental well-being, I started an MSc in Energy policy, and I joined Olwg, a business with a truly ethical purpose.
I realized that my mental health and performance were connected to the fact that I had become uncomfortable with the ethics of what I was doing
What We believe
Being an ethical business is at the heart of what we do.
Virtue is the oldest (if least fashionable) of the moral philosophies, that was first written about by Aristotle and Plato.
Virtue is about:
“at the right times, about the right things, towards the right people,
or the right end,
and in the right way”
Contrary to the ideals of Aristotle and Plato, ‘numerous inefficiencies plague the energy system’. We cannot possibly achieve net zero without creating virtuous energy systems.
At Olwg we believe that a virtuous energy system minimises energy wastage by finding efficient, clean energy systems to replace carbon energy . The ethical choice is to select the energy system that minimises waste and preserves more resources for future generations.
We are part of B-Corp, with our certification pending. Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good.
We are out of time
Using the United Nations own analysis, we are far away from achieving climate change goals. Based on current policies, CO2 will only increase. To stay within the 2 degree Celsius temperature rise limit we need another 15 giga tonnes of CO2 savings and major shift in policies, and order of magnitude more investment and a sense of urgency. Frankly, we are out of time. We are very good of creating the illusion of virtue, but very bad at living these ideals.
David Cebon, Cambridge Professor of Engineering and Director of Centre of Sustainable Road Freight has said:
“Shovel ready’ solutions, with high technology readiness levels and viable business cases are the only ones that can be implemented in time”
At Olwg we discovered that what really matters is timeliness of implementation. We are taking too long to evaluate energy projects, and many projects suffer from long lead due to poor problem definition, and overly long and largely inaccurate analysis in the feasibility stage. We quickly realized we could accelerate projects by providing consistent, coherent integrated tools to evaluate and compare projects on a consistent basis.
We need to focus on meaningful projects, we know that the biggest contributors to emissions are road transport (11%), energy use in building (17.5%) and energy used in industry (iron and steel at 7% and petrochemicals at 4%) and agriculture and land-use change (18%). Yet it is easy to become distracted by technology for technologies sake. For example, there are many posts of battery or hydrogen for use in rail. However, rail accounts 0.4% of total global carbon emissions. Much of rail is already electrified, so in reality, only a fraction of that 0.4% of carbon emissions will be saved by investing in battery or hydrogen-powered trains. Technology is shiny and attractive, but at Olwg we believing focusing on meaningful decarbonisation projects that can be delivered today.
Clean energy is not the same thing as sustainable energy
In the words of the UK government:
“Hydrogen is the lightest, simplest and most abundant chemical element in the universe. It could provide a clean source of fuel and heat for our homes, transport and industry.”
The reality is that a hydrogen economy is far away from a virtuous economy. From our own research at Olwg, we know that a hydrogen economy requires three to five times more resource than direct electrification. Rather than decrease carbon emissions, such is hydrogen’s demand for resources, it may increase our carbon emissions. We have no doubt that the policy entrepreneurs that promote hydrogen will make good money. I have no doubt that some people investing in hydrogen will make a good return on their investment. But hydrogen is not virtuous and may have little to do with the sustainable future we desire.
That is not to say that Hydrogen does not have a place.
The world annually produces about seventy-two million tons of hydrogen, mainly used for petrochemical refining, ammonia, and ammonia fertilisers. The importance of ammonia fertiliser cannot be underestimated, as 40% of the current global food supply depends on the Haber Bosch ammonia synthesis process Without these fertilisers, crop yields would be one-quarter of what they are today.
Hydrogen today is made ‘76% from natural gas and almost all the rest (23%) from coal…. As a consequence, global hydrogen production today is responsible for 830 MtCO2/yr corresponding to the annual CO2 emissions of Indonesia and the United Kingdom combined ’
We need carbon-free hydrogen, but should we really be using it for home heating and transport. No doubt there are some hard to electrify applications where hydrogen is the only choice, but at Olwg we argue for virtue in the design of energy systems and not technology for technologies sake.
Without curated high-quality information and comparative tools, how can a decision maker know whether or not they are choosing a sustainable solution or engaging in accidental greenwashing.
What we do
We are creating an ecosystem and platform that will provide tools for accelerating meaningful and virtuous clean energy projects. It will help communities pick the best energy projects to meet their real needs and will help create a circular and just energy economy.
The ecosystem will contain tools that short-cut project feasibility studies and provide decision tools for comparative analysis. We have already developed a tool for solar energy, and our hydrogen project tool will be released in July.
We will also provide curated up-to-date information that assists investors in evaluating carbon, energy and fiscal budgets for projects. We will provide information on the policy environment and how projects fit into micro and macro public policy.
We want to create a community of practice the bring together the right people, at the right time to do the right things. Sharing ideas, and connecting investors with projects that have virtue.
As a business, we are also investing in the next generation of talent, hiring young dynamic graduates from diverse backgrounds and supporting students by providing internships and supporting student projects. The future is not ours but theirs.
We are paying back the debt we owe to the next generation.
If you believe what we believe, join us.
If you believe what we believe, there is an opportunity to join our founder's club, support our development and contribute ideas. In return, our founders will have access to the ecosystem for the purposes of developing their own business.
We are looking for:
Community Energy Developers
Specialist App Developers
We are particularly interested in hearing from specialist app developers who want to partner with us and give more people access to their tools within a wider and more integrated platform.
We believe that by bringing together a community of best practice and consolidating tools, information and sharing ideas and best practice we can have a big impact of delivering meaningful and significant energy projects that make a real difference executed with a sense of urgency.
Decision-makers need high quality and unbiased information to make the best decisions. You can make a big difference by joining us in our journey.
Decision makers need high quality and unbiased information to make the best decisions to deliver net-zero. You can make a big difference by joining us in our journey.