Julian Willenbrock
General Director
Enlight
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View from the Top

Taking Control of Your Energy Consumption

Wed, 01/01/2020 - 07:00

Q: If Enlight were a state, it would have the fifth-highest installed capacity in Mexico. What factors have led to this growth?

A: Enlight holds a long track record in the distributed generation segment. In February 2019, the company celebrated its eighth anniversary and this experience has taught us to deal with Mexican peculiarities, like working with CFE. We also focus on certain industry segments. Rather than developing large utility-scale projects, the company’s core business is in the distributed generation segment. During the first six years, we only focused on the residential segment and this led to steady growth. After raising some capital, we realized Enlight could grow even more and that is why we partnered with ALLVP, which is the most active capital risk fund in the country. A year later, we started this same conversation with Engie, the largest IPP on a global scale. The deal was closed in 2017 and being part of this group puts us in a privileged position because there is huge muscle supporting our operations. Our goal is to position Enlight as the leading company in the residential, commercial and industrial segments. We have already developed our first PV system outside Mexico, which is located in Santiago de Chile. In this sense, we want to strengthen our presence not only in Mexico, but other regions of Latin America as well.

 

Q: What role does data analysis play in solar generation and how is Enlight incorporating this into its offer?

A: Enlight has invested many resources in differentiating our company from our competitors and one important aspect is our R&D department. We have several engineers working on our in-house software Apollo, a monitoring platform that gathers the best practices regarding solar energy generation and electric consumption from the grid. We have tropicalized this model to the Mexican market but mainly to our clients’ needs. Through data collection, every single system that has been installed by the company is providing data on an hourly basis. As a result, we can predict with great accuracy how much energy will be generated and changes in the overall energy consumption.

It is important to understand that the challenging part of solar technology is not the installation itself but the aftersales services. We have to make sure our systems are generating what we promised. It has been a learning curve because we had to understand the kind of information our customers need to see. From monitoring if CFE is charging them correctly, to delivering reports that companies can use to display their energy consumption internally, we want to provide our clients with the feeling that they control their electricity generation and consumption.

 

Q: What challenges arise when transitioning to the C&I segments?

A: The technology we use between the residential and C&I segments is shared but elements like engineering, O&M and aftersales services are different. In the latter area, we already have the support of Engie, which is ruled by the best industry practices worldwide.

There are many hurdles to develop distributed generation in these segments and one is size. In terms of regulation, size is limited and this can get complicated when it comes to permits. As a company, we also have to develop the internal capacity to deploy these systems across Mexico. We jumped into the C&I segment though a tender organized by Grupo Bimbo and to date, we hold over 80 projects across the country. The installation for these projects has not been easy because some locations are not only far away from our offices but the geography entails difficult conditions that need to be considered.

 

Q: What is missing from a regulatory standpoint to deploy distributed generation across the country?

A: I believe the legal structure already exists and much work has been dedicated to this topic in the last few months. Another important issue is energy storage, and CRE has executed an outstanding job in accelerating and supporting growth in this segment. We are also collaborating in this aspect through our participation with ASOLMEX, as we are part of its board. Energy storage is the next wave that will take place along with renewables. It is a natural step to transition from solar energy to energy storage, and Enlight is looking to develop several projects in this area. Not only to store electricity but to be able to control its use and implement an energy management strategy.

Enlight leads the distributed generation market for the residential segment in Mexico. With over eight years in the market and more than 6,000 clients as of May 2019, the company plans to strengthen its operations in the rest of Latin America.