Influencer Robert Rosa
Interview October 2020
Could you share with us some information of your family life? And can you share something on your educational background?
I was born in Curaçao and also lived 3 years in Aruba before I left to Holland as an adolescent and studied Engineering at the TU Delft. I have earned a Masters Degree in Commercial Real Estate. I have one sister, she is a pilot working at the Emirates Airlines and she lives in Dubai. I am 35 years old and my significant other is also an entrepreneur. Both my parents are still alive and they have played a very important role in my life. They have helped me become whom I am right now. I now live for 6 months in Curaçao and the other 6 months in Holland, but also partially in Dubai. My parents were very enabling and giving both of us, the freedom to choose our own course in my life. Since I was young, as I am a very curious person, they allowed and enabled me to discover and experience things that I would consider interesting. Depending on my interests, I experimented a lot for constructive reasons, and I have learned so many things doing this. I have developed a very open mindset.
I was one of the founding members of ABC Compas and this organization, with now over 200 members, aims to offer students for the Antilles a place to meet each other and also stimulates students to develop competencies so that they can work on problems our islands might have and work on implementing these problems with proven solutions.
After my studies, I started my own business in Real Estate, but after some 3 to 4 years I changed my course as I came across something else on my journey and that was the technology for the direct capture of CO2 from the air (Direct Air Capture) aimed at positively influencing climate change in the world and this is now my passion and what I am doing right now.
Could you share something of your experiences?
During my studies I was very active in different student committees and I was a co-founfer of ABC Compas as I mentioned before. Especially during my ABC Compas time, I learned so many new things, like being pro-active, starting whatever initiative at first as a vision and then planning and implementing it until it was done and even after care. As I didn’t have any experience before in this kind of work, I learned by “failing forward” as I was unsure if the initiative would be successful in the end. We were like “..do it first and then (re)think.. “ and we were a small group of 4 to 5 persons and nowadays, ABC Compas still fulfills an important role accompanying students as they arrive in Holland in their first year in a totally foreign country. These first months of the new students are so important, as there are so many things that can go wrong, so it helps them in their successful adjustment to their new normal in Delft-Holland. Furthermore, we try to nurture them to, as they focus on their studies, to also think on how they can be helpful in the solution of the challenges all these islands in the Caribbean have. We focus on mostly the ABC-islands, but also on all students from the Caribbean region. If we try something out in Curaçao or Aruba or Bonaire, if it works, this blueprint can be scaled-up and be used on the other islands.
We were referred to you by Lizanne Espinal who’s studying in Delft. We were aware of solar and wind energy but not aware of capturing CO2 to reverse climate change.
Well, after starting my real estate company, at a certain moment this Direct Air Capture (DAC) crossed my path and I was like WOW, this is very important and it would be a great thing to be involved in. Most people haven’t heard of this technique, so we are now actively spreading the word, talking to different Ministries, Companies and Communities explaining its potential. The international negotiations on Climate Change don’t solve the problem at its core, they either delay the negative effects of CO2 emissions or soften it, but they don’t deal with the problem at its core, namely getting CO2 out of our atmosphere, and this is what we are doing.
There is this narrative in the climate change discussions that goes like this: “Most of the climate change issues in the world are due to the fact that through the use of fossil fuels we are pumping too much CO2 in the atmosphere. If we lower the amount of CO2 we emit, we will stop climate change…”. And this is not the case. Since the Industrial Revolution, we started emitting large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the use of coal, oil and gas which is causing global warming and climate change. So in the atmosphere, we already have too much CO2. If we stopped emitting new CO2, the excess of CO2 in the atmosphere will remain in place, causing climate change to continue on. So, it is of utmost importance that we urgently lower atmospheric CO2 concentration from today’s +/- 415 ppm (parts per million) towards 380 – 350ppm. We cannot achieve this by emitting less CO2. The excess CO2 is like a thick blanket covering our planet, and we need to lower and rid ourselves of this CO2 blanket that is too thick.
Mainstream discussions on Climate Change don’t address this in this way, right?
Exactly as Climate Change is a very complicated subject matter, this requires deeply studying the issues. But we believe that by simply improving energy efficiency, transitioning towards renewable energy and lowering the emission of CO2, we are not doing enough. We need to relieve Mother Earth from excess CO2 in the atmosphere on top of the natural way Nature rid itself from this excess CO2 through plants, trees, oceans etc. As we humans are emitting CO2 in an industrial way, we need to remove it in an industrial way. Like garbage disposal, it just does not clean up after itself.
What we are doing is extracting CO2 directly out of the air in an industrial way. That is what we do. Look at the images how are industrial plants look like now. So we present the problem and the solution.
And we use two road maps to roll out our plans. The first roadmap is called ‘Carbon Dioxide Removal’ (CDR) where we inject extracted CO2 from air deep underground where natural mineralization locks the captured CO2 away from the atmosphere for good. We are currently scaling up our plant in Iceland where we remove CO¬2 on behalf of individuals and companies like Audi, Stribe etc. who want to reduce their (past) carbon-footprint and support us in accelerating our developments.
