Opinion Article
Editorial from
Melania Padolecchia and Mariana Santos
OIKOS Lisbon
November 16, 2022
7. Affordable and clean energy

7. Affordable and clean energy

Ensuring access to sustainable and modern energy sources for all

8. Decent work and economic growth

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

RheEnergise: the potential of a startup within the energy storage sector

Understanding opportunities and practical examples within the energy storage sector In at least two-thirds of the world's countries, solar and onshore wind power are already the cheapest alternative energy sources. Nevertheless, the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. One of the main drawbacks of renewable energy is its intermittency

Understanding opportunities and practical examples within the energy storage sector

In at least two-thirds of the world's countries, solar and onshore wind power are already the cheapest alternative energy sources. Nevertheless, the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. One of the main drawbacks of renewable energy is its intermittency, and the solution is in energy storage. However, storing energy can have a significant environmental impact, and that's where RheEnergise comes.

RheEnergise is a startup that brings a new solution to the renewable energy's intermittency problem, offering a low-cost, agile, and clean energy storage option.

In at least two-thirds of the world's countries, solar and onshore wind powers are already the cheapest alternative energy sources, thus threatening the two fossil-fuel mainstays – coal and natural gas. A decade ago, around $300 and $100 were charged respectively for a megawatt-hour of solar and onshore wind, but things have now changed, with an average price of $35 for both, across diverse countries – Brazil, China, and the U.S. This significant drop in prices is mainly due to the high number of innovations on the horizon, which, day by day, make their appearance on the market.

Nevertheless, the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. One of the main drawbacks of renewable energy is its intermittency. One problem that arises is the low number of options available for energy storage.

Before getting into detail, an essential introductory remark has to be made. When talking about energy storage, diverse needs can be identified based on the timeframe in which the energy has to be effectively stored and, consecutively, different instruments can be used to satisfy these necessities.

One of the most common storage systems for short-term periods is batteries, more precise-ly lithium-ion batteries. The use of such resources has increased dramatically in the last decade and has undertaken a tremendous revolutionary pattern. New materials and van-guard technological solutions are being developed, offering a more efficient performance and design-to-recycle approach. An example is the Ultra-Fast Carbon Electrode developed by NAWA Technologies that can increase a battery's energy storage capability and lifecy-cle five times. However, among all the advantages brought to the table by these instru-ments, such as high energy density, low self-discharge rate, and maintenance required, this technology is still considered immature and unsuitable for long-term energy storage. It suffers from many other problems, like high costs, aging, strong protection required – from being overcharged and discharged too fast –, limited means of transport and disposal.

For long-term periods, one of the most efficient systems is represented by dams. They supply the electrical grid with reliability, stability, and sustainability, thus producing a vast volume of electricity with short reaction times without any kind of pollution to the envi-ronment. The plants take advantage of the kinetic energy principle through which it pro-duces electricity required during peak hours, more precisely peak consumption hours. In this case, too, the benefits are numerous, like being suitable for industrial applications, cost-effectiveness – even considering high upfronting costs – which is also justified by the fact that its use is designed for an extended period, reaching a lifespan of 100 years. On the opposite side, high risks of failure are attributed to dams, causing natural disasters like droughts, loss of wetlands, floods, and damage to the ecosystems. At this point, it would be beneficial to have a few more options to turn to, and something might be in the works.

RheEnergise, a U.K.-based startup, focuses on an innovative way to supply energy, taking advantage of gravity on hills. It can be compared to existing hydropower plants that bring water up to mountains when energy is inexpensive and then unleash it when required to spin turbines and produce more electricity. The main advantage is that, while a massive dam can take up to a decade or much longer to be constructed, this new scheme can be built between nine and fifteen months. It can be placed on small hills with an altitude that ranges from 50 to 299 meters, making it applicable to almost 104,567 sites in Europe, sug-gesting alternative scopes to ditched land – like abandoned mines that are now fit for new applications. This plant pumps a non-corrosive and non-reactive fluid (R-19) that is two and a half times denser than water, ensuring that it can supply the same volume of energy on a smaller slope. Also, the pipelines through which it is supposed to flow can be posi-tioned underground to not be noticeable in more protected areas.

When comparing this hydro pump plant to dams, the latter might be located in remote places and cause, as previously explained, floods throughout natural areas which might displace not only nature but also people. On the contrary, RheEnergise's innovative propo-sition could represent an optimal solution to be harmoniously incorporated in any kind of site without negatively impacting the balance of the ecosystem.

