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In episode 20, we are joined by Joel Hermanns – Co-Founder & CIO at gridX, to talk all things renewable energy!

gridX are revolutionising the energy sector and fuelling energy transformation by building a digital infrastructure for the energy transition.

Leading the way to a carbon neutral future, gridX provide technology for companies to build their new products/applications/services and create sustainable businesses.

 

    • Introduction : 00.23- 1:09
    • Why was gridX created? 01.11- 03:31
    • How is the XENON Platform leading the march to carbon neutral energy? 03:31-05:43
    • What are Smart Districts role in reducing energy consumption? 05:43 – 07:18
    • How is Dynamic charging addressing the issue of EV charging costs and power? 05:43 – 12:13
    • How will EV adoption grow and what challenges will we see? 12:13- 14:08
    • How will the innovation increase in the energy space in the years to come? 14:08- 19:15

Episode Transcript

Tom White

Welcome to the IoT podcast. I’m your host, Tom white. Today I’m joined by Joel Hermanns. Joel is the co founder and CIO at gridX, who are really working towards revolutionising the energy sector based in Germany. They are fueling the energy transformation by building a new digital infrastructure for energy transition, and providing technology for companies to build new products, applications or services to create future sustainable businesses. Joel, thank you so much for coming on to the show.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, awesome to be here. I’m also very happy.

Why did you create gridX?

Tom White

Good. Well, we’re happy to hear as well. And Joel, maybe just to kick off then. Could you discuss a little bit about why yourself and the co-founder created gridX? What was the thought process behind this? Because you guys have been going for about five years now? Is that right?

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, that’s, that’s true. We started roughly in early 2016. So quite a while ago, and I think my part of it is, is kind of funny in terms of I don’t really have a background in energy. Before that, never really, really been in that industry. And it was more or less by by meeting, me and David, quite quite visionary guys who came up with the, with the idea of a business on a famous Ecuador trip and and wanted to sell business. And at that time, I was looking for some new challenges. And that’s, that’s how I got got into that whole whole startup thing, you know.

Tom White

Wow. So it all started from a trip in Ecuador. Right. So people people travelled, going to find themselves and end up end up starting a business.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, kind of from from the story I know,they kind of came up with that during a trip, like kind of finding themselves probably at some point and this idea, and yeah, and then they were looking for for someone to join them with a bit of an expertise in the in the technology, software, software side of things. And I was somehow lucky to be at the right place at that time, and I decided to join. Yeah.

Tom White

Good. I mean, often these things happen like that. Right. You know, it’s right place, right time and the Platinum planets align Right? So that so that was five years ago, and obviously, grown significantly since then. Company is around 40 to 50 people at the moment, is that right?

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, that’s right. And planning to grow even further this year. So so looking for plenty new people, we’re growing fast. So that’s, that’s an exciting time, I guess. Yeah.

Tom White

Yeah. Well, it’s nice problems to have right?

Joel Hermanns

Indeed.

Tom White

Especially at the moment with everything going on in the world. So you know, good on you and well done to your co-founders for getting into this position. You know, it’s not, it’s not easy, starting a business. And certainly the first couple of years are often the hardest before you find your feet and actually know who you are and what you’re doing. So yeah, we congratulate you.

What is the gridX XENON Platform and how is it innovating carbon neutral energy?

Tom White

And, Joe, I know, some of our listeners, obviously, are going to be fairly interested in what you’re developing. I understand you have a platform called Xenon on platform. Is that right? Could you talk a little bit about the Xenon on platform and how it’s leading the march towards carbon neutral energy?

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, sure. I mean, you roughly described it in the introduction. So what we’re building kind of the the backbone for new kinds of products, companies want to build in the energy domain. So they will energy space is moving into a more digital, highly connected space right now.

Joel Hermanns

And I think what we experienced is that we are really good at building technology to help customers go into that space, because it requires a lot of knowledge in different domains. And so the platform we have is kind of exactly this. So it’s a it’s a set of software, hardware, things. Yeah, kind of services components that help people really, really build this kind of products. And each of those solves a specific problem they will face along the way and helps them to get started even faster. Yeah.

Tom White

Okay, fantastic. And how long have you been developing in general for?

Joel Hermanns

Well, I guess it’s in the end, it’s the result of everything we’ve done in the in the past five years, I would say. Usually, as in a startup, probably always you, you kind of shift a bit the business model along the way. And that’s what we have done and at some point recognise, okay, what’s the real value we have created here?