The other roadmap called ‘Power-To-X’ (PTX) where we use renewable energy to convert the CO2 into renewable synthetic hydrocarbons or synthetic fuels. There is an increasing transition going on to the use of renewable energy to offer electricity, and lots of sectors are migrating towards the use of electricity. But the downside of this trend is, that there are certain sectors where this is not possible or rather difficult to electrify directly, for example for airplanes, ships etc. Although there are some smaller airplanes that use batteries for example to fly, but they can only fly short distances and/or carry limited payload. As climate change is urgent, it would take massive amounts of time, money, innovation, workforce, legislation etc. to change to new innovative infrastructures and energy platforms (cars, planes, ships, electricity, factories, homes etc.). As most of the existing infrastructures and energy platforms are based on hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel, gas, aviation and marine fuels etc.) the energy transition would be less disruptive by changing the fuel production to a sustainable way. With Direct Air Capture, we can reproduce fuels and chemicals from emissions (Emissions<->Fuel).
Basically, via PTX we can make any type of hydrocarbon, that is made from crude oil or gas, but instead of a process of over millions and millions of years, we can synthesize fuel within hours.
Is this development a threat for the oil and gas industry?
Well eventually yes, but however, these same companies are also figuring out that the World has already passed ‘peak oil’ and are heavily divesting more and more from fossil into renewable energy and conversion, but as I already explained by becoming more efficient in CO2 emissions or by not emitting CO2 at all, we don’t deal with the CO2 issue at its heart, being a balance between emitting and removing. The transition phase to letting nature rid CO2 out of the atmoshpere in that scenario, would take too long with all the negative effects it will have on the climate of the earth.
What is your role exactly in the capturing of CO2 out of the air?
First of all I am a partner at ANTECY-Climeworks (recently fused), the company that is involved in this work. I am mainly in charge of business development in Holland, Europe, Curaçao and in Dubai. Because of Covid, I got stuck in Curaçao and I am here right now. I have been developing a project in Curaçao also. I was born here and my ambition is to make the island more independent of the import of fuel and to promote food security. With the technology that Climeworks offers, we can make Curaçao fossil/import fuel independent and even export fuel to generate foreign exchange that we are so in dire need of. We still have a long way to go, but we are trying to accelerate this as it could generate and safe between USD 280 to USD 300 million dollar that can well be used to grow the economy, as we can sell our solar energy, wind and ocean energy (either ocean thermal energy conversion or conversion of (tidal)waves and streams in energy) that we have an abundance of, in an intelligent way.
We have several plants in Europe and by 2025 to 2030 we will have different large scale plants in any place in the world. The conversion of CO2 means that we can lead by example of a circular economy. It is proven technology but to scale it up, the conversion process needs to be more efficient and streamlined from its teething problems. As we do this, it is expected that by 2025 we will have the first commercially runned plant.
As for Curaçao, Curaçao has an ideal location to build a PTX plant as it has an abundance in renewables energy sources (sun, sea and wind) and its location is excellent so that we can easily export our natural resources to the whole of the rest of the world, we have access to the EU market and as I am from the island. I really want my island to progress by implementing such innovation.
How did COVID-19 affect your timelines?
We were constructing a semi-commercial plant in Rotterdam The Hague Airport, but due to COVID-19 we had some delays. However, COVID-19 has brought world-wide consumption to unprecedented levels wich enlightened many to change their climate damaging behaviour.
Where does this interest come from for you to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been very curious. I would look at a situation and explore how to improve it. I would always assume responsibility to change a situation for the better.
Where does your interest come from to be involved in innovation?
I started in the real estate business, but in that branche “innovation” was minimal. And as I was looking for ways to impact the world, I bumped into the “Direct Air Capture”- technique. It was still in its earliest development phase, but I recognized immediately its potential to have a big impact for humanity and the future generations.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
I am very capable to place myself in other people their thoughts and feelings. And since I was very young I use to wonder about the house were we lived, the roads, the water we drank, they were all invented by other human beings luckily in an era before my existence. And at a very young age I was wondering how could I make an impact that is beneficial for the coming future generations and that they would be thankful and appreciative for what an individual as myself could have done for them. And climate change became my BIG WHY, because I would be unable to confront the future generations if they would ask me why I didn’t do anything about it, whilst I knew what was goning on. So in other words my BIG WHY is twofold, I am curious in making the world a better place to live in and how to solve one of the biggest existential challenges humanity has had to deal with until now. And I just felt and still feels like I have to do this, but more importantly, via the butterfly effect, persuade others to join the battle.
How does your “Inner Voice” works?
I have a tendency to think in solutions. I explore different scenarios and when one scenario appears sufficiently important, I would continue to look for solutions. I would ask questions to myself and explore different possible solutions until I feel that this one option seems viable or impactful, and then I would go for this option.
What do you feel? How does it work for you?
At times some options wouldn’t feel like viable but as it could be of such a great importance, I would keep on experimenting with this option to check how close to the solution I might end up with. During this process I would solve different other smaller problems and this is the source of my energy and my inspiration to progress.
