Ramboll Polska, originally a Danish company, was established in 1990 and has been serving the energy sector in Poland ever since in all its needs. The company offers engineering, design and consultancy services through their Energy and Environment & Health divisions, which employ a total of 50 experts and specialists.
You serve the entire value chain, from production to distribution, traditional and new sources of energy. Which of these sectors are driving demand for the company nowadays?
Demand is very much connected to gas, which seems to be a bridge in the transition between the coal era and the renewables one. Investments are of various sizes, from small municipal district heating plants up to big CCGT units (combine cycle gas turbine).
GAZ-SYSTEM is developing its transmission network through projects such as the Baltic Pipe, a joint investment between Poland and Denmark. This pipe was designed by our company, with involvement from our branches in Denmark as well as Poland, Germany and Sweden.
There have been talks about Poland becoming a gas hub. What recommends the country for this, given that its natural gas resources are very limited?
The answer is infrastructure, and the fact that Poland can act as a passage way to neighboring countries. I mentioned the Baltic Pipe but there are a few other projects underway, such as the terminal in Swinoujscie and the floating terminal to be installed in Gdansk. We are going to almost double our transmission capabilities in the next 10 years.
From a technical perspective, how difficult is it to switch power plants from coal to gas?
Not very complicated actually. We need to demolish part of the installation but we operate in the same area and can use many of the surrounding facilities, like network connection or district heating system. In other words we are not starting from scratch, replacing just the heart of the plant.
There are many advantages to switching power plants from coal to gas. Firstly CO2 levels are much lower, and gas units are very flexible. You can switch them on from sleep mode to full running mode in just a few minutes. So if you need energy somewhere because the wind stopped blowing you can easily supply the missing power to the network.
Such a vision needs to be driven from a central level. Are authorities in Poland interested to pursue this alternative?
I believe so. Ostroleka is a famous project because it is based on coal so it received a lot of attention. But there are many other investments underway, also very relevant for our economy, which do not receive the same publicity. One example is the expansion of Dolna Odra power plant with two new gas units which will generate 1,4 GW, the same as Ostroleka.
Things are moving also in the case of smaller plants which serve district heating systems such as Zeran (during construction) or Siekierki (planned), power plants in Warsaw which will switch from coal to gas. Many things are going on just that they are not as well communicated.
There is of course the question of time - we want good things to happen fast but that is not always possible. You need to recover 30-40 years, invest huge amounts of money and engage companies to turn ideas into real projects.
What do you find most challenging when it comes to doing business in Poland?
As always it is a combination of factors. Legislation needs improvement, for instance the shortest period in which you can obtain all necessary permits to develop an offshore wind farm is 108 months. Funding is also a challenge - to transfer the Polish energy system to more sustainable technologies will be expensive, but I trust it will be solved through a combination of state efforts, EU funds and private investors as well as funds which will be provided by the energy sector.
From our company’s perspective the top challenge is availability of human resources. Assuming we have the perfect law and pockets full of money we need someone to carry out the work. It may be solved by attracting foreign employees, but if we try to build too much in the same time we will surely have a challenge.
What first measures did your organization set in place to manage the COVID-19 crisis?
We basically decide to work remotely. After few weeks I can say it went very well and we are able to serve our client and execute our project without major disruption. We see some slowdown especially in the part of the processes where we are depending from e.g. public sector or information from some local authorities but in fact they are minor issues. We also did not slow down our tendering activities and still we are receiving new orders.
We did not notice major changes or slowdown at the market. Amount of inquires from the energy sector remains the same as before. It all is very positive sign as we believe investments will be continued and after lockdown will maybe even to accelerated as not only energy but whole industry will wish to recover and compensate the slow down period with increased speed
Other thoughts you would like to share regarding this topic?
The way of working will change after pandemia. We will likely do not any longer will work at the same manner i.e. sitting at the offices, spending many hours a week to get there and back home, we all will learn how good and effective we are able to work for home.
We will also start to appreciate our private life, time with families and flexibility in sharing working time with personal activities. One of my colleague instead driving morning 1,5h every day to the office is now having the gym at home during this time. Better for his health and latter during the day for the productivity.
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