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Interview with Robert Lems, CEO of HoSt Bio-Energy Systems North America

18 June 2024
In an exclusive interview, Robert Lems, CEO of HoSt Bio-Energy Systems North America, shares his visionary insights into the future of renewable energy and sustainability. Lems discusses the alignment of his personal vision with the strategic priorities of HoSt, emphasizing the importance of innovative technologies and industry-wide collaboration in driving the energy transition. He highlights key milestones, technological advancements, and the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and corporate social responsibility. Through his leadership, HoSt continues to pioneer in anaerobic digestion technologies, carbon capture, renewable hydrogen, and other cutting-edge solutions, positioning the company at the forefront of the renewable energy sector. Join us as we explore how HoSt is shaping a sustainable future and leading the way toward carbon negativity.

 
Robert Lems near Mt Hood in Oregon

Visionary Leadership

Q: How has your personal vision for renewable energy and sustainability influenced the strategic priorities of HoSt Bio-Energy Systems North America?

Robert Lems: My personal vision and HoSt’s strategy are closely aligned. HoSt Bio-Energy Systems is dedicated not only to selling sustainable products but also to actively supporting and participating in the energy transition. This aligns with my belief that a better and more sustainable future starts with actions we can directly influence, no matter how small or big.

Strategic Priorities and Milestones

Q: Looking ahead, what are the key milestones you aim to achieve in the next year, and how do they pave the way for the long-term goals of the company?

Robert Lems: We plan to expand our team, enhance our product portfolio, and strengthen our service department. As our team grows and gains experience, we can tackle more complex projects and diversify our offerings, including renewable hydrogen, CO2 reuse, carbon capture, biomass boilers, and bio-methanol. However, achieving a truly sustainable future requires robust local services to support these advancements.

CO2 liquefaction at AD plant Wabico - HoSt Group

Technological Advancements

Q: What breakthrough technologies in biogas are you most excited about, and how is HoSt planning to integrate these into your operations?

Robert Lems: I’m particularly excited about carbon capture and CO2 reuse. The future lies in not just being carbon neutral but going carbon negative.

Industry Dynamics

Q: With the evolving landscape of the renewable energy sector, how is HoSt adapting its business model to stay at the forefront of the industry?

Robert Lems: HoSt has always been an early adopter of new technology. We started building digesters almost 40 years ago and were the first to implement high-selective membranes for biogas upgrading on a large scale. Now, we are leading in carbon capture and CO2 reuse and are already exploring future value propositions like bio-methanol and renewable hydrogen.

Industry Collaboration and Evolution

Q: In what ways do you foresee industry-wide collaboration contributing to the evolution of RNG (Renewable Natural Gas) practices, and what role will HoSt play in facilitating these advancements?

Robert Lems: The industry must aim to become carbon neutral, with leaders striving for carbon negativity. This doesn’t mean relying on a single energy solution like wind, solar, or RNG. Each application has unique needs requiring different energy sources and solutions. HoSt Bio-Energy Systems is positioned to provide integrated solutions, from hydrogen for energy transportation and storage to RNG for high-intensity applications and bio-methanol for high-value polymers and fuels. We will continue to innovate and adapt as the industry evolves.

 

 

“We hire individuals with a genuine drive for sustainability and nurture their development through servant leadership. By empowering people to work in areas they are passionate about, we create an environment where innovation thrives. Leading by example is crucial, and this ethos permeates the entire organization.”

Regulatory Landscape

Q: Could you discuss how changes in the regulatory environment might impact your growth strategy, especially in markets that are critical for RNG?

Robert Lems: Fossil fuels have had a significant head start, benefiting from over a century of development and subsidies while externalizing environmental costs. It’s promising that solar and wind energy are becoming cheaper than coal-based electricity, but there is still a substantial gap to bridge. Government policies that require industries to account for the true cost of their pollution will accelerate the transition. While supportive policies and financing for R&D are beneficial, I believe that individuals and companies like HoSt will drive the necessary changes, regardless of government actions, albeit at varying speeds.

Robert Lems at desk in Vancouver, Washington

Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

Q: How is HoSt advancing its growth ambitions and commitments to environmental stewardship and corporate social responsibility?

Robert Lems: HoSt globally has implemented numerous measures, including generating our own electricity from solar, purchasing carbon credits, and using RNG-powered vehicles. In Vancouver we are recognized as a certified green office environment and have a green team that is active in the community. Currently, we are evaluating our corporate footprint and ecological goals, which will guide further improvements. Our next step is to extend this commitment through our entire supply chain, ensuring our partners and suppliers are aligned with our sustainability goals.

Vancouver, WA Office of HoSt

Future of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG)

Q: What do you perceive as the future role of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) in global energy systems, and how is HoSt preparing to meet the demands of this future?

Robert Lems: When I started in this industry 19 years ago, RNG was projected to replace a maximum of 5% of natural gas usage. Today, Denmark already exceeds 35%, and nearly all CNG used in California transportation is RNG-based due to the LCFS. I worked on a project in Honolulu aiming to replace nearly 5% of the island’s RNG needs. As landfill bans increase and natural gas consumption decreases, I strongly believe RNG will eventually replace all fossil natural gas. At HoSt, my vision is for our RNG plants to prevent CO2 emissions equivalent to a country like Luxembourg within the next five years.

Robert Lems in CPR Training with HoSt team

Impact and Measurement

Q: What key performance indicators do you consider most critical for measuring the success of your initiatives in RNG production?

Robert Lems: Client and employee satisfaction are paramount. High levels of satisfaction in both areas create a self-sustaining cycle of success. Motivated employees innovate and develop superior systems, while satisfied clients continue to advance their projects using our technology.

Leadership and Culture

Q: How do you cultivate a culture of innovation within HoSt, and what role does leadership play in fostering this environment?

Robert Lems: We hire individuals with a genuine drive for sustainability and nurture their development through servant leadership. By empowering people to work in areas they are passionate about, we create an environment where innovation thrives. Leading by example is crucial, and this ethos permeates the entire organization.