Reading graduate, Dr Marek Kubik, has become a key figure in the global drive for renewable energy. In his role as Managing Director at Fluence – a global leader in energy storage products and services – his mission is to help the UK meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.
“I think engineering and technology have a critical role in our future prosperity and survival as a species,” Marek shared. “Key to this is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy, for which energy storage is the critical missing piece.
“Electricity is one of the most fundamental and universal technologies underpinning our society. Ensuring it is clean, reliable, accessible and affordable for all is about as noble and important a pursuit as I can think of.”
Engineering runs back a few generations in the Kubik family, and this, combined with his own “innate curiosity”, laid out the pathway for Marek’s career. After completing an engineering master’s degree at Durham University, Marek came to Reading to pursue doctoral studies in the School of the Built Environment.
“My studies investigated the impact of high levels of variable or intermittent renewable generation, such as wind power, on the operation of electricity grids. This led to proposing some of the solutions to help us on the pathway to 100% sustainable energy.”
While Marek’s work in terms of renewable energy is by no means complete, his doctoral work is already making a difference.
He said: “The achievement that I’m most proud of is seeing the research I completed become directly relevant and actionable to enable the rapid acceleration of renewable generation.
“My research led to the development of the first utility-scale commercial battery energy storage facility in Europe. It has served as a catalyst for massive energy storage growth that is vital for enabling the UK’s legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050.”
A pioneer in energy storage
After completing his doctoral studies at Reading, Marek had a clear next career step lined up to continue his pursuit for sustainability.
He said: “I went on to work for my industry sponsor AES Corporation, taking a direct report role to the President of their UK and Ireland business, and informing their growth strategy.
“This led me to take the lead on building the investment case for a 10MW energy storage project – at that time one of the largest batteries in the world – which was completed in 2015. From this initial 10MW energy storage project, there are now over 1,000MW of batteries operational in the UK.
“I then took a leap of faith and moved to Amsterdam to further establish and scale a business to sell energy storage technology to other developers, which – after a joint venture with Siemens at the end of 2017 – became known as Fluence.
“Fluence is an energy storage technology and services company,” Marek explained.
“Put simply, we design, install and then guarantee the long-term performance of huge battery energy storage systems. These help integrate renewable energy to the grid and accelerate the pathway to a 100% sustainable energy system.
“We are the market leader at what we do, with over 2,000MW of projects already operational or in construction. As a founding member and director, I lead our regional team in the UK and Ireland, where we have a sizeable fleet of projects.”
At the end of 2020 Fluence reached ‘unicorn’ status – which is the term used when a privately held startup business reaches a valuation of $1 billion – and in November 2021, it made its debut on the Nasdaq Stock Market with an initial public offering signalling its rapid growth to meet the decarbonisation challenge.
Achieving 100% sustainable energy
For several years after leaving Reading, Marek remained a Visiting Fellow which saw him return to the University and co-author some academic publications. He firmly believes that his doctoral studies have played an important role in his journey to helping create a more sustainable future for all of us.
He said: “If you can find the right balance between academia and industry, a doctorate is a real propellant to a successful career.
“I’m a firm believer in the power of technology to drastically advance our living standards and wellbeing. My goal is now to get us to a 100% sustainable energy future as fast as possible.”