Innovation, a Staple of Enlight
STORY INLINE POST
Q: What should Mexico do to develop and improve energy storage projects and how will Enlight contribute to these efforts?
A: The renewable energy trend is beyond any government opinion, including Mexico’s policy direction, because it is a global movement. The world needs this sector for its future and survival. This issue has another factor to consider: the private sector’s capacity to develop it. Renewable energy is a novel, expensive and complex product, so companies must be ready for these expenses and start training people to manage these systems. Installing a photovoltaic solar panel is different from installing a microgrid with a lithium battery.
The private sector must raise its standards in terms of engineering and be braver when making investment decisions and adopting new technologies. In this regard, Mexico has much to offer but the capabilities of battery manufacturers are not enough to satisfy the market. This could also be a great area of opportunity for the country.
Energy companies must educate their clients because it is a new technology. Ten years ago, we had to explain the photovoltaic system to our clients to help them understand that it was a real solution for their energy needs. We must do the same for energy storage systems.
The government must cooperate with us. Its role is to create a solid legal framework that considers energy storage because companies would be willing to acquire this technology but if there is no legal basis, it could be difficult.
Q: What is the history of Enlight in Chile and what are your plans there?
A: Enlight has over five years of experience in Chile. We entered the market when we started to develop Chile's largest distributed generation (DG) project with a capacity of more than 2MW installed on a roof. We decided to enter because the government promoted renewable power projects. Chile’s new government has been controversial in some aspects yet, in terms of energy, it is one step ahead and focused on achieving net-zero goals. For instance, the government there recently approved the Energy Storage Law, which will boost local and foreign investment to develop solar parks in the Atacama Desert to generate and distribute electricity. With storage, such projects can supply power at night, which is the missing piece in Chile’s renewable energy sector.
This project put Enlight on the map in Chile, which is a greenfield for renewable energy projects. Enlight Chile met with Chilean authorities to exchange perspectives. It is encouraging to work with a government that is willing to cooperate with the private sector and that asks companies about their needs and requirements to start projects. In Chile, the private sector has a solid platform to build so Enlight will continue to invest in the country.
Q: Does Enlight plan to use non-lithium battery technology for energy storage?
A: Enlight has an R&D department looking at new technological advancements to see what can be integrated into the company’s solutions. However, there is no better alternative than lithium available. In terms of manufacturing quality and storage capacity, lithium is the best alternative we have.
Enlight is known for moving from segment to segment: we moved from solar for residential users to small businesses and even to major industries. Change is in our DNA but we are fully aware that we will never be a manufacturer. We will keep focusing on being a technology integrator.
Q: How does Enlight assess the potential of the mining sector as a market for its solutions?
A: Entering the mining sector is an interesting prospect. When we analyzed entering the market, we identified two factors that make it attractive. First, mining projects are in remote areas that do not have connections to the public grid. Therefore, microgrids offer great solutions as they allow projects to generate renewable solar energy while storing it using a lithium battery, which enables the mine to operate when the sun goes down.
Second, the mining sector has often been highlighted as an industry that damages the environment. The use of our solutions will help mining companies to become more sustainable and show their stakeholders that they are working on switching to greener processes.
Q: How is the company working on initiatives to help remote and vulnerable communities?
A: We were conducting meetings to discuss where to develop solar energy systems for marginalized communities but the COVID-19 pandemic halted these meetings.
The conditions these communities have to live in, with houses built of cement, adobe and even aluminum sheets and where families of five or six share a space without electricity, are alarming. We worked to change this and were able to provide them with enough energy to light five lightbulbs and run a microwave, a radio and a small television.
We want to relaunch these initiatives in 2023, this time focusing on a school rather than houses. The school we are looking at is managed by a nonprofit foundation that constructed the building in a marginalized zone. While this area has access to the electricity network, the foundation’s financial struggles do not allow it to pay the energy bill. We will donate a 50kW photovoltaic solar system with over 100 panels, allowing students to access education with free energy generated using a sustainable source.
Q: What are Enlight’s perspectives on DG development for 2023 and 2024?
A: It is difficult to make a forecast for the DG industry because obtaining information is difficult. Nevertheless, at Enlight, our objectives are to grow by 200% in energy storage and 34% in photovoltaic solar generation. We are also planning to develop further in Chile. Enlight is budgeting for the opening of operations in two Latin American countries where companies would also like to develop microgrids.
Q: What is Enlight’s Net-Zero Fund and how is it changing the company’s relationships with its clients?
A: It is our first financial solution that will allow our customers to properly bear the initial costs of adopting green technology. To develop this strategy, we raised US$50 million, which will be used to finance our industrial customers’ renewable energy projects within a period of 10 to 20 years. The Net-Zero Fund allows customers to develop such projects without a large investment and without third parties to finance them.
The fund will operate using two schemes. The first will consist of the installation of a 0.49MW DG solar system through a power purchase agreement (PPA) in which the company will buy the energy generated by the system rather than the infrastructure, which can generate savings of 30% in the energy bill. At the end of the contract, the photovoltaic system can be acquired by the customer.
The second scheme is storage as a service (SaaS). Under this scheme, companies that work with hourly tariffs will collect, store and consume the energy without an initial investment, obtaining savings of 15% on their energy bill with a service contract to reduce demand peaks and transfer the energy loads. Customers will be able to pay for a storage service that offers energy backup to ensure operational continuity.
Q: How do Enlight’s customers interact with the innovative Apollo system?
A: Apollo is a system that completely differentiates us from our competitors. For customers, going up on their roofs and checking the photovoltaic system is an issue since access is difficult. Using Apollo, they can use their computers to monitor it in real time.
The system has evolved significantly over the years. It started as a type of Excel list in 2013. Now, we provide it through a new cloud platform. Its interface is more interactive, intuitive and easier to use to cater to larger and more varied clients.
Enlight wants Apollo to reach the same level of smartness for energy storage projects. We are expecting to incorporate these 20MW worth of projects into Apollo’s system. The company monitors them through a different platform that we aim to merge with Apollo.
Enlight is the front-runner in the distributed generation and energy storage sector in Mexico. With over 12 years in the market and more than 8,500 clients, the company plans to strengthen its operations in Latin America.