Startup of the Day: Finnish energy tech Steady Energy
Steady Energy is an Espoo-based company dedicated to providing uninterrupted zero-emission energy solutions. The startup was launched in 2023 as a spin-out company from VTT Technical Research Center of Finland by Tommi Nyman, Hannes Haapalahti, and Petteri Tehnunen. Steady Energy’s aim is to decarbonize energy systems and especially heating sector, starting with residential and district heating. Its first LDR-50 based heating plant is planned to be started up by 2030. The company targets Northern and Eastern Europe markets.
In the Startup of the Day column, Tommi Nyman, the co-founder of Steady Energy, shares more details about the startup’s idea, its product, and future plans.
Tell us about your startup. How does it work?
VTT Technical Research Center of Finland started to develop a nuclear reactor based that would be small and safe enough that it would be possible to locate in place of current district heating plants. Development of the LDR-50 district heating reactor was started in February 2020.
LDR-50 is based on passive systems, which means that reactor operation uses natural forces and the number of components that need external energy is minimized. Passive systems make it possible to meet extremely high safety requirements with simplified technology, and hence allow location closer to urban areas.
In June 2023, a VTT spin-off company called Steady Energy was established for the purpose of commercializing the LDR technology. VTT will continue the basic design in the frame of a project agreement made with the company.
Steady Energy will supplement the work by an experimental program, which includes, for example, the construction of a large-scale electrically heated thermal hydraulics test facility. After the experimental program has been completed, Steady Energy will complete the design of the first LDR-50 based heating plant and aim to write the contract with a customer.
Steady Energy will become the supplier of LDR technology, with VTT as its technical support organization. The first nuclear heating plant is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of the decade, after which the technology is finalized for commercial serial production.
How did you come up with the startup’s idea? What was the reason/motivation behind it?
The LDR-50 reactor development started in order to provide a clean energy solution to district heating industry.
We need to decarbonize our energy systems and especially heating sector is looking for sustainable and economical solutions. There are some 3,500 district heating networks throughout Europe, serving a total of 60 million people. 75% of the production is covered by fossil fuels, which need to be replaced by cleaner alternatives.
To date, most of the European networks are located in the Nordic countries, the Baltics and Eastern Central Europe. In addition to climate goals, several countries are looking for options to reduce dependence on natural gas to improve their security of energy supply.
How long did it take to reach the prototype or MVP? What did you encounter?
We do not have a prototype yet. We will invest into research and development work to demonstrate the functionality of the plant by building a 1:1 scale pilot plant powered by electric heat. Pilot plant is planned to be in operation 2026.
When exactly did you launch your product? Or when the launch is planned?
The first LDR-50 based heating plant is planned to be started up by 2030.
Tell us about the startup’s business model. How do you monetize your product?
We have two business models under development:
- Selling heating plants as any other plant supplier with a target CAPEX price that is interesting at market.
- Offering heat-as-service product (with agreed price of energy per MWh) where we arrange the nuclear operation of the heating plant so that the client does not need to develop the specific skills.
What are your target markets and consumers?
Our target markets are Northern and Eastern Europe, especially Finland, Poland, Czech, Estonia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
What about your team? How many people are working in the startup? If you’re looking for new employees, indicate whom exactly.
We have 5 persons with long experience from nuclear and heat energy industry. We are not yet looking for increase of staff, by within 1–2 years we will grow in order to get the pilot plant project realized and start engineering of the complete heating plant.
Have you already raised any investments? Provide us with more details on each funding round: the amount, investors, the purpose of the investment.
In June this year, we received our first seed investment round of €2 million that was co-led by VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, an impartial non-profit Research and Technology Organization, San Francisco-based firm Yes VC, and Finnish investor Lifeline Ventures.
What’s next? Tell us about your future plans.
We will proceed step by step, building commitment and confidence among stakeholders. We will begin with research and development constructing a pilot plant, followed by engineering and construction of the first commercial plant. Our goal is to start the first plant and scale up to industrial production by 2030.