The implications of seismic political events like Brexit on the small scale renewable energy sector are not yet apparent but Ivo Arnus, Norvento’s UK Director believes his company is versatile enough to survive what negative repercussions come the industry’s way.
Before Christmas the company launched a new integrated biogas innovation for agricultural, utility and industrial users throughout the UK. Known as the Norvento-BioPlant, the system enables small and medium-sized companies and landowners to sustainably manage organic waste and turn it into renewable gas, electricity or both, allowing them to take a step towards energy independence.
Norvento’s BioPlant is a medium-sized system for the agricultural and landfill waste sectors. The company claims that its innovation will benefit from "the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) sweet spots", which range between 150kWh for electricity and 600kWh for heat.
It’s another string to the Norvento bow and that diversity is more important than ever with political turmoil appearing to be the rule at the moment.
“We are as you well know a multi renewable energy company so yes we are focused so far in the UK in deploying our ned100 wind turbine and we are still in the process of doing so but Norvento has experience in various other forms of renewable technology. What we are trying to do is to make the most of our knowledge for the UK as obviously the wind turbine market is a bit more difficult at the moment.”
That’s not to say that small scale wind energy is finished. It’s not. But the company recognised it has to adapt to a changed paradigm.
“We still have interested farmers who believes a turbine is a good investment for many reasons. Some of them might already have spent money and want to recover that – in the permitting, in the development and so on. Some others have a high consumption and the numbers work and are not so affected by planning.”
The company has worked hard over the years to build up its sales force in the UK and is keen to use that team to promote its anaerobic digester (AD) expertise. It finds itself in the ideal scenario of having a product that appeals to the same market as those who chose wind turbines.
“There are a significant amount of synergies in that respect- and we are also set to launch further proposals for the energy services side of things to corporates who wish to curb carbon footprints.”
Norvento is also positioning itself as an advisory for onsite generation and general energy advisor services for such corporate entities. The company’s new headquarters, ‘an exceptional building’ according to Arnus, will be officially opened in the coming weeks and is set to exemplify the vision the company has for onsite power possibilities.
“It is tough times for renewable energy but we are still confident that there is a gap in the market for our products and services and we intend to make the most of it.”
Norvento has a dedicated biofuels team in Spain. A typical project involves powering a cheese factory-dairy farm combination. All the substrates and feedstock are on site and a lot of the energy requirements directly feed the heat to the industrial process, negating the need for a combined heat and power plant, for practices such as drying cheese or curing.
“We are confident of rolling out this type of solution in the UK- We offer the solution and EPC, but don’t offer funding or investment in the plant. We are targeting customers ready to fund it themselves – we will design construct and operate from a technical point of view but will not have a stake in it.”
A recent report by the Association for Decentralised Energy in the UK found that the country had fallen behind continental neighbours in terms of optimisation of energy efficiency. Arnus says the comprehensive service Norvento are capable of offering will suit the country, if momentum towards meeting energy efficiency targets returns to priority.
“There terminology associated with energy efficiency which can be confusing. We want to take a holistic approach to it. We analyse a site for its energy generation potential and a t the same time tis energy savings, or energy efficiency potential.”
So for that cheese factory- dairy example, methane can be converted to onsite generation, but lighting and ventilation can be part of the package. Norvento is offering that holistic service that others, providing simple energy efficient measures, might not be able to fully provide.
Despite the uncertainty created by Brexit, Arnus feels positive about the possibilities in the UK, particularly in the light of recent events in the company’s home nation.
In Spain, right now the energy efficiency market is developed but only at a surface level. The corporates are looking at a payback of four years and much of the offerings are confined to LED and ventilation but ‘everything in respect of onsite generation is completely null’.
This is down to a piece of legislation which appears to be completely counterproductive to EU ambitions for energy efficiency, so much so that it is currently the subject of a court action.
“There is a cost for anyone who is willing to connect to the grid,” says Arnus. “It’s reduced the number of distributed generator s throughout the country significantly.”
“Basically if you put solar panels on your roof in Spain you have to pay an ongoing rate to be connected to the grid for the use of your own power. Rather than getting paid you have to pay, that rule has basically wiped out distributed generation in Spain.”
“Some would argue this is the influence of the equivalent of the big six in Spain, the power and influence of these companies is probably dictating the rules.”
Arnus is not beyond worrying about how things develop in the UK, however, and when Decentralized Energy spoke to him he referred to a recent article in the Times urging Prime Minister Theresa May to abandon the climate change act.
“Right now the whole world is uncertain. We don’t know how the UK is going to define its energy strategy as it steps away from the EU. Up to now the targets were clearly defined by the EU and then it was made law in the UK with the climate change act.”
“It is worrying because we, in our strategy, bet on AD in the UK. We thought it was a good idea because of the context we were in – feed in tariffs were decreasing because the UK was on target for renewable generation, yet they are behind in terms of heat and transport targets.”
“The famous letter leaked from (then energy minister) Amber Rudd a few months ago that the UK was falling behind its renewable heat targets; we though the AD tackles that and it would get more support and wouldn’t be cut short in the same manners as the Feed in Tariffs were cut short. We still think it’s a good moment to launch AD – it’s a worldwide phenomena in addressing methane creation and optimising it.”