Interview with our CEO Niclas Davidsson

2019 is looking to become an interesting year for Meva Energy AB. We caught up with CEO Niclas Davidsson and he describes how the quest of affordable and effective sustainable solutions drives global attention to the company.

We met with Niclas at the company’s headquarters in Hisings Backa, Gothenburg. An industrial area right next to the Göta älv in the heart of the process industry on the west coast of Sweden.

How long have you worked for Meva Energy?

Five years. I started in the spring of 2014, when the company had recently moved its headquarters to Gothenburg, to gain access to a larger labor market with technical and industrial expertise, from Skellefteå in the north of Sweden where the company was founded in 2008. I initially started at Meva Energy as VP of Business Development and in 2016 I became CEO of the company.

Why did you choose Meva Energy?

At the time I was working with clean energy solutions based on the utilization of poor energy gases and I was contacted by Meva Energy with a proposal about technical cooperation. The discussions did not end up with anything like that but instead I set up some calculations as for the cost of gas production with the Meva technology and I saw some great potential. When I looked at the case from a prospective client perspective, I saw a solution that could offer perhaps the lowest production cost in the industry. Then I thought – here I want to work! Obviously, the interest was mutual, and I was offered a position as VP Business Development. So, some months later I joined Meva Energy. At the time, Meva had just moved to Gothenburg, and we were only three people working there. I remember that one of the first things I did at work was to get a proper sign for the entry door…

What did you do before getting into clean energy?

After university I first worked as a business analyst at the global management consulting group Accenture. There I worked with procurement projects for clients in the automotive and consumer goods industries. I then worked as a new business manager at Awapatent, an intellectual property law firm. I headed their development of client relations and accounts, working with Californian/US East coast tech companies. Then I moved into the clean tech sector. I started to work for Azelio as head of business development. Since then I have stayed in the clean tech sector. I really enjoy it. The combination of entrepreneurship, innovation and helping to solve problems that benefit society is rewarding.

What did you study? 

I have a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Management from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg. I spent some time abroad studying at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria as well. I have attended an exchange program in entrepreneurship at Berkeley, Haas School of Business at the University of California in the US. My studies abroad have been satisfying. In addition to promoting my language skills in English and German, they have increased my skills in conducting business internationally.

Why did you choose industrial engineering?

It is a good education. It gives a broad overview of both engineering and business and economics. Also, industrial engineering is an excellent path for aspiring managers which attracted me. I chose Chalmers because it is an outstanding institution. In addition, I originally come from the city of Borås which is close to Gothenburg.

What is Meva’s product offering?

We provide industrial scale energy plants, turnkey solutions for clients. It is based on a gasification technology for renewable energy production, emanated from a research project in biomass gasification starting at the Luleå University of Technology in 1995. Small fraction fuels like sawdust, wood fibers and agricultural residues are used. It is a complete system from gasifier to syngas cleaning for production of renewable fuel gas which is fed to a power engine genset for distributed production of power and heat. Our renewable gas can also replace fossil gases such as natural gas or propane in for instance, an industrial drying process.

What is so interesting with Meva’s technology?

In short: Mevas’s ability to provide probably the industry’s lowest production cost for renewable gas. This cost-effectiveness is number one, and it is critical. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has compared the cost effectiveness of various climate investments in terms of reduced kg CO2/EUR and in that comparison our technology is one of the most cost-effective available on the market. This is so important, there is no place for costly solutions.

The key to achieve this is the simplicity of the technology and the acceptance for low-cost biomass residue feedstocks.

What fuels do you use?

No competitor can handle small fraction fuels like we can. With our solution we can turn sawdust and other residue that today has little or no value for companies at all, into valuable fossil-free fuel. Our solution is an industrial-scale, simple and stable one. A local circular energy system. Another very interesting feature is that our technology has a broad application area. Right now, we are focusing on wood-based biomass and production of biogas for industrial use, but we have received requests for many other applications and feedstock types.

When will you get your first commercial order for a power plant?

Well, we actually already did. Back in 2011 we received our first order of a full-scale commercial plant from the local utility company Pite Energi in Sweden. The plant, based in the village of Hortlax in the north of Sweden, produce 1.2 MW electricity and 2.4 MW heat. However due to low electricity prices in Sweden it never was taken into operation and since 2018 Meva Energy is the owner of the plant. We use it as our test plant and invite prospective clients and partners to visit it. I hope we will get our second commercial order this year.

Where are your prospective clients? 

Our prospective clients come from all over the World. I am truly amazed. We have requests from countries on four continents without us having done any marketing efforts apart from attending conferences where we have presented our technology and having been given awards for our technology. In 2018 we were selected as one of three finalists in the category ”Low Carbon Energy Production” by the German Energy Agency and we won the prestigious EU-China Cleantech competition. We have had requests from companies from many countries in different industries. Paper and pulp companies that want us to replace their fossil gas with our biogas for industrial drying processes and companies producing wood furniture who want an industrial scale renewable gas plant, for heat and power, just to mention two.

Who are your partners?

We have several strategic partnerships. American Cummins Power Solutions, our engine provider, that caters for gas generator sets for our power plants is one important partner. 2JCP, a company from the Czech Republic, that produces pre-fabricated modules for our power plants, is another one. European clean tech investor InnoEnergy, that invested MEUR 2.9 in Meva Energy in 2017, and the Swedish Energy Agency which has also provided support, should be mentioned among our strategic partners as well.

Where are your competitors?

We are facing very little head on competition in general terms the competitors are mostly in Europe, mainly in Sweden and Germany, but also outside Europe, in Canada and China. There is really no competition from companies in the US. Historically the US has been geared more towards fossil fuels than renewable. This might change however in a rapidly developing world.

Climate change is the big topic now. How does this affect Meva Energy?

It is having a tremendous effect. A big change happened 2 years ago in Europe when companies started to discussCO2 emissions more frequently. The Paris Agreement and CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) are important in raising awareness It is obvious that companies want to be a part of a sustainable solution where greenhouse emissions are being cut in order to combat climate change. We see many companies who have set climate targets and started measuring their carbon footprint now taking the next step, basically preparing for investments and introducing new technologies in their industrial processes. It is a kind of awakening. I think the market interest for this type of technology will multiply the next few years. There is also an economic aspect of this. With rising prices in the EUs Emissions Trading System, our solution becomes more and more attractive.

How many people are working at Meva?

At present 8 people are working at our headquarters in Gothenburg. And at our plant in Hortlax in Piteå another 4 people are employed so in total 12 people. We expect to grow the organization. It is a good group of people at Meva. Both motivated and highly skilled. Among our workforce there are several people with degrees in engineering and there are even employees with PhDs. We have good discussions when we are working together.

What drives the people at Meva?

We really want to be part of a solution to make business more environmentally sound. One thing we discussed recently is that it is maybe too much focus on the transport sector when it comes to reducing emissions. 24 percent of the world’s energy consumption is used for industrial process heat. If fossil fuels here could be replaced by renewable fuels at least in part (from our solution and others) it would make a great difference. 

What do you do when you are not working?

I am married. I have two children, who are 9 and 11 years old and that takes some time. I enjoy the outdoors. I like orienteering, which combines navigational skills with running. I also enjoy my motorcycle – both riding it and repairing it – when needed.

Interview by Jonas A. Eriksson, NM22