Acquisition of ABB Division Boosts Global Inverter PlayerBy Cas Biekmann | Wed, 01/06/2021 - 10:52
Q: What are the general characteristics of FIMER’s operations, and why is Mexico important for the company?
A: FIMER is a large company, with over 1,100 employees worldwide. We are particularly active in Mexico but also in the rest of Latin America, where Colombia, Chile and Argentina are key markets. Here, we work closely with EPCs and energy developers. In total, FIMER has 26 offices located around the globe. From our Mexico office, we cover all of the Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America. However, our company remains 100 percent European. Our string inverter is made in Italy, for instance. Furthermore, we recently started operating three R&D centers: two in Italy and one in Finland. We also developed a battery storage system in Peru and Colombia. The market has been demanding this solution, instead of using only PV inverters. In this area, FIMER offers both central and string inverters, both of which offer different benefits, which depend on how they are used and what the client needs. FIMER is the fourth-largest solar inverter provider and has an even more prominent position in Latin America, where we have been working on various key solar projects. Regarding FIMER Mexico, the branch is defined by its talented employees. One notable aspect here is that we have a great service team. We have toll-free numbers in Latin America, in case clients require technical support.
Q: How do you evaluate Mexico’s market potential?
A: Mexico is considered the big brother of all Latin American markets. However, this area has been highly affected by 2020’s worldwide COVID outbreak. In Mexico, we face another situation that impacts economic activity, which is the government’s roadblocks against the renewable market. This is particularly the case for larger-scale projects. Due to these roadblocks, electricity will become more expensive for customers. As a result, people are turning to distributed generation (DG) because they see electricity costs rising. In this environment, having your own installation makes sense for C&I and domestic users. A further benefit is that DG was not greatly affected by the uncertainty in the sector. In 2019, DG capacity installed was around 400MW. By the end of 2020, we will see around 350MW installed if everything goes well. FIMER’s goal is to be the brand of choice for installers and EPC in the solar market.
Due to the pandemic, people are also becoming more aware of climate change and wish to invest in clean technology. Multinational companies are also trying to be more friendly to the environment. An example of this is the switch to electric vehicles (EVs), for which FIMER can also provide EV charging stations. Companies are aiming to switch over within five years. Due to hurricanes and floods, people also are becoming more serious about sustainability.
The only concern we have for the Mexican market is in terms of its large-scale projects. It is likely that the government will not hold energy auctions in the coming years. This is a pity because Mexico’s people will not have access to cheap and clean energy as a result. If the government decides to use its oldest power plants to produce energy, this will be more expensive and will contaminate the environment. As a country, Mexico would also lose a lot of investment potential and all developers and EPCs will simply take their money to another country. If you see how much the government plans to invest in Mexico in the coming years, it is about half of what private companies would invest to build renewable plants. FIMER is working along with several solar associations to help the government understand that renewable energy is beneficial. We need to not only think about ourselves but about the next generations. Other governments, such as Colombia, are providing a great number of incentives.
Q: How did FIMER come to acquire ABB’s string inverter business, and how does this add value to both companies?
A: ABB is a huge company. I worked for the company for 20 years. However, if you are not focused on renewables alone, it is easy to lose sight of important goals. I think that the decision to move ABB’s inverter line to FIMER was a beneficial move for both sides and the market as well. Now, there is one bigger company focused on better serving its customers. We are now more agile, can respond faster and have a variety of products in our portfolio. Solar inverters are FIMER’s lifeblood. As a result of this integration, FIMER is stronger than ever and present in over 100 markets worldwide. It is also investing heavily in R&D. However, I think the most important benefit is the talent we have with the integration of ABB, which has resulted in a great team. The acquisition provides exceptional added value to the customer.
Q: What are your main product lines?
A: Our product lines for the residential segment range from 1.2KW to 6KW. In the Mexican market, we comply with UL certification. It is concerning to see other companies coming to Mexico without complying with official standards. The government should enforce these standards to ensure that only professional installers and equipment can operate in the country. In the C&I segment, our inverters range from 20KW up to 60KW for rooftop installations. We also have a 120KW product, which can be used in ground-mounted installations. For larger scale projects, we were recognized for “Most Innovative Product” at 2018’s Intersolar event in Munich for our PVS-175. This is a powerful string inverter that we used in several PV plants across the world, including Mexico.
Q: What do you predict will happen to hybrid inverters and EVs in Mexico?
A: This is an important innovation. People need to be able to charge batteries when they are not at home. They want to use this stored energy once they return. This trend in consumption behavior can be traced back to 2016. We have two products in this area. One is a grid-connected solar inverter, which can charge from and feed back to the grid. Otherwise, the inverter can store energy in its battery to be used later. The second product we offer is the FIMER UNIVERSAL 10/4, which is also a battery energy storage system for small commercial or residential applications. It has three different ways to feed a priority load. These products are already quite popular and the company is working on more innovations.
Another important area is that of EVS. Through CFE and private companies, I have been trying to expand charging stations throughout the country. The switch to EVs has been amplified by people’s growing environmental consciousness as well, but we need to expand the charging network at the same time. It does not make sense to have an EV if you cannot easily travel from Mexico City to Veracruz. This is why FIMER launched three different types of EV chargers. Our FIMER FLEXA AC can charge a car in about four hours, but our FIMER ELECTRA DC Station of 60KW can charge 20 to 80 percent of its capacity in just 15 minutes. Our stronger chargers of 150KW can charge a car in about five minutes. This is about the same time you spend filling up your tank at a gas station. If the government could incentivize EVs, that would be great. Nonetheless, the country’s infrastructure should be ready because that would truly convince people to purchase EVS. FIMER is working hard to bring these products to the North American market.
FIMER specializes in solar inverters and mobility systems, leading the global manufacture of inverters for solar systems, sitting in the Top 4. Mexican market and sitting in the Top 4 globally. It has over 1,100 employees in over 26 countries.