In light of the recent events and their impact on the energy market, we chatted with Grégoire de Pierpont, CEO of Enerdeal, an installer of solar energy systems at the industrial level.
“Our company has existed since 2009 and is mainly active in Belgium and Luxembourg but also in Africa. We install medium to large size solar energy systems for companies that want to become energy independent, or at least as much as possible,” indicates de Pierpont.
“Enerdeal is one of the approximately ten specialized companies in this business in Belgium, and size-wise we situate ourselves in the middle of the field. In the last five years, we have registered an annual growth of 40%, so there really is some activity in the field.”
Do you see some opportunities in the context of what’s been happening in the past months?
“Of course. The need to cover our energy needs ourselves has never been so urgent. For sure, the climate concern has moved a little bit to the background lately, but this crisis will certainly be an accelerator for change. Our autonomy in the energy field has never been so important. It’s now we have to change our model.”
What can be the role of Enerdeal?
“The most important thing we can do, of course, is to offer solutions for energy independence, that we can point out the opportunities that are already available for companies to cover their own energy needs. Most importantly, the technical solutions already exist, and the technology is mature. We can now already reach a 20% efficiency out of a power source that is free and infinite.”
Can you give us an example of how it actually works?
“I’ll give our own company and its Zaventem-based headquarters as an example. We’ve installed solar panels on our roof, and the whole energy system behind that provides 90% of our energy needs right now; the ultimate target is, of course, 100%.”
“At the same time, we’ve renewed our car park into electric drive and reduced the total cost of ownership of our company cars by 30%. After a couple of years, when the system is paid off, the energy produced by the system becomes completely free.”
Do clients have to buy the whole system, which is quite a significant investment, or are there other possibilities?
“Our clients can buy the installation or lease it. The leasing model is very attractive. The bigger the companies, the more they’re interested in leasing. They don’t want to put a lot of money at once into a solar energy system; they tend to stick to their core business and not ‘lose’ money or energy on peripheric problems. Companies with an important car fleet can not only lease their fleet now but also lease the energy they use. One could say that 1+1 = 3 here.”
What’s the lifespan of such a system?
“For our panels, we guarantee a life cycle of at least 25 years; the converter lasts approximately 15 years. But in bigger installations, the converter only represents 10% or even less of the total cost. But, of course, one must consider that maintenance is sometimes due, and monitoring the system is of key importance. Therefore, a good maintenance and monitoring system for the whole installation is essential.”
You have been stressing that this energy switch is hugely important. Are you confident that it will happen on a far larger scale soon?
“We see it worldwide, not only in the so-called Western Hemisphere. China, for example, is very busy becoming completely energy independent. I’ll give a few striking examples. For the entire electric energy needs of the United States (still the biggest consumer of energy in the world), we just need a square field of solar panels of 100 miles. The same exercise for Europe demands a square field of 100 kilometers (not miles) in length versus width. For Belgium, we need 84 TWh of electric energy, which can be produced by a solar panel surface of 25 by 25 km. This production should be combined with energy storage capacities to deliver the energy when required and proves that energy independence is feasible even in our country.”
You are only talking about solar energy here. There are other sustainable electric energy sources available…
“For sure, but we tend to stick to our own (solar) business. The wind is another huge source of electric energy for a country like Belgium, some are already proving that for the moment, but we are concentrating on solar energy for now. To give you the last example, illustrating the possible importance of what we do: if all company cars in Belgium (presumably some 650 000 units) would already drive fully electric and if they would drive 30 000 km on average per year, a solar parc of 5 by 5 km would be sufficient to provide them with the necessary energy. Isn’t that the best example that we can do it ourselves and that the answer is now and not later?”