Joel Hermanns

But in the end, it’s really all the learnings, the experience we have made, trying to launch kind of our own product in the energy domain. And then knowing and learning. Okay, what do companies really face in terms of problems? What’s the things that can help them? And and that’s what ended up being the platform we have now.

What are the systems involved in creating smart districts?

Tom White

Right? Yeah, fantastic. And one of the things that I hear a lot when I’m looking at grid x is is the term smart districts. So a lot of people know up to term smart cities, etc. Could you explain the the term smart districts and what are the functional systems involved in creating a smart district?

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, sure. So from the perspective of us, what we are, we are looking into the waste, like the scope of energy in such systems, I guess, like smart cities and more for way more kind of parts, but a small district in terms of what we are working on in different projects and research and others, it’s about a set of buildings, essentially, that are equipped with renewable energies, like a PV system, you could have, you could have big batteries.

Joel Hermanns

And then you want to actually in a very smart and efficient way, ensure these these all these buildings, get the energy they need, and are more or less maybe independent from a grid or can be can be, yeah, yeah, you just use the energy available in the best possible way. And I think, like the person will, first of all, like you have a set of buildings, usually, there are a couple of different Yeah, systems in the in the electricity or heating domain. And then you have a couple of systems to interconnect them to really understand, okay, what’s like the current view where you can optimise, etc?

How is dynamic charging helping push EVs forward?

Tom White

Yeah, yeah. Fantastic. I mean, that’s the thing. I mean, carbon emissions is obviously a huge issue, isn’t it? And there’s a lot of companies looking to go neutral, carbon neutral by certain period of time. Hence, why we’re seeing a massive growth in electronic vehicles, electronic automotive from not just autonomous driving, but you know, EV, based as such. Could you talk a little bit about dynamic charging, and how that’s supporting this whole EV movement as well?

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, sure. I mean, dynamic charging is also one of the biggest drivers of our platform for customer base, and then the past year, I think, yeah, as you say, well, like we see a rise of numbers EVs. And the big issue is usually in, in how to charge those, EVs. So if you if you end up having maybe in front of an office building several charging stations, and you need to kind of like charge, I don’t really have 10 charging stations, and you would need to pull all of them with 100% of the of the possible load, you will quickly end up having a problem at the grid connection point, you know. Because usually, in all the prior parts of the grid, not all all parts have enough capacity to serve that, that peak power.

Joel Hermanns

And so what you end up or three, or maybe like a building that has some some dynamic in the consumption, and you would end up at some point of the day, maybe, yeah, either leading to a blackout, if you charge your car or not being able to charge your car at all.

Joel Hermanns

And there are basically two solutions to kind of avoid going for blackout, you could then either limit all those charging stations to maybe like 10% or so. But then you would end up increasing the time to charge a car by by 10, basically, which is often not only really what you want, right? So the other one would be to invest heavily into the grid and increase the capacity available. But this is extremely expensive.

Joel Hermanns

And I think as we grow and grow and have more events out there. I mean, this investment will like skyrocket everywhere because you need all this infrastructure. And actually, if you if you look at all the consumption, maybe of the buildings, the available capacity, and actually how much time you have maybe to charge a car, you know, it’s more of like an optimization problem because you actually could distribute the load you have available across a specific time. Maybe incorporated Some kind of priorities or some strategies you want, depending on which car to charge faster. And you don’t need to change anything about the infrastructure because the load you have available, it’s totally fine to you.

Joel Hermanns

And that’s exactly what we are doing with dynamic charging, we are basically taking the device, we have a grid box as a local, local gateway. on the site, we are talking to all different charging stations, we’re talking to a metre that gives us granular data about what’s currently being consumed. And then we can dynamically adjust what each individual car is charging. And as a result, you have an order of magnitude less investment costs, compared to changing the infrastructure, and in a lot of cases, that’s totally fine to go this way. Because you do not end up having having the need for such high power at that place.

Tom White

I mean, it’s, it’s often the critical factor in all of this is the infrastructure behind charging the optimization of charging. And I’ve said it before, and on previous podcasts, and in conversations with EV businesses, that the car tech, if we take the automobile industry, for instance, it’s so advanced at the moment, certainly from where I am sitting right now in the UK. If you take a Porsche Taycan, you cannot charge that as quickly as it can receive the power with the infrastructure that we currently have at the moment. And it’s kind of like a race between both parties for from the product that’s out there and the infrastructure.

