Sweetch Energy is a French startup specialising in osmotic energy. Following an initial investment by EDF Hydro, EDF Pulse Ventures has now acquired a stake in the company. Loïc Raynal, investment director in charge of the deal, and Pascale Gueville Fortino, project manager at EDF Hydro, explain the EDF Group's choice.

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Can you explain Sweetch Energy's expertise?

 LR-Sweetch Energy is developing a technology that transforms osmotic energy into electricity. Osmotic energy is the energy released naturally when two waters with different salt concentrations meet, through the phenomenon of osmosis. Sweetch Energy can therefore transform a salinity gradient into electricity. The company is using breakthroughs made by the CNRS, in particular the properties of nanotubes and its INOD (ionic nano-osmotic diffusion) technology, to develop an osmotic reactor capable of generating electricity continuously and at a reasonable cost.

What is the potential of osmotic energy [1] compared with other renewable energies? 

LR-The greatest potential for osmotic energy lies in estuaries. The natural osmotic power in all the world's estuaries is around 1,300 GW. The aim is to capture part of this 1,300 GW. On a French scale (including overseas territories), we estimate a market potential of 30 TWh/year, equivalent to supplying electricity to more than 6 million homes.

Why would a startup like Sweetch Energy be of interest to the EDF Group? 

PGF-Sweetch Energy is developing an innovative and promising technology to produce a new type of low-carbon renewable energy that is non-intermittent and does not use scarce or stressed resources. Sweetch Energy's area of expertise is the osmotic reactor. The reactor has to fit into an environment that EDF, and in particular EDF Hydro, masters. Indeed, a significant part of an osmotic energy installation consists of bringing salt water and fresh water to the osmotic reactor, then returning the mixed water to the estuary. The contribution of a player like EDF Hydro, a leader in hydropower in Europe, is therefore key to the development of osmotic energy. 

LR-The development and use of low-carbon energies is at the heart of the EDF Group's raison d'être. By joining forces with a company like Sweetch Energy, EDF is helping to create a new renewable energy sector, which represents an opportunity to diversify its energy mix and strengthen its position as a low-carbon electricity producer.

EDF Hydro has already invested in Sweetch Energy in 2022. Why did EDF Pulse Ventures, the EDF Group's corporate venture, want to invest today? What does it mean? 

PGF-EDF Hydro was a pioneer within the Group and wanted to invest in Sweetch Energy in 2022 (by subscribing to convertible bonds, i.e. in the form of a loan) to move from a laboratory membrane with remarkable properties to a prototype that produces electricity. This stage was successfully completed, thanks in part to the Group's support. The company has just raised funds to move from a laboratory prototype to a large-scale prototype on a real site. 

LR-EDF Pulse Ventures wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen the links between the EDF Group and Sweetch Energy by becoming a minority shareholder in the company.

What are the advantages of Sweetch Energy's solution compared with other players on the market? 

LR-Sweetch Energy is a pioneer in its field, with few competitors. In comparison, through its proprietary INOD technology, the company offers a solution that is significantly less expensive than the other players, with higher efficiency and bio-based materials.

[1] Energy officially recognised as renewable in the Energy Code.