With another year in full swing, Vassilis Papaeconomou, Alectris’s CEO took time to reflect on the company’s major accomplishments, market trends, and what lies ahead!
What are two or three major ways in which the renewable energy industry changed since you launched Alectris in 2006?
When we started, the industry was small-scale and very distributed. There were smaller investors, many of them of private. Now the market is dominated by professional, large investors and investment funds.
Additionally, the scale of the plants and order of magnitude is much larger now. There is also more experience in the long-term performance of plants than there was in the beginning.
How do the Greek and Italian renewable energy markets differ?
Initially, when we started Greece was predominantly dominated by private investors, and wasn’t as attractive to international investors, this was also at the beginning of the credit crunch and the country’s credit rating was poor. It is also a smaller market size due to the size of the country. That being said, both the Greek and Italian markets seem to have converged now in terms of the way they work.
Greece is still a bit behind, but much bigger plants are now being built and it is attracting some of the international investors who have been active in the Italian market, and we are already familiar with.
In terms of Italy, the market was predominantly focused on revamping and now it has shifted to the construction of new plants, which are also much bigger than past constructions. This is also a characteristic that I would say defines the Global PV market at the moment.
What do you think has accounted for Alectris’s success in both countries?
We have been very professional and consistent, especially in terms of the quality of our services. We grew incrementally and never made huge jumps that were unsustainable. We cautiously increased our workforce step by step and have never been opportunistic in the market.
I think it’s also important to highlight that even though we have added new services along the way, we never abandoned our core business which is O&M. We take pride in being one the few, independent O&M existing since 2012. The fact that we have grown by acquiring more business from old and new customers, without having anything “inderited” by a mother company speaks for itself.
What kind of effect have recent political events, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine had on the market? Is that tending to hasten progress in this sector quite a bit?
I think the conflict has sped up the energy transition that was already ongoing. It’s become an existential issue for Europe, as it strives to be independent in energy resources. This has been a major driver for EU countries, and as a consequence, politicians have decided to push for renewables much more than they did in the past.
As increasing amounts of Renewables are coming onto the grid and grids are struggling to adapt to some extent, how vital is getting more energy storage available as quickly as possible?
This is vital and necessary. There hasn’t been enough investment in infrastructure, so the grid is currently not able to support the new capacity that is being added to the grid. Energy storage is a quick solution compared to enhancing the grid, which can be costly and a long-term process.
Are there any major trends you’re seeing in the industry this year?
The main ones that I think are worth noting are the major shift to construction and development, and an overall increase in plant size. We also see a large increase and consolidation at investor level, which is going to define the way the market functions to a certain extent.
Finally, what would you say your main targets are going forward?
Our strategy going forward for the next few years will be to expand and grow, both in terms of geography and service offerings. In terms of geographic expansion, we are thrilled to be entering the Balkan market, which is a great accomplishment for us, and we will work to continue this growth.
With the tremendous growth happening in our home markets of Greece, Italy, and the UK, we will focus on growing our services (in terms of O&M, revamping and engineering) and widen our client base, while of course maintaining our excellent track record.
One key element that we have been working on for several years, since the very beginning, is the digitalization of services with the aim to increase efficiencies, flexibility and lower our cost.
Digitalization, is something the market is speaking a lot about, but digitalization is not simply buying a software platform. It is about re-engineeing internal processes and streamlining information sharing both internally and externally.
This is a time consuming process, and I believe that companies that started this process early enough will have a competitive edge in the market. Alectris is a company that invested heavily in that direction years ago.