Mar 31, 2020

Ep 255: John Ahlberg - Co-Founder, Kärnfull Energi

Kärnfull Energi
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Show notes

Sweden's first 100% nuclear electricity provider

Growing up in Sweden and early introduction to the Nuclear industry (0:33)
0:33-5:24 (John talks about life in Sweden, introduces himself and Karnfull Energy.)

Q: Can you please introduce yourself?

A: John Ahlberg is the co-founder of Karnfull Energy, Sweden’s first 100% nuclear electricity provider. The company began in August of 2019 and has gained a lot of media attention since.

John was born in 1982 into a family of engineers but decided to take a different career path in marketing and communications. John describes himself as an early adopter of new technologies and ideas, always trying to explain difficult things in the best possible way. Leaving Sweden at 22 years old, John moved to Japan to continue his studies, he later moved to London to work in the Swedish Chamber of Commerce. After his time in London, John moved on to work in a Fintech company as the Communications manager. A role which later saw him move to France and complete 10 years in the Fintech and Digital Security space.

Starting Karnfull Energy with Co-Founder Christian (5:24)
5:24-17:00 (Moving from a career in communications to co-founding a startup)

Q: How did you move into the Nuclear Industry and when did you first have the idea for Karnfull?

A: John’s father studied Nuclear Engineering, this played a strong role in forming a positive opinion of the nuclear industry from a young age. John recalls his father telling him of the great power plants that were supplying energy to Sweden at the time. it wasn’t until much later that John actively looked into the Nuclear industry once again, stating that it was reading about TerraPower, a nuclear reactor design company founded by Bill Gates, that made him go back to examine the claims his father had made when he was younger.

Initial intrigue turned to a sense of urgency after reading the IPCC report of the impact of climate change, and since then Nuclear has been a clear solution to John in achieving our energy and climate goals. John pitched the idea of starting a 100% nuclear electricity provider in Sweden to his friend and now co-founder, Christian, even though companies already existed that offered electricity from 100% renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

At the time, both John and Christian had no prior experience in the nuclear energy or utility industry. Instead, they relied on their drive to learn, with John praising his co-founder for committing himself to acquiring relevant knowledge for the task and cleverly leveraging on the professional networks they had managed to establish over the years.

Shaping public discourse on Nuclear Energy in Sweden (17:00)
17:00-29:20 (Karnfull contributions to shaping the public conversation about nuclear in Sweden.)

Q: What is the public opinion towards nuclear energy in Sweden? And how is Karnfull Energy adding to the discourse?

A: The Swedish government committed to transitioning the national grid to 100% renewables, and even though Sweden is one of the leading nuclear nations in the world, the government still plans to close down existing nuclear plants without replacing them. A plan that John expresses concern over, using Germany as an example of a nation that has turned to fossil fuels as a backup for its’ intermittent renewable (wind and solar) energy systems.

John and his team saw this a good opportunity to start a campaign to spread information to the public about nuclear energy, and their starting point? Convincing their spouses and family members who held anti-nuclear beliefs.

This exercise became the foundation of how they modeled the way they spoke about nuclear, explaining the facts in an interesting manner and with reliable sources. Another initiative Karnfull energy has started making donations for every kWh, which is allocated towards nuclear science and research. This campaign has helped people in Sweden actively learn and contribute to the growth of the nuclear industry.

Another initiative Karnfull started is setting up an advisory board filled with nuclear industry experts and public figures that have provided publicity and positive associations. One name on the advisory board is Jose Gonzalez (Singer/Songwriter), who has become a strong supporter of the nuclear industry.

The future of Karnfull Energy (29:20)
29:20-39:00 (John discusses the future ambitions for karnfull energy and plans to continue to promote the nuclear industry in Sweden)

Q: What does the future hold for Karnfull Energy?

A: John says that they do their best to keep karnfull away from political issues, and feels the company can benefit more from talking about the benefits that the nuclear industry brings to Sweden and the world at large.

John takes the responsibility of representing the nuclear industry with his company very seriously and sees it as an honor, one that he wants to take full control of and use to the best of his abilities, ultimately working to provide the public enough information about nuclear energy so that regular people can have dinner conversations about nuclear energy without the conversations becoming dogmatized or odd. John acknowledges that this mission could take his whole life, but he is committed and the company will continue on their current part and look to improve operations over 2020 while balancing the pressures that come with running a startup.

Another opportunity Karnfull is looking into is taking over operations of nuclear plants scheduled to be shut down, although this is still ambitious for the current stage of Karnfull, in a few years, it could very well become a strong possibility.

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