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How this startup’s energy storage solution is accelerating renewable energy adoption

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With climate change becoming a looming existential threat, the world is now moving away from thermal sources of energy and switching to renewables. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also pledged at the COP26 Climate Conference that India would achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. 

But this cannot be achieved without the help of startups, and many of them are stepping up their game to help India transition to clean energy.

Among them is Bengaluru-headquartered deMITasse Energies – a clean power generation startup that is building next-generation power plants that have zero emissions and are capable of storing long-duration grid-scale energy. It was incubated at IIM-Bangalore and backed by Tata Trust, Tata Power (TP-DDL), Delhi government, and Karnataka government.

Registered in 2016 by husband-wife duo Vijay Prateik and Megha Rawat, the startup ties up with energy generators, refineries etc to help them save excess energy and use it when there is a greater need for energy. The founding team included four other members who helped build the product but are no longer associated with the startup. 

Their engine is designed using the thermodynamic cycle, which they have been working on since 2011, with pilots beginning in 2017.

During the paid pilot, it planted up to 50kW capacity in Delhi and Bengaluru. The startup is working on a sale with a refinery, a global fashion brand as well as Indian Army and Navy.

The 12-member startup is bootstrapped with an investment of close to Rs 50 lakh from the founders, their friends and family. 

Problem statement 

“Essentially, our problem statement focuses on two points,” Vijay tells YourStory.  

As of December 2021, India’s total installed renewable capacity is 151.39 GW, as per data from the Central Electricity Authority – which accounts for only 38 percent of total power generation. One of the reasons behind this is that renewables are known for their intermittent energy generation, and Indian power grids are not built for intermittency or unpredictability; they need stable energy flow.

A possible solution involves the energy to be stored in batteries wherein excess energy can be stored during daytime or when renewables are generating power, and use them when there is a lack of power. The requirement for baseload power generators, thermal power plants and nuclear power would be reduced. 

“The problem is that today, there is no such energy storage system,” he adds. 

Lithium-ion batteries can provide power for a few minutes. However, grids need energy storage that can last for a day or at least 18 hours at grid scale. 

“We are solving from a longer-term perspective when we talk about power plants and energy storage at grid scale. We want to produce power plants that can store energy for very long durations on grid-scale,” explained Vijay. 

While electrochemical energy storage is excellent for frequency regulation, deMITasse’s technology is being built to maintain grid-parity for hours and days, and can even be used for seasonal energy storage applications.

On the other hand, India loses out on an average of 20,000 megawatt-hours of thermal energy every year from power plants, Vijay says, which he adds is a conservative estimate. A lot of this is waste heat is low-grade energy that has the temperature of exhaust below 200 to 250 degrees Celsius

While conserving this energy and reusing it would give the grid a boost, the prevailing technology prevailing cannot absorb heat and convert it to electricity, and the ones available are very expensive and fail to capture heat about below 150 degrees Celsius. 

“As we use material with very low boiling points of working fluid, it can utilise this waste heat, even up to 60-70 degrees Celsius,” added Vijay. “Further, our technology can convert this energy into electricity, which can either be used again by the industrial unit where it is running, or it could send this power back to the public. So this is a big problem that exists, and we are aiming to solve it.”

Solving for energy 

Vijay and his founding team dropped out of colleges such as MIT and Cornell to pursue this mission. 

Being fascinated with energy during his college days as a personal project, Vijay worked on a Small Hydro Power (SHP) plant design that could be installed in remote villages in places like Uttarakhand which have low-velocity streams that could be harnessed for small scale power generation. They also approached the Ministry of New Renewable Energy (MNRE) for support.

When they realised that India still lagged behind in producing renewable energy, they decided to work on sustainability to create an energy storage system for the power grid. Megha, who had her own sustainable fashion brand that promoted upcycle goods, decided to join Vijay to work on solving this problem. 

“When we were starting out, we saw that the industry was very cash-intensive,” added Vijay. “However, clearly not much was being done in this area which is obviously not the solution. So we decided to give it a shot.” 

Challenges 

Being a bootstrapped startup, the startup’s primary challenge was limited capital, considering the equipment can be extremely expensive and a couple of the materials needed to be imported. 

On this front, deMITasse Energies received a lot of industry feedback from Tata Power and Escorts Limited and helped build initial PoCs (Proof of Concept).

Despite our country producing engineers in droves, Vijay says finding the right talent can be a task.

“Finding talent is very difficult. When you do find them, they prefer working in companies like Boeing and LSE, and getting them to work for a bootstrapped startup becomes even more difficult,” added Vijay.

Future plans

deMITasse Energies is in talks to set up a plant in Denver, US. It is also looking to raise capital this year, which would be used towards expanding their team, and expanding to the US.  

Currently, the startup’s plans to make revenues by selling the plant. But, in the future, deMITasse Energies plans to have a power plant and sell energy on a subscription basis. 

To achieve this, it also has a plan to set up an R&D centre to develop a large-scale plant

Currently, the company offers waste heat recovery systems to capture waste or process heat from industrial plants and existing power plants, diesel generator replacements and energy storage solutions for moderate to large capacity applications, including renewable power plants and industrial units. 

It has set up six full-scale recovery pilot plants and several lab-scale prototypes.

“We also have several products for the military, and are currently working with the Indian and United States military,” adds Vijay. 

Market and competition

India doesn’t have many startups venturing into the clean energy space as it requires high investment and is cost-intensive. deMITasse Energies competes with heavily funded startups that are based out of the US, the UK and northern Europe.

Companies like Malta, Highview Power, LightSail Energy (now shut down), Quidnet Energy, Ambri, ESS, Gravitricity operate in long-duration energy storage space. Meanwhile, its competitors in the waste heat recovery business include Thermax, Triveni, Thyssenkrupp, Siemens, Atlas Copco, and Turboden.

Many Indian startups face the challenge of convincing people about the need for energy storage in India or the technology used. However, the situation is changing as foreign investors are venturing into the market seeing the need to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. 

In a February 2021 report, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) highlighted that India will require a further $500 billion in investment in new wind and solar infrastructure, energy storage, and grid expansion and modernisation which includes battery storage to reach 450 gigawatts (GW) of capacity by 2030.

India is currently investing around $18-20 billion in energy generation capacity and a further $20 billion in the grid on an annual basis, said IEEFA in an August 2021 report.

The same report mentioned that in the first four months of the financial year 2021, from April to July 2021, investment in the Indian renewable energy sector reached $6.6 billion, surpassing the $6.4 billion level for FY 2020-21 and on track to easily overtake the $8.4 billion total achieved in 2019-20 before the pandemic.

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Dune: Awakening is an open world survival MMO

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Dune: Awakening made its debut at The Game Awards as an open world survival massively multiplayer online game.

The game from Funcom and Nukklear looks beautiful, full of very detailed imagery of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. The game asked for beta signups, but we got no other information. Survival is the key word. Dune is a very deadly world, with sandworms and an unforgiving climate.

You can see places in the trailer like the city of Arakeen by day and night, as well as desert biomes and more. It’s not clear when it is coming. With luck, it will be close to the second Dune movie coming in late 2023.

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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