In the midst of the ongoing green transition, Estonian startup Elcogen has made quite a name for itself in the clean energy industry. Founded in 2001, Elcogen focuses on developing and deploying fuel cells that convert renewable energy into clean and highly efficient electricity.
Elcogen produces Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) and Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cells (SOECs). They use hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels to produce electricity through an electrochemical process, with heat as a by-product. As a result, the company can offer an eco-friendly alternative that can potentially decouple entire industries from high-polluting methods of operation.
Hydrogen is one of the most promising clean energy sources because it produces no emissions when burned. When used in tandem with Elcogen’s fuel cells, it can become an even cleaner energy source. This is because the SOFCs use a high-temperature oxidation process to create electricity, while the SOECs use the opposite process to generate hydrogen.
Empowering vision with capital
In May 2022, Elcogen picked up €24M investment from HydrogenOne Capital, an LSE-listed investment fund dedicated to clean hydrogen.
With this investment, the company has already begun scaling up their production and R&D capacities. Elcogen plans to create a new, automated production line for solid oxide fuel cells in Tallinn, hire more talent and reach new customers.
“With our investment, we are supporting Elcogen in expanding their fuel cell and electrolyser manufacturing facilities in Estonia over the next two years and accelerating the energy transition to a low-carbon future”, says Dr JJ Traynor, Managing Partner at HydrogenOne Capital, in the interview for Life in Estonia magazine.
Prior to investment, HydrogenOne was impressed by the lower operating temperatures and superior economics that Elcogen managed to achieve in their products. They have also dug into a vision outlined by the founder, Enn Õunpuu.
“With over 30 years of experience founding and leading multiple companies, his aim was to develop the world’s best solid oxide cell technology from the ground up”, says JJ Traynor.
Elcogen’s success story isn’t going unnoticed. Across the globe, governments are investing heavily in hydrogen for clean energy solutions. An estimated $240B of public and private investment is expected to be made in hydrogen technology until 2030, with a substantial focus on fuel cells, according to McKinsey & Company.
Elcogen is well-positioned to benefit from this strong momentum for clean energy and a hydrogen-driven economy. The company could easily become a key player in the industry with a customer base that already has over 60 industrial customers worldwide.
It also benefits from the bigger hydrogen-related economy emerging in Estonia. “We are encouraged to see that Estonia joined the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance targeting an electrolyser capacity of 40GW and hydrogen production of 10 million tons by 2030. And more recently, with the launch of the world’s first national hydrogen valley and hub for new hydrogen innovations”, Traynor notes.
Hydrogen Valley Estonia, a sizeable private-public cooperation that started in 2022, is building a region with a full nationwide hydrogen value chain for R&D, testing and deployment. With more than a dozen participants on board, it will eventually become part of a large-scale hydrogen valley around the Baltic and the North Sea corridor, reaching across the European continent.