When do you consider that you have been successfull in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
I once started a Facebook page on “Success”. I believe that it is something very personal and how you measure it, is something that needs further attention. But you have a lot of people that don’t know what they want, so the question “what is success”, remains.
I would say if in business I would be working on a hypothesis and I would get the answer after 5 years of trying and validating the hypothesis and I would end up in a dead end, that answer is what I would consider a success.
On a personal level, I would say feeling grateful for the small things in life. I am already feeling that I am successful in life as I have a good and comfortable life, I help others where I can, and I have done lots of things already in my life as I have experimented a lot with different things due to my curiosity.
Happiness = Reality minus ExpectationAnother way of looking at it is this happiness formula that Mo Gawdat developed:
When there is a balance between these three factors then I am succesful.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
One of my biggest challenges is: “How to accelerate the solution we present for Curaçao and the whole world”. I am constantly thinking and doing “outside of the box”, as it is important to take more actions and if at times the results might seem unlikely, the possibility that it might ultimately work, the impact would be great and worth the risks.
To be in innovation, do you need to have certain character traits according to you? And what are these traits?
It would help to be driven to find the solution, discipline, and also very important “don’t give up”, keep on going till you reach success and fail forward.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
Through self education, this is now so important and we need to exploit this in our weakest/challenging communities.
Exchange of ideas with people that are more knowledgeable than you are and make use of mentors but most of all self education and implementation, just doing things to then do it even better.
What are your strengths?
I think in solutions and I am very patient….Equanimity would be best to discribe my strength.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I love the sea, boating those kind of things. But most of all, I love to work on projects, my work is my hobby.
If you as Robert would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Germany or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
In order for you to enlighten me about your view on the world, I would like to open my introduction with the following: “I am Robert Rosa, as an entrepreneur I am seeking to solve important problems that will have a big impact on the world and on the coming future generations. Currently, I am working on technologies to Capture CO2 from air against climate change. However, I am always open and willing to learn from other people to increase my knowledge to accelerate my purpose to make the world a better place and enjoy it while doing it.
How would you describe Robert Rosa in one word or one sentence?
A green entrepreneur.
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
My parents, some friends of my and some business partners that inspire me.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
How to accelerate the solutions to the challenges we are dealing with, as now speed is of vital importance. The need to change my way of thinking, especially the “how to accelerate the speed to solve issues” and “what shortcuts can we think of”? Mainly, how to bring the bright future towards the present.
What was a defining moment in your life?
When we started ABC Compas. That was were everything came together for me, my curiosity, working together with a lot of different people (social skills), problem solving abilities, networking, all this was inspiring. It all came together during those years. I reconnected the known (my roots, culture, challenges and opportunities) with the unknown (foreign students, projects, network, competencies, growth-mindset etc.).
Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
I think it would be fun to be a Philanthropist and an Inspirational Entrepreneur with a track-record of positive impact on the world to look back on and look forward to. I envision a synergy between inspiring people at various inspiring places throughout the world collaborating on working on an inspiring future.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you, let’s say 20 years from now?
That I have done my part in the realization of my vision and my goals to make the world a better place for all of us. Unrelated to its success, I enjoy the ride.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consquences?
If you have a vision of the future that is bright, you can make an impact by working to implement and achieve this vision. I have a vision.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I hope to inspire others to look for their purpose and their passion in life, aimed at making the world a better place for other people and the coming generations and that will make you feel more fulfilled and happy.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Robert Rosa is a curious, solution oriented, patient, but also driven entrepreneur, that is passionate about innovation. Through innovation, he wants to create a lasting positive impact in the Climate Change of the world that will beneficial for future generations. This ambition level on itself makes him stand out. His drive to create an impact that is beneficial for the world, his curiosity for innovation, has leaded him to drastically change the course of his life. After starting his own Real Estate Company, Robert made a dive into the unknown world of capturing CO2 out of the air and is still involved in this area. “By 2025 – 2030 this technique will be commercially operated, but the technique is already proven”, according to Robert. Challenging his way at looking at things, “thinking and working totally out of the box”, he hopes to shorten this time-line considerably. At a very young age he wanted to have an impact on the world. While studying in Delft, he was one of the founders of ABC Compas, which was a defining moment in his life because it is where everything came together and by doing this he learned a lot of his excellent social skills. ABC Compas still helps students to adapt to their life as a student in Delft-Holland as they arrive as “newbees”, but ABC Compas also stands for inspiring students to think of solutions and implement solutions to solve challenges that all Caribbean islands confront. Robert is actively involved in finding solutions for the fuel dependency of Curaçao and is exploring ways to in an intelligent way, use the excess of renewable energy we have in Curaçao: the sun, wind, the sea and capitalize also the geographic position of Curaçao, to start a project that uses the Capturing of CO2 out of the air. If this works out, this blue print can be exported to other islands in the Caribbean basin, according to Robert. Robert literally lives in two worlds, he lives 6 month in Curaçao and 6 months in Holland and Dubai. For all these reasons, we deeply love and respect Robert and consider him one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao representing the Energy and Circular Economy sector.