Gheorghe Manole and Vasile Domente
Partners
Eximprod Group

12 August 2019

EXIMPROD is a Romanian born group of companies, founded in 1994 and focused primarily on the energy sector. Over the years, the company has grown to become one of the most important players in the Romanian market of products, equipment and services for T&D and the renewable energy development sector.

 

Eximprod is celebrating 25 years of existence this year. What are the major milestones the company has achieved since its inception?

The company evolved step by step, starting with low voltage products and later expanded into medium voltage production as well. We took this step by bringing in Romania the composite insulation technology, which initially we distributed, but in just a few years we started our own production. At the time, we were the only company in Romania, and one of the few in Europe with such capabilities, a great achievement for both ourselves and the country. This gave Eximprod the courage to take the third step in the 2000s when we entered the high voltage segment.

Our business philosophy is quite simple: firstly, we pay attention to our customers and ensure we have a deep understanding of the market dynamics. Secondly, from the very early stages of our existence, we began to travel and participate in international trade events to learn about the latest ideas and technologies in our field on a global scale. This connection with best global best practices was incredibly helpful, as it allowed us to understand the overall trends and advance the local market by implementing them. 

 

How have you seen the local market evolve during this time?

The Romanian market has seen notable changes, especially since 2004 following the privatization of distribution and the unbundling of the big state-owned companies. This segmentation was a mistake in my opinion, and in contrast with many Western countries that still retain their integrated operators. Fortunately for Romania, large operators have entered the market but this has also brought about new challenges for manufacturers: today there are four operators and each has its own particular standards, which means we need to create different products for the same market. This involves developing new molds, creating new designs and performing new tests, which raised our production costs considerably.

Generally speaking, despite the increase in production costs, the Romanian market has diversified significantly and it is now active and competitive, including at European and global levels. This is the result of our sector’s openness to innovation. For instance Eximprod consistently came up with novel solutions for various applications, which made them more convenient, safer and overall better. We have nearly 3 million isolators installed in the Romanian network without recording a single incident. In this segment mistakes are not really an option, and the great responsibility is not to create one good individual component, but a million components equally good.

 

You were one of the first companies in Romania to venture into the renewables sector. How did this pan out for you?

We started out by buying a turbine initially installed in Ploiesti, which we moved to Tulcea County. It was the first experiment, a successful one, and an extraordinary learning opportunity. We continued developing this project in the coming years, but it was a tedious process because at that time the authorities did not have the necessary knowledge in this field, there were hardly any established norms. Our work has in fact contributed significantly to the efforts of outlining the standards in this sector. We tried to develop more projects later but the obstacles were numerous, so in the end we only managed to capitalize on two of them: a 70MWh project that we initially hoped to develop ourselves, but financing was scarce at the time so we sold it to Vestas; the second 50 MWh project was sold to Engie. We had another 200 MWh project, but unfortunately the government changed the green certificates legislation in the process so we stopped, counted our losses and renounced the contract we had been working on for five years.

However, we have not given up the idea of completing this project in the future - the land is ours and some of the authorizations are still valid. We are optimistic at the moment regarding the renewables market and we are waiting for the new 2020-2030 regulation, considering that Europe expects the green energy percentage to grow to 32%. For Romania this means an addition of a minimum 4000-5000 MWh of green energy. We have already begun to reactivate the expired authorizations so we can be prepared for next year, when we hope it will be possible to resume work.

 

As a founding member of REC (the Romanian Energy Center), what do you think can be done to create a better dialogue between the industry and public authorities?

The dialogue has improved greatly since the arrival of REC's new president. He comes from the private sector and carries a strong understanding of the needs of the industry, including that of strengthening the relationship with Romanian regulatory and legislative bodies. 

The current political environment suffers the same transformation that the entire Romanian society suffered, namely de-professionalization. The interest and loyalty of employees are regrettably on a descending trend. I asked myself what the solution might be, however, the answer is not so simple. Most likely, we need to shift our focus back to education and work on bringing up generations in the spirit of hard work and progress based on merit.

 

What is Eximprod looking to achieve with priority in the coming few years?

Three years ago we went through an accelerated development phase in which we created a full range of high voltage equipment. It was an extraordinary effort, there is no other company in Europe of our size that has achieved such a thing at a similar pace and scale. This year we are pursuing stabilization, more specifically an efficient internal organization that will allow us to keep costs under control and execute production flawlessly.

During the past few years a lot of efforts went into developing new technologies for the Smart Grid. We partnered with Cisco to develop a new generation of SCADA system for the automation of distribution, we have developed cloud-based software applications, commissioned the first Big Data applications for the distribution of energy and we are advanced in designing a new range of IoT-enabled equipment for the distribution grids. The overall pace of innovation has accelerated. I believe that the current three trends (Electrification, Decentralization and Digitalization) will continue to create new challenges and opportunities for the energy sector. We are confident that Eximprod will continue to grow and to play a relevant role.

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