The Balkans’ potential for renewable and clean energy production has attracted more and more foreign investors looking to develop or support bigger and more efficient projects, from solar plants, to wind parks, and, more recently, small nuclear reactors. Individual countries in the region have also been advancing financing schemes for clean energy startups and companies.
In Bulgaria, for instance, firms in the tourism sector can apply by the end of the year for financing of energy efficiency and clean energy projects. And Romanian companies can tap into a 30M euro allocation for green energy projects through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.
Meanwhile, Greece is getting closer to building a green energy corridor to export its renewable electricity to Central Europe, as part of its plan to sell excess power abroad to countries that do not benefit from similar conditions for the production of renewables such as solar and wind power.
And demand for clean, secure, and affordable energy is higher than ever. This year, investments in renewables may be beating the oil and gas sector for the first time, as electricity prices across Europe surge to all time highs. Even nuclear energy, which is opposed by certain global green and humanitarian groups and several governments, got the “sustainable” tick on the European Commission’s green taxonomy, as a bridging technology.
Given such tailwinds, there’s no doubt that renewable energy will continue to rise in the region. With that in mind, The Recursive took a look at the clean energy startups and young companies innovating in the space, whether by creating new marketplaces, increasing the efficiency of renewable energy technologies, working on alternative fuels, or creating new business models in the space. Companies are listed alphabetically.
Clean energy startups in Southeast Europe
Type of solution: Software
Description: Rhoé works with large enterprises, research institutes and governments to build optimization software products that combine technology innovation with carbon-neutral forms of energy. They started as a sustainable mobility research team, founded by students from the civil engineering department of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Highlights: They are part of the Horizon 2020-funded project “Current Direct”, which aims to develop swappable battery containers for the inland waterway sector. Additionally, Rhoé is developing the electric vehicle charging infrastructure location plans for 42 Greek municipalities, as part of ELECTR.IO, a flagship project of the national Ministry of Energy and Environment. They have received nearly 500K euro in pre-seed stage grants from Horizon.
Name: AMEN New Technologies
Founders: Dr. Dimitrios Niarchos, Filotas Niarchos, Antonios Bogdanos
Type of solution: Nanotechnology research
Description: The company focuses on R&D using nanomaterials for energy, environment, health and space applications, filling the gap between research teams in academic institutions and the business world.
Highlights: They have recently graduated from the EIT Raw Materials Phase 1 Accelerator Programme and was selected to receive extra funding for Phase 2&3.
Type of solution: Energy efficiency, Retrofitting
Description: The company provides solutions to upgrade legacy heating and electricity equipment to deliver improved energy efficiency and energy management, using custom IoT hardware, as well as machine and deep learning.
Highlights: The company is funded through grants and its first commercial contracts. They are currently holding a pilot project in 100 residences using natural gas in Thessaloniki, Athens, and Volos.
Name: HAM Systems
Founders: Panagiotis Pampalos
Type of solution: Energy efficiency, IoT
Description: The company design IoT devices along with the accompanied SW platform for energy monitoring and remote management.
Highlights: They are funded through the EPAnEK 2014-2020 programme by the EU. In 2021, they entered the European market with their best-selling device, the HAM ThermoSense.
Name: AE Solar Horizon
Founders: Ilko Yotzev, Evgeni Stefanov
Type of solution: Photovoltaic systems production
Description: The newly established company plans to build 3 innovative photovoltaic plants, in Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Greece, with a capacity to produce over 3 GWp of solar panels.
Highlights: They raised a €3.5M seed round from local VC fund New Vision 3, German solar industry leader AE Solar GmbH, and Bulgarian engineering company ELIA.
Name: Cooperativa de Energie
Headquarters: Bucharest, Romania
Type of solution: Renewable energy generation and distribution
Description: The first cooperative supplier and producer of renewable energy in Romania, aiming to democratize access to green energy. Its members are prosumers (producers and consumers – ed.note) of renewable energy, becoming active participants in the energy market.
Highlights: They recently launched a campaign to finance the acquisition of a solar park with an installed power of 10MW. Total targeted investment sits at 10M euro.
Name: Energy Vampires
Headquarters: Bucharest, Romania
Founders: Valentin Albu, Andrei Daoud
Type of solution: Solar energy generation
Description: The Romanian energy startup founded by local experts launched the project via a collection of utility-based, renewable energy generating NFTs. With the money raised, the company plans to build a renewable energy production park. NFT purchasers, in turn, would become co-owners of the park.
Highlights: The company is currently working on the framework behind their token system. They have been working on a solar energy potential calculator together with Promocrat, which will be included in the NFT project.
Headquarters: Dublin, Ireland, with Romanian founders
Type of solution: Data analytics, AI, energy marketplace
Description: The company is building an AI-based B2B energy marketplace that aims to equip industrial consumers of electricity and gas with fair energy price benchmarks, using an AI-based forecasting engine, as well as match them with suppliers of electricity and natural gas.
Highlights: NRGI.ai raised a €250K pre-seed round from Fortech Investments and American VC fund TechStars.
Name: Ogre AI
Headquarters: London, UK, with Romanian founder and offices in Romania
Founders: Matei Stratan
Type of solution: Data analytics, AI, energy management
Description: An automated B2B platform which uses machine learning to offer financial and operational decision-making support to energy and utilities companies.
Highlights: At the beginning of 2022, the company raised €2M from local VC fund Early Game Ventures and UK-based MMC Ventures to finish up the development of an innovative price forecast system and scaling the business globally.
