Message from the CEO

7 March 2014

Women: Lighting the Path for a Clean Energy Future.

The Theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Inspiring Change.  Today women are inspiring change in the global energy landscape-lighting a pathway to increasing access to affordable, clean and reliable energy in off-grid rural areas.

Energy - specifically electricity – plays a crucial role in development and in making people’s lives better. The IEA estimates that 1.6 billion people lack access to reliable forms of energy, a statistic we cannot afford to ignore.  

Access to Energy - or energy democratization - is critical for the health, wellbeing and empowerment of all people. Energy enables the “simple” things we take for granted: refrigeration for food preservation or medications, pumping systems for clean water, medical equipment, lighting and communications. The lack of energy impacts the lives of women in a significant fashion. In rural areas of Kenya, for example, fetching water may use up to 85% of a women’s daily energy intake.
Collecting biomass (the main energy source for 2.5 billion people in the developing world) and cooking on inefficient and dangerous devices poses an additional burden on women. A United Nations Development Program initiative in Burkina Faso showed that access to electricity saved women two to six hours a day on domestic chores. The average literacy rate also increased from 29 percent to 39 percent in 14 villages as the time available and increased power for lighting meant that women and girls could study during the evening hours. 

At present there are three approaches to bringing electricity to remote areas. First, extend the national grid but this is at best a long term hope for many countries. Second, deploy off grid technologies, in particular renewable energy solutions (e.g solar for homes). Third, create localised ‘mini-grid’ networks with a centralised distribution centre. Innovation and scale up hold the key to advancing both off-grid solutions and localised ‘mini-grids’. Today, alternative sources of energy present developing countries with the lowest cost, scalable and most flexible solutions.

Solar power is playing an important role in supporting local communities with ‘off grid’ technologies. A good example of this is the experience of Eva Walusimbi, a community leader in Central Uganda, who joined Solar Sister, a group founded by Katherine Lucey, a former investment banker who understood the importance of solving energy poverty through a market mechanism.

Having seen innocent children die in house fires caused by naked flames, Eva Walusimbi understood how important it was to provide safe and workable alternative solutions to reduce energy poverty in her community. She is now one of the women trained by Solar Sister, who, using their community networks of family and neighbors build their own solar lighting businesses, earning a commission on each sale, much like Avon ladies selling cosmetics!

The Clean Cookstoves Alliance has a technology and fuel neutral approach, seeking all solutions that are clean, efficient and scalable. In this way not only the time and labor women spend collecting fuel will be reduced but the four million premature deaths that occur each year due to hazardous cooking conditions will be prevented.  

Like Solar Sister, they have recognized the valuable role that women can play as entrepreneurs within the cookstove and fuel value chains.

These are but a few examples of how sustainable energy systems can empower women, freeing up valuable time that can then be spent on education, in the workforce and in nurturing families.

It should be one of the goals of this generation to ensure that this energy gap is closed. Prioritizing energy access in our lifetime will benefit everybody and, women and girls are leading the way.


22 March 2013

Simple Ideas Can Change the World

Currently the world uses over 85 million barrels of petroleum per day. With global primary energy demand growing at a rate of 1.6% per year, overall demand will double during the next 40-50 years. In addition, the IEA estimates that we need to introduce more than 30% zero-carbon fuels into the global energy pool to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at 450 parts per million during that time span.

So, how do we balance the need to bring stable and plentiful energy to a global population in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner?  By attacking the problem and seizing the opportunity from all sides: innovation, conservation and most of all commitment and co-operation.

This year, Earth Hour took place on Saturday March 23, 8:30pm.  Very simply, Earth Hour is a time when people around the world turn off the lights for one hour.  The purpose of this simple act is to bring awareness to our global need to take care of our planet.  The concept is simply to come together globally to take action, be inspired and then translate that moment of inspiration into action throughout the year.  For me – it is an hour to not only remember that we must care for our planet and its natural resources – but also a reminder that more than a billion people today do not have access to electricity.  Imagine that life…no running water, no way to read at night, no way to keep food refrigerated…    

Earth Hour started in one city, Sydney, Australia, nine years ago.  Today, it is the largest movement for the planet in human history, spanning 7,001 cities, 152 countries with a digital reach of 200 million. It shows you how a small team of determined people can take a simple new idea and inspire a global movement for change. As always with anything a little different, there is a lot of negative press surrounding taking this simple action; but that is expected as with all things new, there are always calls for inaction.  So many reasons to do absolutely nothing, to support the status quo and to hope that everything will be magically better despite that.  

