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‘The phase that we’re in now is extremely interesting’

Interview with Marieke Palm of Scrooge Sustainable Energy

Engineer Marieke Palm’s career switch alone was disruptive. As she puts it, she comes from the ‘dirty’ industry. ‘I spent 25 years happily working in gas and oil exploration for Shell. I wanted to go where no one else did!’ But Marieke opted to switch oil and gas for sustainable energy and became an independent advisor, project manager, businesswoman, and investor in sustainable energy. She operates under the name Scrooge Sustainable Energy. She is also building a 30-hectare solar farm on her own land.

‘Put your money where your mouth is’

What was it that made Marieke arrive at her disruptive decision? ‘We are going to need oil and gas for a long time, but we still have to move towards sustainable energy. I was seeing a great many opportunities and companies emerging with innovative concepts in this area. So I thought, “put your money where your mouth is” and set up her own business. I was also seeing a great many companies struggling with the concept of sustainable energy.’

‘Not just recommending a few panels on the roof’

And she’s now advising precisely those companies. Large companies like Shell and smaller ones like farming businesses. How? ‘I always try to gain as accurate as possible an overview of what is happening and what is possible and then try to give companies a range of options. We then put our heads together and look at which options best match their needs. And that’s not just recommending a few panels on the roof, but listening carefully to what it is the energy will be used for. For the company’s own activities, for others? Together with others? In a corporation? Or selling to a large energy club?’

‘There isn’t usually the expertise to see sustainable energy projects through’

But Marieke goes a step further than just advising. ‘My company can also take over the project management to make sure that the solution is actually realized, as companies often lack the expertise or resources to see projects of this kind through. When it comes to project management, the difference between sustainable energy and oil and gas is minimal. You go through the same cycle.’

‘Forming a minigrid with others’

What does she see as a disruptive development in sustainable energy? ‘Companies can become their own energy company, their own provider, and increasingly are doing. Some companies can only do that for themselves, but companies can also collaborate with others to form their own minigrids by using their own flex – forming energy production and storage that can be coordinated with one another. This approach is logical, as it helps to lower the costs of sustainable energy, which are still too high if you operate only from the wider grid. And within the grid, you can use large batteries like the Rhino battery from GIGA Storage, which have a major role to play. Green energy is not always generated precisely when it needs to be used.’

‘New opportunities across the board’

Are we living in disruptive times when it comes to energy? ‘Yes, I think so. The phase that we’re in now is extremely interesting. A lot is happening, and new ideas and concepts are appearing all the time. There’s a lot of enthusiasm out there, and that’s great! Our departure from oil and gas and conventional combustion engines is spurring a variety of new technologies, and there are bound to be new opportunities in all kinds of areas.’

‘Disruption is what’s needed’

Marieke also thinks that disruption is what is needed to ensure wider use of sustainable energy. ‘Just look at the batteries for electric vehicles. They will soon be what drives the entire e-mobility business. But will the raw materials still be available? And are they recovered in a way that is socially responsible? And how sustainable are the batteries? Is hydrogen an alternative? The costs are often still too high, and too much energy is lost in the conversion to hydrogen. But as long-term storage, it’s certainly a very attractive option for further development, including as a fuel for heavy-duty vehicles. But, as I have said, I anticipate that the new technology that we need will be developed. So far as that’s concerned, we’re in the middle of the transition. It will be exciting to see where it all leads.’