Enass Abo Hamed at TEDxWarwick Architects of Tomorrow Conference 2019
We spoke with Enass Abo Hamed, co-founder and CEO at H2GO power ltd. We spoke with her ahead of her talk at TEDxWarwick’s Architects of Tomorrow conference.
So can you just explain for everybody that doesn’t know: a bit about yourself and what you do about H2GO power?
So, my name is Enass Abo Hamed. I am a chemist by training. And I started H2GO power my PhD when I was still still a student at Cambridge University. I did this together with my university friends, and some professionals, who helped us turn our scientific invention into a company that has been growing since then.
H2GO power is about working on developing solutions that can produce alternatives to the currently used energy systems. So, we use hydrogen as a storage medium, we store it in a very special way in order to convert hydrogen gas to solid state. That means that hydrogen becomes a safe storage media. Why is that good? It’s good because hydrogen can provide long duration storage, something that alternative solutions like lithium ion batteries, the batteries that we use in our foods, for example, that runs out of juice very quickly. You wouldn’t experience a similar problem with with hydrogen because the could store energy for long duration.
If you combine a solution like that, with a generation, a source from renewables, like from the sun, or from the wind, and solar energy follows duration, you don’t have to build, for example in developing countries, infrastructure, which is very expensive. Solutions like that could provide round the clock power generated from renewables, which is clean and affordable, without having to build infrastructure. And this is where we’re headed to, this is the target of this business.
Ultimately, we want to provide clean energy solutions that you could store for long periods of time to people who don’t have access to power. This would enable them to power their operations very easily, very quickly, without having to go through buying expensive diesel that is polluting and harmful.
It’s well known that we are going to run out of fossil fuels; we are running low on these resources that produce harmful and toxic pollution. We must find alternatives. How large, do you believe, is the benefit of H2GO power?
I think in order to answer it, we need to look at how big the problems that we’re tackling. First, we have today 1.2 billion people who don’t have access to regular power, we have 5.5 million people around the world dying directly from pollution because of the type of fuels that we consume, which is dirty.
If we can come up with a solution that would address both, everyone wins. And this isn’t about one small company trying to make to solve all these problems. This is just saying these type of solutions, if they’re adapted by different companies who work on developing them into commercial product and supplying them to users who need them, we will drop the production of emissions and pollutants. And we all we all share the air that we breathe, right? We don’t have any control over if we want to breathe better quality air or not. It’s around us, right? We just don’t have any control over that.
So what we really would want to be addressing is the air pollutions in cities and in developing countries. So this is a problem that the developed and the developing world suffer from, and also access to clean energy, which is reliable.
When did you first become interested in sustainability? And what inspired you in terms of creating and thinking about H2GO specifically?
So honestly, I started from the solution without knowing anything about that problem. I was doing my PhD, I came up with an invention that I really didn’t know what it would be good for.
So at the university, back in the day, they had programmes where you could team up with students and professionals and investigate the commercial potential of an invention that you had in the lab. And that’s how we started. And then shortly after that, I went on a trip to Africa to give a talk about my research. And then I gave that talk, everything went fine. We went to a trip to a camp in Soweto in Africa. And, and that’s when I realised that actually, there are people who don’t have access to power. I thought that everyone in the world is like us, right? We have control over the switch, they turn it on when they want, and they turn it off when they want. It’s a matter of decision. But then I realised that actually, that’s not true.
So I asked Google: how many people have regular power? The answer said: 1.2 billion people. That was like a slap in the face. And then I started to think, you know, no matter how many talks, like scientific talks, I’m going to give this is not going to do anything, right. These people are going to live like this. Unless something changes.
And then I went back, I’ll talk to the team that I was working with. I asked them: can we change our aspirations? Can we do something for the developing countries? And that’s how everything started to take the shape that it looks like today.
It is quite clearly both a humanitarian problem and a sustainability issue. If this was commercially produced, could it potentially resolve both? How far have you got with establishing H2GO power in different countries?
So this company is a technology company. And, although the causes humanitarian but, because we are, like engineers and scientists developing technology from scratch, we’re not buying something off the shelf and reset repackage it and sell it.
The technology development phase is very long. So, we are not yet at implementation stage in terms of selling hundreds and thousands. But, we are at a stage where we’re piloting with larger players in the market; the technology for its visibility for large scale products. Like if we were to instal a unit of storage that could supply entire power for 24 hours for an entire hospital in Africa.
We are piloting that now to see what are the things that we could learn from the pilot, that we could add the point of implementation; if there are any issues, any technical difficulties if we could solve it, and that on its own is a very long process. It takes 24 months, just to do the pilot, it takes years before that just to get to a point where we have the patents, you have the technology that is ready to be piloted? So it’s a it’s a slow, slow moving pace.
But this year, it’s been the best year so far for us. Because we are we have signed two agreements to pilot technology for two different applications.
Is there something that you could tell us that the everyday person can do to help them contribute positively to the issue of climate change?
There’s so many things. Influence your MPs: encourage them or put pressure on them to do something about climate change. They have to shut down coal fired plants to make sure that our energy is clean. But if you’re not that person, you could still do a lot, right? If you adjust your your behaviours like consume less meat, because every time you buy meat, you encourage someone to produce more meat. And that is what creates house gas emissions, that affects everyone with global warming.
I give an example during my talk. If you skip eating a burger once a week, that is the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles. And if you influence your family and your friends to do the same, the impact grows. So this is how you could make an impact even if you don’t really love people’s decision, and do things like that. You can have the option to buy clean power. If you’re happy to pay a little bit more. And there are so many things that can be done.
I mean, one person cannot directly stop climate change from happening. So this is not how, and that’s why not many people are doing things about it! Educate your kids too. We tell them do this, don’t do this, and teach them what is socially acceptable. For example, we tell a child: you cannot spit at your father, because this is socially unacceptable. Then we could teach our kids to consume less meet and turn the light off. These are the small things that actually could make a measurable impact.
Read our other interviews or check out how to attend or get involved in the next TEDxWarwick event at tedxwarwick.com, or check out our Facebook page TEDxWarwick.