Lauru Badita, Country Manager Photon Energy, shares with us insights and methods to leverage competitive advantages and to improve business quality in Romania.
In February this year, Photon Energy Group has completed and connected their first Romanian PV power plant, which has a capacity of 5.7 MWp and will generate around 8.7 GWh of clean energy annually. The company expects the plant to generate EUR 1.4 million in revenues in the next 12 months and plans to commission an additional capacity of around 25.8 MWp in Romania in the coming months.
Currently, Photon Energy is developing PV projects in Australia (310 MWp), Hungary (78 MWp), Poland (308 MWp) and Romania (235 MWp).
Mr. Badita, how would you describe your professional journey so far? After over 15 years of Project, Sales and Business Development experience in oil & energy, why did you choose the green energy field in Romania?
Lauru Badita: First, I love this game, this is a field that I believe in and challenges me every day. I saw the opportunity and I followed up on it until results showed up; this means that you can mark your footprint on projects that will stay and produce for the next 30 years.
The Romanian and regional energy markets have been evolving in recent years, with a prominent shift towards clean energy sources. How do you assess Romania’s green energy market compared to other regional markets? Is Romania attractive for investors?
Lauru Badita: As Romania was one of the pioneers in the renewable energy sector since 2008, when Law no. 220 was released, we may say yes, it was attractive for investors 10 years ago when first green power plants were constructed under the support scheme and now again in a new decade of green energy without subsidies.
Since 2019 the price of energy reached a level that made these investments possible without support schemes, because the price of technology decreased compared to 2013. We still have many things to do compared with other markets, new solar energy capacities to put in place, improve access to the grid, improve power lines, interconnection, storage, ancillary services.
I consider this a unique opportunity for Romania by attracting big investments in the green energy sector, developing the market, creating new jobs and services with specialized people or from other sectors who have undergone vocational retraining.
How did Photon Energy start its activity in Romania? What is the core business of the company? What are the key areas of focus and the main services?
Lauru Badita: We started in 2015 with O&M services for solar power plants, at a time when green certificates where cut or postponed and investors had to take some measures by reducing the costs of O&M. But we assumed this role and we continued to demonstrate the quality and standard of our services, to educate the market and to adapt to it.
As a group, we are a fully integrated company and our services cover the entire lifecycle of photovoltaic system from project development, engineering, technology procurement, energy generation, operations, and maintenance, ready to provide services in all these areas.
We have a global mindset with local Romanian market knowledge, a value engineering partner, flexible with pricing engineering services. Our optimized engineering solution creates peace of mind related to potential price drops, increase in balancing costs and other parameters that less experienced companies cannot manage.
In February this year, Photon Energy has completed and connected their first Romanian PV power plant with a capacity of 5.7 MWp to generate around 8.7 GWh of clean energy annually. Also, the company plans to commission an additional capacity of around 25.8 MWp in Romania in the coming months. What are other important projects/plans of Photon Energy this year?
Lauru Badita: Yes, the first power plant built and connected this year in Siria – Arad, marks our pioneering on the Romanian market. In April, we connected to the grid three power plants with a combined capacity of 6 MWp, and in May we commissioned two more power plants in Aiud and Teius with a capacity of 4.7 MWp each. Altogether, Photon Energy is currently operating 6 power plants in Romania with a combined capacity of 21.2 MWp. In the months to come we will connect additional projects, with a combined capacity of 10.3 MWp.
We are committed to advancing the PV sector in Romania and hope to take advantage of our head start. Throughout 2023 we will break ground on our next 38.5-MWp batch of PV plants in the country.
As part of our growth strategy, not only are we investing in our portfolio of PV power plants, but also expanding our services to cater to commercial and industrial (C&I) clients. We are offering on-site PV installations to meet the specific energy needs of these clients.
Furthermore, we have recently acquired a Polish company, Lerta, which has enabled us to obtain energy trading licenses in six countries, including Romania. This acquisition positions us to provide power generators with an opportunity to sell their electricity, enhancing our range of services.
Given the ongoing boom in the photovoltaic sector, we anticipate increased demand for PV components. We have established strong partnerships with leading component manufacturers and are able to provide high-quality products at competitive prices and with comprehensive customer service.
The risks specific to each project need to be taken into consideration according to the uncertainties concerning the investment and operating costs. Yet, what is the envisaged income for Photon Energy in Romania in 2023?
Lauru Badita: We choose to build and operate merchant projects, which come together with a dose of potential uncertainties regarding the price of energy. Anyway, we are confident that the implemented engineering and technology will bring us the number of MWs forecasted.
What are Photon Energy’s competitive advantages in Romania?
Lauru Badita: We are one of the few companies in Romania with experience throughout the lifecycle of the PV power plant, a value engineering partner, flexible with pricing engineering services. We provide O&M services with local service technicians and complex electricity market access services.
How do you intend to improve the quality of your business in Romania? What are your strategies to enhance operational efficiency?
Lauru Badita: Quality improvement through the services provided. Regarding operational efficiency, we try to be very flexible and close to our solar power plants, meaning with people, offices, logistics, warehouses. Our primary focus is on delivering exceptional services. We combine our global expertise with a deep understanding of the local market to meet the specific needs of our customers in Romania. To enhance operational efficiency, we maintain a close physical presence near our solar power plants, ensuring proximity to our teams, offices, logistics, and warehouses.
Some experts claim that the best electricity plan is to overbuild solar & wind power plants. What is your viewpoint on this issue?
Lauru Badita: As a general strategy, it can work, trying to generate production in all seasons according with your solar or wind capacity, but it is important to explore complementary approaches such us implementing energy storage to maximize revenues from selling electricity at the right hours.
According to an Enerdata report, Romania targets around 31% of renewables in its final energy consumption in 2030. What would Photon Energy’s role be in this green energy transition?
Lauru Badita: As we are also part of this transition, we will be able to deliver our expertise and provide quality services for all potentially interested partners, from engineering, EPC, technology procurement, O&M to customized solutions.