LONDON — When Jakob Bitner was 7, he left Russia for Germany with his parents and sister. Twenty-eight years later, he is set on solving a vexing green-energy problem that could help Germany end its dependency on imported energy from Russia, or anywhere.
The problem: how to make wind and solar energy available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even if the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing.
The company he co-founded in Munich in 2016, VoltStorage, found some success selling storage battery packs for solar power to homeowners in Europe. Now the company is developing much larger batteries — each about the size of a shipping container — based on a chemical process that can store and discharge electricity over days, not just hours like today’s most popular battery technology.
These ambitions to overcome the unreliable nature of renewable energy fit perfectly with Europe’s targets to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But Mr. Bitner’s company is facing a frustrating reality that threatens to undercut Europe’s plans and poses a wider challenge in the global fight against climate change: a lack of money to finish the job.
VoltStorage needs “significantly” more money to develop its new battery technology, Mr. Bitner said. In 2020 and 2021, the company raised 11 million euros, or $12 million. Now, it is trying to raise up to €40 million more by this summer.
“Even though we had great early-stage investors from Germany and Europe that keep supporting us, it becomes very hard to raise the tickets we need right now,” Mr. Bitner said, referring to individual investments.
Europe offers a preview for the rest of the world. The European Union has aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and there is broad political support for tackling climate change. The bloc has poured public money into grants for developing new technology.
But after getting initial start-up money or grant funding, businesses are struggling to raise funds for the kind of innovative, large-scale projects needed to complete the transition from carbon-spewing sources of energy. The funding gap means Europeans face the prospect of either falling short of ambitious climate targets or further energy shortages and rising costs.
Solutions are available if given a financial boost, experts said. Almost half the reductions in emissions to meet net zero targets by 2050 will come from technologies currently in their infancy, according to the International Energy Agency. There is, in theory, plenty of capital available globally for the multitrillion-dollar task of funding this transition to greener energy.
Europe’s Shift Away From Fossil Fuels
The European Union has begun a transition to greener forms of energy. But financial and geopolitical considerations could complicate the efforts.
The war in Ukraine has made Europe’s energy transition even more urgent. The European Union has said it would cut imported Russian natural gas by two-thirds this year and completely by the end of the decade. While some of that supply will be made up by imports from other countries, …….