LanzaTech chooses to act.  Developing a technology that can change the future of fuels and chemicals isn't enough.  We must also lead by example and be conscious of the impact of everything we do every single day.  So on Friday March 22, at every one of our global locations, we observed Earth Hour Day by trying to cut back on our use of resources for the day. We also encouraged our staff, their families and our business partners to take part in Earth Hour on March 23.

Of course turning off the lights for one hour isn’t going solve the world’s energy problems.  We need to combine personal consciousness with bold new ideas that promise real solutions through energy efficiency and new renewable energy technologies.

LanzaTech continues to execute on the vision that we can meet the world’s growing energy needs, enabling sustainable industrial growth while at the same time ensuring thatall people across all global economies have equal access to clean energy. 

To me, Earth Hour is much, much more than a symbolic action of switching off lights for an hour; it’s a continuous movement driving actions, big and small, that are changing the world we live in.   "Be the change you want to see."

-Jennifer Holmgren


4 December 2012

Why Store Carbon Underground When You Can Reuse it In a Chemical?

As scientists, policymakers, environmentalists and industries around the world grapple with the challenge of reducing carbon emissions, much effort is spent on finding ways to do what we have always done with waste – bury it. Various proposals and research projects have focused on storing (or "sequestering") carbon in underground formations.

There’s no doubt many of these carbon sequestration technologies have great promise, but they reflect a continuation of the “old-school” approach to waste. There is, however, a new generation of renewable technologies that are putting a new twist on this age-old problem of carbon waste — carbon recycling.

Companies are working on technologies that will transform waste gases like CO and CO2 from energy intensive industries into fuels and chemicals. So, instead of storing the carbon underground, it will be reused in fuels and chemicals.

In doing so, these technologies reduce overall emissions while at the same time it substitutes carbon from new fossil fuels. By creating a revenue stream from emissions, energy intensive industries finally have a powerful incentive to invest in these technologies.

Technologies are indeed rapidly moving into commercial scales of production. Just a few years ago the potential of using CO2 as a resource was surprising and welcome news in scientific publications. Today we are learning about new technologies that are coming online in real world facilities and are starting to make significant breakthroughs in carbon reuse technology.

Companies that use biological organisms to consume CO2 are advancing in leaps and bounds. Sapphire Energy has opened an impressive biorefinery in New Mexico that will grow algae and refine it into a renewable substitute for crude oil. The process will reuse significant quantities of carbon dioxide.

Companies like Fulcrum BioEnergy, which is building a facility to convert municipal solid waste into low-carbon renewable ethanol, will divert large volumes of garbage that would otherwise have been buried in landfills.

Here at LanzaTech we are using biological organisms to transform industrial waste gases like carbon monoxide into fuels and chemicals through our gas fermentation technology. In doing so, the technology reduces overall emissions as it substitutes carbon from fossil fuels. We are currently operating at pre-commercial-scale in Shanghai, China at a facility we’ve developed with Baosteel, one of the largest steel producers in the world, and plan to move into commercial operation in 2013.

One reason these carbon recycling approaches are moving so quickly is that they can create value from waste. Depending on the industry, the producer can meet regulatory requirements, potentially earn credits for CO2 reductions, and drive revenue from products derived from emissions. Technology providers like LanzaTech benefit because we can procure gas resources, which are typically 80 percent of the cost of the finished product, at low costs.

Carbon taxation, trading schemes and government policies are becoming increasingly prevalent globally, but the real driving force behind developments in industry is the fact that new technologies are challenging the traditional assumptions about how best to deal with waste. By giving industry a tool to reuse waste and derive a profit, these new technologies have the potential to accelerate overall emissions reductions at a time when the world needs it most.

This entire discussion was best framed by economist Stuart L. Hart in a Harvard Business Review article. Hart stated: “Rarely is greening linked to strategy or technology development, and as a result, many companies fail to recognize opportunities of potentially staggering proportions.”

