Julian Willenbrock
General Director
Enlight
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View from the Top

The Future of Solar: Distributed Generation Plus Storage

By Cas Biekmann | Wed, 08/05/2020 - 11:09

Q: What has this year been like for Enlight and what are some of the company’s main successes?

A: Enlight has managed the situation in the Mexican market quite successfully. It has been quite a wave after all. We started out the year with the best first-quarter in our history. We closed some of our biggest deals so far and had a huge pipeline of projects. Of course, in mid-March, everything stopped. Even contracts that had been signed were reviewed, although they are starting to move forward now. The crisis left us with a complete quarter that basically disappeared. The costs, however, remained. We considered closing those deals at the beginning of the year a success because it gave us the fuel needed to keep going. Now, Enlight is completely focused on the C&I segment. Some of our big clients in Mexico include Grupo Bimbo, Chedraui, La Comer, Frialsa, Nutec and Sabormex. We focus on clients that can generate multiple sites rather than one-shot systems. This is a big change from last year, where we focused on the residential sector. In any case, the company has installed over 7,500 systems in Mexico. While working from home, we focused on restructuring and reallocating people to other teams, hired more staff and focused on the industrial segment.

Regarding big projects, Enlight has added storage to its portfolio. We see a huge opportunity in the PV and storage segment. Furthermore, we have commissioned our first C&I onsite storage system. 

Last year, we also grew internationally. For instance, we are constructing a large solar rooftop in Peru. We also registered Enlight in Colombia and are planning to continue doing business in other countries. Because of COVID-19, our international plans have been delayed, but not shut down. 

 

Q: What is Enlight’s outlook for distributed generation (DG) in light of the government’s focus on its national resources?

A: While COVID-19 is a major hurdle to overcome, recent government regulations have proved to be a bigger issue. If you zoom in from the energy sector toward DG, I can say with certainty that we are the least affected sector. This is because we have a couple of benefits compared to utility-scale projects, which are on the government’s radar. DG, after all, is not a result of the Energy Reform. This is crucial in the point of view of the current administration. It helps us in attempting to explain how we can be of benefit to Mexico in terms of employment and energy security.

Today, I see a lot of investment leaving Mexico, which is negative for all Mexicans. We try to look at the situation through a positive lens however. There are, for instance, new niches opening up. We do not expect that CFE will establish tenders for improvements in certain parts of Mexico in terms of grid interconnection. This does not leave much room for anything but DG and storage, which is where we can jump in.

 

Q: How is Enlight working to promote the benefits of storage systems?

A: Storage is aligned to solar, but it is still a very different world. We are learning about applications and business cases for better managing the grid. Something to highlight is the notion of the microgrid, for which you do not need permits for interconnection. Storage devices are also useful to deal with grid interruptions and provide a continuous, seamless operation. Once you have storage in place, you can start playing with peak-shaving to eliminate short-term demand spikes and load shifting as well – these are considered newer concepts in Mexico. We have a head start in exploring these niches because we are one of the few companies that are doing larger scale projects. That does not mean massive utility-scale projects but on-site solutions for industrial customers.

 

Q: What objectives has the company set for 2020-21?

A: Completing Enlight’s restructuring is a main priority. Making a quick shift is a challenge, and a painful one at times, because the company has been around for almost 10 years. For 2020, I want Enlight to come back stronger than it was before. We are preparing to make this happen and have begun generating a strong pipeline to take us there. We also aim to continue our international growth, partner with the right parties and strengthen the relationship with our current investors. Hopefully, we will be able to close deals in the DG solar and storage segment, be it within the microgrid or interconnected scheme.

Enlight is the front-runner in the distributed generation market in Mexico. With over nine years in the market and more than 7,500 clients as ofJuly 2020, the company plans to strengthen its operations in Latin America. It is part of ENGIE group.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst