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Energy security, fuel poverty and social change: the lowdown on renewables



The seventh annual New Energy & Cleantech Awards take place in London on April 30. For the second consecutive year, the evening awards ceremony will be preceded by a cleantech forum.

Cleantech and clean energy companies looking for growth finance will present to an investor audience, drawn from the venture capital, private equity, business angel, crowd funding and investment bank communities. Each will have 15 minutes to deliver their firm’s ‘elevator pitch’ and explain why it is an attractive investment opportunity.

One of the presenting companies is Natural Technology Developments (NTD), and here, its managing director Paul Laidler speaks to Blue & Green Tomorrow about the future of renewables.

What problem does your business uniquely solve? How do you solve it?

Rising energy costs and secure supply are now a global concern. Solar Angel is an innovative dual generation solar panel made in the UK that provides over four times more energy per square metre of collector area than standard photovoltaics (PV). By successfully blending PV and solar thermal technologies this panel provides both heat and power at an affordable price, providing users with improved energy efficiency by reducing energy costs and carbon dioxide emissions. Designed to be slimline, lightweight and easy to install, Solar Angel is ideal for businesses with high heat and power demands, and for situations where roof space or roof structure provide challenges for traditional solar technologies.

Describe your primary drivers for working in renewable energy or cleantech.

The cleantech sector is vibrant and creative with significant growth potential. I founded Natural Technology Developments in 2011 with the aim of developing and commercialising new solar products to meet the expanding needs of this sector. My co-director, Jo Walters, and I have a passion for business, technology and innovation and love making a positive difference to the current and future power challenges by pioneering novel ground breaking energy solutions.

Jo Walters (left) and Paul Laidler, co-founders of NTD Limited.

Imagine sustainable heat, light and power systems operating 24 hours a day, all year long. We believe that our exciting photovoltaic thermal (PV-T) technology Solar Angel can be an essential part of creating that solution.

Is the government doing enough to support your sector? What should it be doing?

Successful sustained growth in the cleantech sectors relies upon the three pillars of technology, policy and capital, along with the entrepreneurs and inventors to drive growth. The government now has a long-term renewables policy and a more integrated approach across a broad range of renewable technologies to support innovation and growth. This of course includes a dedicated solar strategy, which has in part recognised the importance of hybrid solutions such as ours.

One of the products we have in development is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and we have also benefited from research and development tax credits and seed enterprise investment scheme (SEIS) investment, so we can vouch that there is a strong level of government support for new product development.

However, more can always be done to help early stage companies bridge the gap between developing a new technology and taking it through to commercial success. Greater government support for large-scale trials to validate new technology would be helpful.

Why do you think your business is attractive to investors?

Solar technology is the fastest growing part of the renewables mix. First generation PV-T technology producing both heat and power has been around for some time but the market is still undeveloped. We have created an innovative next generation design that works well, is easy to install, operate and maintain. And it’s made here in the UK at an affordable price.

The business team is experienced and energetic, and has a good track record of developing innovative products and a strong growth vision with global aspirations.

We think we have a good business model, and have established Solar Angel as a memorable brand with personality; we are in the midst of launching our first product and generating lots of interest from potential customers.

Our Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certification was finalised this week so we are now ready to sell. Investors will be helping the business at the beginning of the commercialisation and growth journey and have the opportunity to both shape the future success of the business and enjoy good financial returns.

What will the renewable energy and cleantech sectors look like in 10 years’ time?

Vibrant! Carbon-based fuels along with hydroelectricity, biomass and geothermal power will still have a significant role in the energy supply mix, but other renewable technologies such as solar and wind will be much more widely deployed. Grid parity will be a reality in many countries around the world and a combination of smart grids and local energy supply networks will be commonplace. Significant progress will have been made towards the holy grail of renewable energy storage.

There will be increased renewable investment globally, creating improved materials and technologies that form the basis for integrated sustainable energy solutions in different applications and markets. Novel technologies and materials such as solar fusion reactors and graphene will become better developed and technology integration with smart control/monitoring will form the basis for new more effective energy supply and storage.

Affordable renewable energy solutions will be more common across domestic, industrial and commercial applications. This will begin to create sustainable and affordable energy provision, addressing energy security issues, fuel poverty and social change around the world.

Paul Laidler is managing director of Natural Technology Developments (NTD) Limited.

Further reading:

Government sets out plans for ‘solar hubs’

Solar PV market increasingly focused on energy savings

Nina Skorupska: we need energy ‘prosumers’ to effect real change

The green levies review: when is investor reassurance not reassuring?

Renewable energy: debunking the subsidy and efficiency myths


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