The set-up of the startup's mechanism is the reproduction of a dam in miniature. Storage tanks are buried at the top and bottom of the hill – which are also connected by under-ground pipes – and, next to the lower storage tank, a powerhouse is placed, containing all the pumps and turbines.

The firm has initiated a crowdfunding program to fund the next step of its work. Two weeks after it was opened to the public, it earned more than £320,000. The business plans to have its first commercial system in service in 2024. There is still uncertainty regarding structural or environmental risks, so proper preparation and thorough ecological assess-ment are needed. It is already evident at these initial steps that not every hillside position will be suitable for this purpose.

RheEnergise is one of the many young startups becoming game-changers on the market, trying to create a more replicable paradigm to obtain what, for long, seemed just an unat-tainable goal: the diffusion of renewable energy use at moderate prices.

Although the pandemic has undoubtedly slowed down global development in renewable technology, according to the Renewables 2020 report of the International Energy Agency, electricity-generating technologies have proven remarkably resilient. According to Bloom-berg New Energy Finance, which forecasts the industry will be worth more than $620 bil-lion by 2040, the global energy storage market needs to expand to 100 times its current size. Of the world's energy storage capacity, pumped hydro accounts for around 96 %. But as the need for global renewable energy continues to rise, so does the need for more stor-age projects. Flexible technologies like this one will be part of the smart energy grid, ena-bling more low-carbon power, heat, and transport technologies.

This article was originally published here


Eckhouse, B (2020, April 28). Solar and Wind Cheapest Sources ofPower in Most of the World | Bloomberg.

Enel Green Power (2017). Storage. | Enel Green Power.

Hall, Chris (2020, October 6). Future batteries, coming soon:charge in seconds, lasts months and power over the air | Pocket-lint.
Iberdrola (2021). Do you know what pumped-storage hydroelectric power stations are used for? | Iberdrola.

IEA (2020). Renewables 2020 – Analysis| IEA.

IRENA (2020). Battery Storage Paves Way for a Renewable-poweredFuture | IRENA.

McManan-Smith, T (2021, February 8). Power in our hills is waiting to be used | the energyst.

‌‌RheEnergise(2021). Homepage | Rheenergise.

Melania Padolecchia and Mariana Santos
OIKOS Lisbon

Keep reading

Four ideas to embed impact within an organisation

Professor at Nova SBE, António Miguel is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of MAZE – decoding impact, an impact venture created by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in 2013, exclusively oriented to support and invest in solutions for social and environmental challenges. In this article, Professor António explores four principles guide to achieve impact at MAZE.

Data for Change competition

“Data for Change” is part of the Social Equity Initiative, a partnership established among Nova SBE, ”la Caixa” Foundation, and BPI

Want to report your impact? Here is a list to get you started

Over the past few months, our team has been focused on assessing our impact: internally, as an organisation working within a community and an environment, and externally, through the projects we have been supporting. This blog post details one of the frameworks that has helped us in this endeavour, the Impact Management Project (IMP).

Nova SBE Sustainability Journey'22

Check out how Nova SBE gathered more than 300 participants, 30 companies, and 60 speakers for the Nova SBE Sustainability Journey – an unprecedented collection of educational programs, conferences, and debates dedicated to sustainable development and the positive impact the school is committed to having on people, societies, and the planet.


Peak performance: Kilimanjaro leadership quest

In September 2023, Nova School of Business and Economics (Nova SBE) made history as 16 faculty and staff members embarked on an extraordinary journey — the Kilimanjaro Leadership Quest. This ambitious project saw the team conquer Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, imparting invaluable leadership, teamwork, and sustainability lessons.

Subscribe our weekly newsletter

By subscribing to the Nova SBE Role to Play newsletter, you can stay up-to-date on the latest articles posted on the website.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

We all have a role to play

We are on a mission to be a community dedicated to the development of talent and knowledge that impacts the world.

With just ten years to go, an ambitious global effort is underway to deliver the 2030 promise. We want to take a stand and we are calling on our community to showcase how they are contributing to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, whilst influencing more and more people to unravel their role to play.

Here, you will find four different ways your ideas can flourish, dialogue can be enhanced, and action can take place. You can choose one or all four, and Nova SBE will be there to support you all the way and guarantee tangible change.

We all have a role to play, and this is your way in.