Name: Perceptual Robotics
Headquarters: Bristol, United Kingdom, with Greek founders
Type of solution: Wind energy turbine maintenance
Description: The company provides fully autonomous drone inspection for wind turbines, using drones, ML algorithms and advanced robotics.
Highlights: They raised a €1.87M round in September 2021, led by clean tech VC fund TSP Ventures, and joined by previous investor Metavallon.
Name: Restart Energy
Headquarters: Timisoara, Romania
Chairman of the board: Armand Domuta
Type of solution: Electricity supplier
Description: Founded in 2015, and part of Armand group, the company is an independent supplier of electricity in Romania and Serbia. The company claims that it supplies more than 50% of electricity from renewable sources. In 2021, they launched Restart Energy Democracy, a blockchain-based platform through which users can offset their carbon emissions by purchasing renewable energy.
Highlights: They recently announced the signing of two new contracts totaling 150K euro with the companies TED Agro and TED Farm, for the installation of photovoltaic photo generators with a cumulative power of 230 kWp.
Name: RoPower Nuclear
Headquarters: Doicesti, Romania
Type of solution: Nuclear energy generation
Description: RoPower Nuclear is a joint venture between Romanian, state-owned Nuclearelectrica and Nova Power & gas. The company will develop small modular reactors (462 MW) in Romania on the site of a former coal plant, using technology from NuScale, the only SMR company that obtained design approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Highlights: There are no such nuclear power plants in Europe, yet, although several countries have expressed interest in using the early-stage SMR technology. The site in Romania was selected after a study financed through a $1.2M grant from the US Trade and Development Agency. Another grant was announced in June 2022, of $14M.
Name: Solar Plex
Type of solution: Solar energy generation
Description: The company is building solar panels technology (dual-face and dual orientation panels) that produce electricity and heat simultaneously, and can increase the overall efficiency by as much as 95%. They partner with solar panel installers and conduction companies, as well as local governments and international development companies.
Highlights: The company claims it offers the lowest energy cost and highest energy density per square meter.
Headquarters: Sofia, Bulgaria
Type of solution: Data analytics and data management for energy trading and energy efficiency
Description: They are building a portfolio management platform and AI models for the management of renewable assets and optimization of performance, margin, and output, addressed to business executives and other users.
Highlights: So far, the team has gathered support of a few investors, including Vitosha Ventures, of the Fund of Funds (FMFIB), and InnoEnergy, with a total investment of around 600K euro.
Name: Typhoon HIL
Headquarters: Somerville, Massachusetts, with Serbian founder, team and offices
Type of solution: Power systems protection, hardware in the loop, test and quality assurance
Description: The company produces ultra-high fidelity Hardware in the Loop (HIL) solutions for design, testing, and validation of power electronics, microgrids, e-Mobility, EV powertrain software testing, and distribution control and protection systems. Its technologies are used by engineers in microgrids, solar PV inverters, wind turbine converters, and battery storage, among others, to speed up time to market, reduce cost of testing, and improve quality and reliability.
Highlights: In 2020, Typhoon HIL was a finalist in the PowerUp! competition by EIT InnoEnergy for startups and SMEs in Central and Eastern Europe.
Name: Volta X Solar Systems
Headquarters: Piatra-Neamt, Romania
Founder: Catalin Velescu
Type of solution: Photovoltaic systems production and services
Description: Volta X, part of electrical equipment supplier Volta Group, specializes in the design, installation, monitoring, and maintenance of photovoltaic systems. They offer turnkey solutions for photovoltaic systems, stations for electric car charging, storage systems, and energy efficiency solutions.
Highlights: They have joined forces with the North-East Regional Development Agency for the organization of Climathon Iasi, by EIT Climate-KIC, where they invite entrepreneurs to bring forward solutions for the energy crisis.
Clean energy startups in Central Europe
Name: Globe Green Energy
Headquarters: Piaseczno, Poland
Chairman of the Board: Marcin Wilczyński
Type of solution: Alternative fuels
Description: The company’s cogeneration small scale system can burn a variety of raw or low-processed solid biomass with very efficient and clean combustion (lower emissions). It is further highly efficient in converting thermal energy into electricity (more energy from less fuel).
Highlights: The company won a €700K European grant to develop its small-scale cogeneration unit.
Name: mTap Smart City
CEO: Wiktor Krzeszewski
Type of solution: Energy efficiency
Description: The company’s system of outdoor and indoor light management hardware and software allows operators of streetlights to optimize energy consumption through a simple process, on a digital interface.
Highlights: mTap says that its AI-powered system used in 700 lighting points, and that its solution can cut energy usage by up to 20% in the first 2 years.
Headquarters: Ljubljana, Slovenia
CEO: Luka Komazec
Type of solution: Energy service provider, energy efficiency
Description: Resalta is an energy service provider offering integrated solutions that help their clients – from companies, to municipalities and cities – cut down energy costs and improve their energy consumption.
Highlights: The company’s shareholders include VC funds BlackPeak Capital and PostScriptum Ventures, as well as the European Investment Fund. In 2020, they received a 12M euro loan from the European Investment Bank.
Headquarters: Izabelin, Poland
CEO: Małgorzata Stangreciak
Type of solution: Waste Heat Capture/ Conversion/ Storage
Description: SolHotAir’s technology aims to enable efficient heat generation through solar collectors. The company claims that its technology can save as much as 40% of annual heating costs. One 2 square meter collector can produce 2,500 kWh of heat annually.
Highlights: The company says its technology can achieve an efficiency of 83%, i.e. 19 percentage points more than its competitors.
This list is not exhaustive. If you know and want to recommend other clean energy startups and SMEs from Central and Eastern Europe, drop us an email at [email protected].