Having rarely experienced power outages in Canada and Saudi Arabia, on his return to his homeland, Lebanon, Antoine Saab, had dreamed of leading a relaxed life.
“I decided to take it easy and stop my crazy startup stuff, I decided to come back to Lebanon, sit at the pool, smoke a cigar and relax,” said Saab.
Or so he though. The war had badly damaged Lebanon’s electrical infrastructure and although the country was slowly limping back, power outages were a norm. Those who could afford, supplemented the government’s energy ration with a gas-guzzling generator.
Given his engineering background as well as a stint as the CEO of a startup – Turbine Energy, Saab struck on an energy storage solution that gathers and stores electricity from either solar panels or the grid. Since his goal was to provide the masses electricity 24 hours a day, he named his company E24.
“We found out in a study on the impact of [gas] generators that people who live very close to them are exposed to airborne carcinogens that are emitted through the exhaust, through the emissions from these generators,” says Dr. Nadim Farajalla, director of the Climate Change and Environment program at the American University of Beirut. “My immediate concern would be for the health aspect; my next concern would be on carbon emissions.”
Apart from the direct benefits to health and the environment, Saab says his solution is also more cost effective than paying for utilities. At the time of power outages, Saab’s energy storage system kicks in and releases electricity to keep the lights and the refrigerator running.
“One day, the generator went down and everyone else’s electricity died,” said Saab laughing. “I had the storage system so my neighbors came and asked where I stole the electricity from.”
Much like an uninterrupted power supply (UPS), the E24 stores electricity and release it during power outages. But E24’s customers wanted to not only power homes but their factories as well. Scaling its energy solutions system into a larger is not so simple since you have to factor in fluctuating utility voltage and frequency.
“It takes brains and development, and it takes money,” says Saab. “It’s not easy.”
It took 2 years of research and development for E24 to come up with an industrial scale energy storage unit that can mitigate power outages for factories. Although E24 was officially incorporated in 2011, it was able to commercially sell products only in 2013.
In December 2014, he won the Lebanese Bader Startup Cup and the following year he was busy raising funds from three venture capital firms. In December 2015, he partnered with Beirut-based Leap Ventures and created a $3 million fund with the 15 top banks in Lebanon as investors, which include Byblos Bank, Bank Audi, SGBL, Fransabank and Blom Bank among others.
Now, E24 also creates energy generators, including solar power plants. So as to mitigate the risks of power outages, the company’s energy storage solution packs a punch with 2,000KW solar solution that can 2,000 smartphones charged for a full year.
E24 has also ventured into the eVillage concept wherein its energy solution will power 50 restaurants, residences, stores and swimming pool by sustainable power.
“EVillage is a technology that we developed from scratch that allows us to power entire villages and provide them with the luxury of 24/7 electricity using solar energy rather than using any polluting generators,” says Saab.
Step by step, E24 has done much to mitigate the chronic power outages that plagued Lebanon, said Saab.