Interview with Piers Grove
Piers Grove is the co-founder and Executive Director of EnergyLab. We asked him some questions about his vision of the expansion of clean energy in Australia.
EnergyLab is a platform for clean energy innovation. Our integrated approach draws on the community of cleantech entrepreneurs and offers arrange of ways to engage and leverage their ideas, technologies and resources.
Do you think it's possible to supply 100% Australia's electricity with renewable energy?

I think it's beyond possible… I think it's inevitable that over the next half century the idea of generating electricity from anything other than clean sources will be unheard of.

For us, here at Energylab, one of the problems we have in this industry is that there is a massive conflation between climate change and energy policy and a lot of people think the only reason we are changing energy is to address climate change… but what we are really tyring to do is seriously upgrade how we do energy overall, and its not just an environmental reaction.

"What I like to talk about is new Australian businesses creating new jobs, opening up new export markets, and at the same time delivering clean, sustainable energy solutions."
What are currently the biggest challenges of clean energy development?

Trying to line up the investment and the transition so that we don't wind up with peaks and troughs, but we can smoothly shut down our traditional fossil based energy sources while ramping up our clean energy sources at the right speed is actually going to be one of the biggest challenges… As well as the regulatory settings, investment settings, all need to be right to make that happen, which is a really big challenge.

I'm an environmentalist, and I'm a big believer in climate change, but what we are really here to do is grow a new industry that is transforming… so what I like to talk about is new Australian businesses creating new jobs, opening up new export markets, and at the same time delivering clean, sustainable energy solutions.

When you listen in the media, we have these two arguments that are 100% for coal and 100% against coal, but when you actually have an argument of energy you can go "well it's okay, coal is old and dirty, but it doesn't mean you just throw it out!". The real question is: can we have an intelligent conversation about energy without it becoming political and ideologically charged?
"What we are really trying to do is seriously upgrade how we do energy overall"
What are your ideas to overcome these challenges?

Coordination is going to be the key piece here in overcoming the challenges of transition. We need government policy, investment setting, we need new business ideas all to be working together if we are actually going to address this in an intelligent, sensible way that leads the world.

What is your favourite example of clean energy initiative?

I think some of the Australian towns, like Kalgoorlie, that are pooling together and addressing their own energy needs as a community is very very exciting and setting a template for the rest of country in many ways. What we can see people doing locally, is really the point at the end of what we should be doing globally.
What do you look for in a startup when you're selecting for EnergyLab's acceleration program?

What we look for is a symphony of different pieces working together. We are looking for a really strong business idea with the ability to contribute to the transformation of Australia and potentially the world's energy market… We are looking for a team of people with the capacity, the commitment to drive and deliver that new project… We are looking for timing – it might be the greatest idea in the world, but if there isn't actually a market ready to receive that concept, then the timing isn't right, and we are looking for a willingness to be helped and supported. Not every entrepreneur is suited to an acceleration program so we are looking for people that acknowledge the opportunity it brings them and are willing to embrace it.
What's the next step in EnergyLab's development?

The next step in EnergyLab's development is really taking all of our experience here in Sydney, and expanding that, deploying that nationally so that we have a coordinated, commercialisation program for clean energy in Australia.
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