Opportunities in the Smart New MarketWed, 02/21/2018 - 12:26
As international companies start to flood the Mexican market, those already here will benefit from having experience and established services directed toward the local market, says Fidel Guajardo, Director General of Fronius. The Austrian global leader in battery charging, welding and solar systems entered Mexico’s renewable energy market in 2007 and since then, Guajardo says the company's added value has been the support, attention and experience it has to offer, "not only due to our cutting-edge technologies developed in Europe but also to our local service centers that are managed in the local language.”
Offering a full and differentiating service and support that sets apart a company’s business model is crucial for success, Guajardo says. In the PV system industry everyone basically offers the same products: solar panels, inverters and the related installation products. Fronius’ difference begins on its homepage with its Support on startup, says Guajardo. “This service starts from the very first configuration on Fronius’ webpage to determine the equipment needed, from solar panels to inverters, depending on the client’s location and its energy consumption.”
The company has also developed what it calls Fronius service partners, local installers who are certified and supported by Fronius. “These installers receive constant training from Fronius to prepare them to manage all our current technologies and those we are looking to integrate into the Mexican market,” Guajardo says. The Fronius service partners program is not only beneficial for Fronius, but also for the partners themselves, as they can offer any follow-up service required, in any location and for any Fronius customer, increasing their opportunities in a highly competitive market, he adds.
Technology also plays a key role in Fronius’ Mexico strategy. The country’s market is rapidly becoming one of cutting-edge technologies, Guajardo says, and the fact that the energy sector has effectively opened and allows any player to enter the resource-rich country makes it a perfect playground for developers to try out their technologies. “Hybrid systems, storage and consumption measurement and control via smart meters are some of the most important technologies coming to Mexico. Fronius offers a smart meter that continuously monitors and controls a home’s energy consumption and generation that results from the renewable installation to ensure that the most important equipment always has energy.”
Proper energy storage is key when sizing renewable energy systems. A perfect technology match between the energy production system and the energy storage system can always be achieved, but that does not mean that this match will be economically viable. Guajardo believes that to help solve this dichotomy, an effective management system is crucial. “Although storage is an important factor with energy systems, smart-meter technologies will be needed to open up the door to wider market penetration of storage technologies. Having smart control of the energy being consumed and produced ensures that batteries are better managed,” he says.
Fronius is working on two technological developments in this area. “The first involves lithium alloys. We have seen some technologies that promise to have more energy density than current lithium-ion technologies. The second is storage through hydrogen, and we believe that with enough R&D this could reach the market by 2020.” Fronius sees R&D as one of its strengths, dedicating 15 percent of its workforce to R&D at its headquarters in Austria, as well as 12-15 percent of its yearly investment total.
Guajardo also points to the need for more dynamic regulatory institutions to assimilate the wave of technologies coming into the country. “Unfortunately, regulatory institutions are lagging behind the market. Occasionally, solutions that are already in other markets are not allowed to enter Mexico just because of obsolete regulations,” Guajardo explains. “For example, Fronius has been in constant talks with CRE regarding net billing and net metering for four years, but we still have not seen a proper regulation in this area. Developing normativity at a faster pace would be extremely beneficial for the market.”