SERVELECT was founded in 2005 and offers integrated engineering services and solutions to optimize energy consumption and reduce operational costs.
What were the circumstances surrounding the creation of SERVELECT and how did it evolve in the local market?
It all started 14 years ago before graduating the university, with a Professor that gave up traditional teaching methods and instead provided us with research materials and created a set up in which we were able to debate ideas surrounding them. Together with a friend, who was equally interested to start a business, we set up SERVELECT and decided to pursue the direction of energy management. We tend to romanticize our beginnings because as we started out the only asset, we relied on, was a brown suitcase - we went door to door and informed companies about our power factor correction solution, that could reduce their energy bills. People had a difficult time understanding the concept at the time, but we eventually managed to convey the value to a few of them and this gave us faith that we were on the right track. Since then we grew into a stable company and at present, we are focusing on energy management efficiency & local generation solutions; our philosophy is to do fewer things but with a higher added value.
The concept of energy efficiency has come up repeatedly throughout our research. What is driving the interest in these solutions in Romania, and is it truly adopted or still more of a buzzword?
It is indeed a preoccupation for everybody, however, the reality is that there are not that many projects that end up being implemented. The reasons holding back projects are usually related to slow decision-making processes within companies, whether we are talking about Romanian or foreign capital. This creates a circumstance in which the potential gets lost in time and their priorities change. Further to this, if we look closely at the energy system, be it generation, transport or distribution, the investments are most commonly directed towards maintaining the existing infrastructure in a functioning state. There are some exceptions where new capacities have been developed, mostly in the renewable energy space, but investments in energy efficiency have been only a declared priority and less an effective one.
You are also the President of The Society of Energy Managers and Auditors in Romania (SAMER). What are the solutions you envision to encourage more projects in this field?
Our goal presently is to grow the quality of the energy audit and energy management market. One challenge we are facing is the fact that companies in this field mostly compete on price, rather than focusing on qualitative objectives, even based on performance rewards. As a professional association we are looking to grow the understanding regarding the value and impact of these solutions, using case studies and best practice examples that can be replicated, and disseminate them as much as possible. It is an initiative that contributes to the education and decision making of the overall business environment, and also to our own outlook on the market.
SERVELECT has set up its own R&D division. Can you tell us more about the innovations you are working on?
Audit and energy management are creative engineering activities. When we assess an industrial site or a building, we, of course, look at equipment but we need to be creative in designing the optimal solution for the respective environment. It was, therefore, a natural direction of development, especially since we were able to access EU funds (Horizon 2020) to support this activity. We have already developed a few projects for which we worked in partnership with foreign companies, universities and also with the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, our long term local partner.
This year, for instance, we finalized DR BOB (Demand Response in Blocks of Buildings) project, implemented in four countries. The goal was to promote the concept of “demand response” and the significant benefits that it can bring to both consumers and prosumers. We conducted the pilot project in the buildings of the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, which we aggregated and treated as a rvirtual energy prosumer, and the results consisted in a reduction of energy costs by up to 11%, out of the total energy bill which amounted to approximately EUR 1,5 Mil. We are thrilled with the results, although we are still facing some regulatory challenges - there are EU Directives that regulate the concept of “demand response” but in Romania, the legislation has not yet been fully aligned.
Another H2020 project that we are working at is eDREAM. eDREAM aims to research, validate and bring into pre-commercialization phase a near-real-time closed-loop Demand Response framework, fully autonomous and secure, through an enhanced blockchain ecosystem, and based on decentralized decision making functional model. The key innovative solutions developed by the project are: Optimal modeling of virtual power plant’s dynamic coalitions; Demand Response pre-assessment through drone aerial surveys; Advanced prosumer forecasting techniques; Energy and flexibility marketplaces, powered by self-enforcing smart contracts. Two more other have been launched this year: RE-COGNITION and SMEmpower Efficiency, both on Horizon 2020 calls and we are proud to be part of the consortium teams.
What are the key objectives that SERVELECT will be pursuing in the next two-three years?
A strategic decision going forward is to focus on fewer solutions which that can make a higher impact on reducing the energy consumption. More specifically, I am referring to cogeneration and systems for energy monitoring, through which we can maintain active, long term relationships with our customers.
Three years ago we entered a new niche, namely energy management at the local communities level, and we are already doing work in several relevant cities across Romania. We are finding that there is a strong correlation between energy inefficiency and energy poverty - many cities are having difficulties in taking on the costs of energy, but in the same time, there are many energy losses taking place in the systems. It is an area on which we will be focusing going forward, our mission being to reduce costs but more than that to increase comfort and quality of life for these local communities in their buildings.
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