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16 December 2021

Grid innovator uncovers Enoda, saying green hydrogen is ready now

A UK start up, put together in the Summer, called Enoda, has raised a seed round and come out with its first product – Hera claiming to “crush” the price of harnessing hydrogen – and it says it is also looking for an A round of about £15 million early next year.

The company is led by serial entrepreneur CEO Paul Domjan, and backed by Chairman Lindsay Whitelaw, a founder of Artemis Investment Management, also one of the seed funders. The company also has Chuck Watson, founder of US utility Dynegy, on the board.

Hera is effectively a way of harnessing what the company calls waste electricity – which is not electricity made from waste – but waste from the 50 Hz AC electrical grid system, energy which is currently not being used.

It claims that Hera can dynamically create hydrogen during periods when electricity is cheap, or even priced negatively, but also its inventors claim to be able to use system noise, transients and imbalances by smoothing the gird signal, and using the energy inherent in these imbalances to drive electrolyzers.

While it sounds esoteric (and it is) it can have the effect of producing electrical energy almost from nowhere, and when you consider who’s intellectual property is behind this, it explains a lot.

Andrew Scobie is the company CTO and has in the past been associated with the now defunct Faraday Grid, which promised to remove the need for transformers in the electricity network, and replace them with the Faraday Exchanger.

This was a simply made device which exerts granular control at the magnetic flux level, rather than the power level, and Scobie claimed it could independently control output RMS voltage, control input RMS voltage, maintain frequency, maintain target power, remove all harmonics and maintain balance between phases of a grid. At Faraday Scobie also introduced something he called the Emergent Transactional Platform, a system to dynamically trade energy based on best offered price – which sounds very similar to what he is doing at Enoda, although her he calls the entire process “dynamic harmonization.”

In that company and in the subsequent Third Equation Ltd (which is still trading, but which he has left), Scobie tried to use these characteristics to replace transformers among energy distributors, but also converting any energy that was detracting from the grid’s sinusoidal signal strength – either harmonics or by being out of phase – and take if off the signal so that it was perfectly formed. The energy that was removed is spare and can be used for whatever you like – in this case making hydrogen.

If you add to that negatively priced moments in the life of a grid (measured in 15 minute or 30 minute transactional segments) and then turn off hydrogen production when the energy price spikes, you end up being able to offer grid stabilization services, and also use exceptionally cheap electricity to make hydrogen at the same time.

Scobie told us that there is plenty of spare energy in the grid, put there by oscillations in the rotating mass of the combined turbines which provide system inertia. All he is doing is taking them off and using them, and leaving a perfect signal intact.

At his previous companies Scobie was targeting a shift from rotating thermal turbines, needed for system inertia, to one where inverter driven resources – renewables – could support a precise 50Hz wave form. He insists that some 60% of the cost of electricity in each country is due to paying capacity payments to rotating resources on the gird, whether they are used or not, for fear of having stability issues.

But the new company takes a different view of this ability to groom the grid wave form. In the first instance Hera will offer a combination of system balancing services and ultra-cheap energy for hydrogen creation. And the recent hike in natural gas prices provides a situation that he and his team is looking to take advantage of.

The company targets any industrial process which uses natural gas, and is looking for a hedge against the gas price – for instance Combined Heat and Power installations, which currently find themselves with rapidly escalating costs. The system can either slowly or immediately replace natural gas with economically priced hydrogen, either fully or partially. This is effectively a hedge against rising electricity prices and rising gas prices. Scobie says he can also target manufacturing companies, food producers, or combined cooling and power, like food distribution or even data centers – they could all lower their bills using Hera.

Hera can use the hydrogen in multiple ways including to drive industrial microgrids and CHHP (combined heat hydrogen and power) environments.

Hera can later be applied to power district heat systems or to create hydrogen as a fuel for trucks, trains and ships. It could even be used to provide battery back up for EV charging points, making hydrogen locally on a reversible fuel cell and playing it out through the fuel cell when the charge point was being used. Typically that would use local cheap renewables, but when we put this idea to Scobie he said, “no reason why you would not use both local cheap PPA against renewables AND use Hera, and choose the cheapest form of energy at any point in time.” It seemed to make sense to us. First Hera installations should be announced in the first half of 2022.