Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Bill Hartman, New Expert in the Clean Power CommunityPosted to Energy Central in the Clean Power Professionals Group
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- Jan 5, 2021 12:30 pm GMTJan 5, 2021 12:37 pm GMT
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For much of its history, the energy industry was largely dominated by central utility giants that covered all the power and gas needs of its region. While that centralized utility model still persists and succeeds, since the turn of the century the industry has also seen the rise of more small operations, tech startups, and new players looking to innovate in the world of energy. In particular, the clean energy space has seen a rise in these new thought leaders and creative solutions.
Making sure to keep up with the developments and perspectives of central utilities and upstart innovators is critical to a well-rounded view of the energy industry today, tomorrow, and beyond. With that in mind, I was excited that we were able to add Bill Hartman to the Energy Central Network of Experts. Bill has experience in the tech startup space, and that’s brought him to his role today with Atargis Energy Company and their efforts to bring to the foreground ocean wave generation technology.
As our newest Clean Power Expert, he’s also here to share his wisdom and experience in these critical topics that see disruptor after disruptor coming along. And that involvement as an expert started with this entry in our official Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: I love doing these interviews because it allows our community members to really get to know the experts available to them on thesite-- so I'd love you to share your background. How did you get involved with clean energy and what is your role in the industry today?
Bill Hartman: I have a history leading small tech companies and startups over the past 20 years, but this Atargis Energy is my first experience specifically in cleantech. A good mutual friend suggested that the renewable ocean wave energy technology being developed at Atargis Energy could benefit from an experienced startup CEO. I was asked by our CTO founder Dr. Stefan Siegal for help and advice on their fundraising, which quickly lead to my coming on board as CEO.
MC: What do you think has held the clean energy sector from really taking off at the speed and volume at which some have predicted previously, or do you think we're on a good and steady pathway?
BH: Clean tech is very often very similar to what is being called today "deep tech." These are hard problems. They are typically capital intensive compared to other potential investments and take a long time to get to technology and market proof points. Most of these opportunities are a combination of the development of new materials, deep physics, and computer modeling, developing not just technology that technically works, but is compelling economically. Quite a bit looks good on the drawing board, but does not scale in the real world.
We also have a good news/bad news situation where we now have quite a few investors with experience over the past 20 years with clean tech optimism. Many of these investors have been burned with the challenges of turning promising technology ideas into real business. This both informs a healthy skepticism in due diligence of new efforts, but oftentimes, means great new ideas do not get to due diligence because that type of technology, or that application, or that market, has been "written off."
MC: You've been involved with a number of tech startups, both in and out of the energy industry. What do you think is unique about trying to get investments and get off the ground for the energy industry specifically?
BH: As mentioned before, the energy industry is 1) capital intensive, 2) historically, very conservative bringing in and adopting new technologies, 3) new technology often takes a long time to technically and economically prove-in, and often, in fact, does not prove-in, and 4) there are numerous voices involved in the licensing, testing, approvals, etc. for deployment.
However, I don't think this is totally unique to energy, but more to deep tech in general.
MC: What do you think is the biggest hold up in the energy transition today-- lack of the right technology, public policies that don't do enough, markets not being aligned with clean energy goals, or something else?
BH: While it is a bit frustrating, I am actually long-term more encouraged by the industry than I was before I got involved. There are many great clean tech/renewable ideas being developed around the world. While most will fail, as is the nature of these things, the end result will be more and more real, workable clean tech making significant, positive, impacts to improve our environment and climate.
There remains a classic gap between promising tech which may take 10-20 years to develop, and early-stage capital needed to get over the development and early testing humps, but my sense is that this is getting better on both the government and private investment side of things. Not great, but better. A hopeful trend.
MC: What should community members look forward to you bringing to the table as our newest expert?
BH: I have been involved running several small companies, co-founding a startup accelerator, mentoring veterans leaving the U.S. military services, and serving in the U.S. Navy. While "expert" in describing me in anything is likely a stretch, I like helping and being of service whenever I can.
MC: Any parting words for our readers?
BH: Energy is a complicated space with a lot of change in technologies and markets all going on at the same time. I welcome any forum or platform, like Energy Central, that can help us sort it out a bit more, and get "there" faster.
Thanks so much to Bill Hartman for joining me in this interview and for his participation as a Clean Power expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Bill engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!