Rosie, Tony, and Simon set up Olwg to make it easier for businesses and local governments to assess the feasibility of renewable projects. Now, their sophisticated tools and science-based methodology have made them an important name in the green sector. The Hydrogen Standard sat down with Tony, one of Olwg’s founders, to discuss their work and what it might mean for the hydrogen industry.
Olwg was born in the summer of 2020. The name means sight or vision in Welsh – something the executive team, Rosie, Tony, and Simon, has in bucketloads. Feeling that the oil and gas industry in which they once worked was failing to address the challenges of climate change, the three energy experts turned their focus to renewable energy, where they felt their skills could have a more positive impact. And from this decision, Olwg came into being.
Using their experience across many aspects of managing energy projects – from research and tender to strategic decision-making and execution – the trio set up Olwg to optimise the process of assessing renewable projects. They hoped that their expertise would allow them to reduce research lead-times, raise budget efficiencies, and improve the visibility of successes and outcomes. As Tony explains, “generally, energy projects would take far too long to get off the ground. We wanted to try and speed that up, while ensuring clients choose the right projects for the right job”. In order to achieve that, Olwg has decided to use “modular cloud computing web apps to integrate, automate and standardise processes that are currently often done in a very haphazard manual way,” Tony explains. “Our aim is to make these visual interactive tools available to a much broader set of decision-makers,
who might have modest budgets but still want to explore project drivers for themselves, rather than interpret it off the pages of a report.”
Tony gives us an example of how Olwg makes things easier for its clients. “Say an energy firm wants to choose a project. To achieve this, consultants need to be hired to write a feasibility study. This could take up to six months, it may contain lots of relevant information, and the cost can be absurd.” Olwg’s mission is to simplify this process from planning to execution, basing their core philosophy on trying to help decision-makers make better decisions, with a clearer end-goal in mind. As Tony explains, a little surprisingly, perhaps, “that end goal might not always be obvious to all stakeholders. We recently worked on a project where we initially thought that decarbonising the energy mix cost-effectively was the main aim. Shortly after we got involved, it became clear that it was actually to develop skills and employment. Clarity on all of these aspects is crucial for ensuring success.”
But Olwg weren’t happy to just help energy businesses make individual decisions successfully. Rather, they’ve been working hard to develop innovative methodologies for companies to look at all of their potential projects in standardised ways and on predefined metrics. And, in the context of hydrogen, one of the crucial tools they use is the lifecycle assessment.
A lifecycle assessment is a way that businesses can assess the environmental impact of a project or product across its whole lifespan – from creation through use to disposal. Olwg’s modelling tool takes this principle to assess three main components of a renewable project. Firstly, it considers the technological selection, which in the case of hydrogen electrolysis is usually alkaline and PEMEL. Then, the model assesses the technological inputs, allowing for variation between components.
Chart 1: Working P Prototype Hydrogen Project Lifecycle App – in ‘uncertainty’ mode
Finally, it outputs a range of economic, carbon burden and energy efficiency metrics. By putting this information at a business’s fingertips, Olwg aims to facilitate better decision-making on each individual use case – and to reduce the risk of misallocated funds. Olwg prides itself on its science- and evidence based approach, bolstered by learning on real
development projects and from credible parties like Logan Energy who are able to help them optimise the model’s input assumptions and better define the variables. After all, the garbage-in/garbageout principle requires that the model is constantly monitored and fine-tuned and that relevant parameters are included.
Chart 2: Mock-up of Interface for Ecosystem Platftform Concept
But alongside continually refining its existing tools, Olwg is having a big impact in the real world. The company has already had the chance to test its methods on the pre-development studies for the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub, which part-way through the studies was awarded £4.8M in the Chancellor’s Budget to develop the Pilot Project. But the possible uses for its tools are considerable –helping island communities to assess the potential for independent energy generation and storage, for example, or enabling governments to explore the possibilities of transporting solar or wind energy abroad.
Beyond this, though, Olwg’s longer-term vision is perhaps a little more ambitious: “We want to create an ecosystem, a one-stop shop platform, where members can join that have a much broader need for project management tools.” In the future, members of Olwg’s platform – whether private or public stakeholders – could have access to a range of state-of-the-art tools, from CO2 generation impact assessments to energy efficiency models, all
under one roof.