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Germany feels the heat pump as drought compounds Russian gas crunch

Planet Business: Serena Ventures’ unicorn investments, ‘crypto winter’ latest and JetBlue’s solution to aviation staff shortages

Image of the week: Gas crunch

Olaf Scholz needs more energy — as much energy as Germany can possibly shore up for itself amid expectations that its much-limited gas supplies from Russia are unlikely to be fully restored any time soon. Here, in an attempt to show that he’s personally on top of the situation, the German chancellor prepares to screw a part of a heat pump during a visit to heating technology company Viessmann in Allendorf in western Germany, where he proudly hailed Viessmann as the best of German manufacturing.

Investment in thermal energy-using heat pumps, known in German as die Wärmepumpe, is just one element of Berlin’s plan to reduce its dependence on imported energy. A potentially nightmarish winter looms, however, with usage restrictions already in place, coal-fired reserve power plants reactivated and plans to diversify into renewable sources belatedly accelerated. Alas, dry weather has not been Germany’s friend, with drought conditions across Europe lowering water levels on the Rhine enough to jeopardise the shipping of coal supplies to plants — an instance of climate change constraining the ability of humans to wreak further climate change. Benchmark German power prices have surged to record levels as a result.

In numbers: Crypto winter

$1.09 billion

Net loss recorded by Coinbase Global, one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, in the second quarter.

$1.61 billion

Net profit the San Francisco-based company made in happier times, otherwise known as April-June 2021.


$217 billion

Trading volumes more than halved year on year to this sum as investors turned cold on crypto-trading in a phenomenon known somewhat romantically as “crypto winter”.

Getting to know: Robin Hayes

JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes has found a solution to high rates of employee attrition. The prospect of career advancement backed by experience-rewarding pay rises? Don’t be silly. It’s over-hiring. “I now need to over-hire just to keep the number I need,” the British boss of the US low-fare airline told the BBC. By the end of 2022, half of JetBlue’s employees will have been with the company less than two years, in large part because of Covid crisis lay-offs. “You’re hiring people but then they’re leaving more quickly so you then have to adjust your hiring plan,” said Hayes. As basic as this sounds, aviation industry disarray this summer suggests other airlines could do with following suit, not least Hayes’s former employer British Airways. Growing up in London, Hayes was much more into trains than planes and didn’t take his first flight until he was 18 — coincidentally, this is the same number of years the average person now ages when attempting to navigate chaos-wracked airports in 2022.

The list: Serena’s ventures

Serena Williams has announced she is “evolving away from tennis”, with her work life already “slowly shifting” towards Serena Ventures. So what has the early-stage venture capital firm been investing in?

1. MasterClass: The popular US online video education company is one of 16 unicorns — start-ups valued at $1 billion or more — that Serena Ventures has funded. “I wrote one of the very first checks,” Williams writes in Vogue’s September issue.

2. Tonal: The 23-time Grand Slam champion is both investor and brand ambassador for the smart home gym company.

3. Impossible Foods: The developer of plant-based substitutes for meat products has a slew of celebrity investors, Williams among them.

4. Esusu: This US fintech company, which helps American renters build credit scores, was founded with a vision of “using data to bridge the racial wealth gap”.

5. Noom: “Noom’s mix of empathetic human support paired with modern technology and science makes it possible for people to achieve significant, lasting behaviour change,” the tennis great said in 2019. (It’s a weight-loss app.)