We are at the cusp of helping energy intensive industries realize “opportunities of staggering proportions” as technologies that convert waste into valuable fuels and chemicals evolve and scale, and as industries around the world begin adopting their use. We should be asking ourselves, if these technologies are available now, why on earth are we still considering burying carbon?

By Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech


October 20, 2012

Biofuel's Digest's Hot 50 and Hot 30

Dear friends,

On Monday night US time, Biofuels Digest announced the results of the 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy and the 30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals after 2 months of competitive balloting involving both public and private fuels and chemicals companies. 

It is with great pleasure that I inform you that LanzaTech was voted the No.3 hottest company in Bioenergy and the No. 7 hottest company in Renewable Chemicals!

I would like take this opportunity to say “thank you” to all of you for supporting us on our journey.

The lists were selected and ranked by subscribers to Biofuels Digest, members of the Biofuels Digest Online Community, and an international panel of industry CEOs, reporters, trade association leaders and prominent scientists. Non-subscribers were also able to cast their ballot through twitter. LanzaTech’s twitter following was especially high and boosted our position early in the voting. So-an additional thank you goes out to those who supported us in 140 characters or less!

A large percentage of the vote came from an invited panel that ranked credibility of the company as the most important criteria, followed by unique technology and the right strategic partners. Large-scale projects addressing urgent industry needs were also favored.  It is nice to see that the biofuels and biochemicals communities believe  that LanzaTech is able to tick these boxes-and with the development of our chemicals portfolio, we have demonstrated that we are not just a ‘Hot Bioenergy Company’ but are making significant strides in the field of renewable chemicals.

Our global partners have played a key role in validating our fuels and chemicals platforms. Their support coupled with all the hard work of the LanzaTech Team, will surely result in the successful commercialization  of our technology platform.     

Biofuels Digest editor, Jim Lane, who founded the rankings in 2008, has said of the rankings that credibility is one thing-but you that alone makes you good, but not hot. Conversely, if you have visibility but no credibility, you may have hype, but not heat.  

LanzaTech has demonstrated that we have the right combination of both to be a truly HOT company-and we will now take a moment to enjoy it! Join me. You deserve it.

Jennifer Holmgren



April 22, 2012

Every Day is Earth Day

Energy powers human progress.

Global need for energy is expanding and we need to produce more and in addition, over 1.4 billion people lack access to the energy required to feed and care for their families; educate themselves or quite simply have a safe and secure life after dark. The need for energy is universal and is an essential part of every family, every village, town and nation.

This need will impact the environment, specifically climate change with its potential to bring droughts, floods, diseases and geopolitical conflict for resources and raw materials.

I agree with the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Kandeh Yumkella, indeed universal access to sustainable energy will become the catalyst for the Third Industrial Revolution. Energy drives economies - this statement has stood the test of time.

We are currently using over 85M barrels of petroleum per day and global energy demand is growing at a rate of 1.6% per year.  What does this mean in real terms?

It means quite simply that global demand for energy will double over the next 40-50 years.  In addition, the IEA estimates that we need to introduce over 30% zero carbon fuels into the global energy pool to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels.

The impact on our planet of trying to meet this energy growth target without reducing our carbon footprint is becoming increasingly clear.  It is our responsibility to seize upon this as an opportunity to make a change.

In fact, we can meet this challenge if we use all the scientific tools we have at our disposal and embrace new ideas.  New energy solutions are increasingly available to us; solutions that create low carbon fuels from waste resources will mitigate GHG emissions, increase energy security and promote energy democratization. This is progress.

In addition, I believe that solutions to these global challenges must be found at the regional level. Communities need solutions that integrate well with local requirements and leverage local resources; in the case of energy production- using waste gases from local industry or local agricultural waste products or municipal solid waste.

We need the world’s collective intellect and passion to change the status quo. Through global initiatives, like the UN’s 2012 Sustainable Energy 4 all program- we will be able to harness ideas, innovations and emerging technologies while bringing together a team that is capable of making a real material difference.

This year, 22nd April was Earth Day. 
Let us celebrate our planet by remembering that we must work to save it every single day.  Our future depends upon solutions which defy our current definition of energy sources and how energy should be utilized or deployed. It is a global opportunity to challenge our assumptions and innovate to change the rules.

We must change the rules so we can ensure everyone on this Earth has access to

That is progress.

Dr. Jennifer Holmgren 
CEO of LanzaTech.