Tom White

So it’s really nice to hear about concepts and things that businesses like yours are doing to improve that, because, you know, I think the me as an individual, I’m not sure if I would ever buy a fossil fuel car again. You know I’ve had a car for two for two years petrol car, will I go and buy another petrol car? I’m not so sure and I think and I think, if I’m going to take that step, and if and if the people on the street and for all our listeners, and people may not be involved in this industry, then they need to be comforted in the sense that they can pull up to a fuel station in this in the same manner and be able to charge their cars without having to seek out and find fast chargers. And for it to be done in a good setup and a good system.

Tom White

In fact, you may know Karl Schwab from the World Economic Forum, he published a book on industry 4.0. and he said many, many years ago that there will always be a race between the product and service, the private industry delivering and how the cities can keep up with this, and how the connected cities and certainly the district’s the term that you’re using, we’ve been gridX can keep pace with products that are coming out. Well, it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds right.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, I mean, I mean, that’s the whole point, as you mentioned, like, there’s always a back and forth probably between the demand we have for for something like this, and then how we are we can actually help all those problems and kind of it might feel here, there is a workaround to find the right solution. But I think it works pretty fine.

Joel Hermanns

And we’ve seen a lot of people actually coming up with the problem. And a lot of people said don’t think about it right now because they are so used to how it works and so used to how the whole electricity also works, and really thinking about what like an EV might change there and and how it’s different from from all the other consumers in the house. And I think that’s like an interesting space to develop and big, big challenge in the future, as we see the rise of EVs there.

What can we expect from gridX in the future?

Tom White

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, EVs aside, obviously, all areas of sustainable living needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, to benefit the community, the future of the planet, and so on.

Tom White

Without revealing too much of grid access secret sauce, and I know, people signed confidentiality agreements, can you talk a little bit or just at a high level about some things that you may be doing and things that you’re trying to produce for the future and ideas that you may be having? Because that would be really interesting for myself and for the listeners to understand.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, sure. I will try. That’s, that’s a good question. I think it’s basically what we just said like, there are some parts where we see solutions growing like in the in the EV space or in the district space, which are sort of isolated problems often and isolated solutions. And I think what we will see over time, as you say, it needs to address all areas. So we will see a lot of interconnected things that kind of like work together and solve it because our energy system is not in those isolated spaces working on its own, but it’s like a bigger system. And probably what we’re working in is just like to address all parts of it and to make it possible, really, to build kind of new ideas and then build new products on top of it.

Joel Hermanns

And yeah, I think a big believe we have is that just giving people access to sort of the technology to do so will just be be a good step, maybe the most important step to kind of increase the innovation in that space. Because the energy market is so complex. I think a lot of ideas will probably never make it because like, the barrier is so extremely high, right. And so we need to make this probably easier to benefit from all those brilliant ideas someone might have. And I think we experienced some of this on our own. And we’re now working to make this easier and working to make all these ideas people have just like a real possibility. And really benefiting like the society, the community, everyone from it.

Tom White

Yeah. And I think it’s fantastic, right? Because ever more so these days, corporate social responsibility or businesses to do something that will have a positive effect on the world is a lot more paramount. You know, there’s lots of concepts. And there’s lots of focus today on CSR, diversity and inclusion. But overall for me, it’s about tech for good, right? Trying to create something that is going to actually help. Of course, you’re a private business, you know, you want to own profit, you want to grow as businesses do. But it’s doing it in a in a really wholesome way.

Tom White

And that’s why I’m always inspired and speaking to people like yourself, because there’s a real feelgood factor with what you’re creating and what you’re working towards. And I’m, and I’m sure that that must be the same for you and people within your business that you are working towards doing something good. In essence.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, I mean, looking back, probably that was kind of the thing that got me really curious about the idea got me really curious to start in that domain, because it felt like you could actually use your skills you have and put them to some good cause. You know, like, it kind of has a purpose to actually do this. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like this for sure. They will always be tough parts about it. But like, overall, you you’re looking into something you’re looking at problems that kind of help society to move forward and to move to, to like a future like this. And at some point, probably we’re, we’re looking back, and we’ll be happy to tell friends and kids and whoever is there what we did, and yeah, I guess that will be great.

Tom White

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, Joel, thank you so much for coming on the show. I know you’re a busy guy and taking the time out to chat with us today. But I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m sure our listeners will as well. But it seems everything’s going in a positive step for gridX for you and for what your company is producing. So you know, good on you. And we wish you well.

Joel Hermanns

Yeah, thank you so much. Thanks for the invitation. Hope your listeners are going to enjoy it.

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