Green Genius (part of the international company Modus Group) develops solar energy and biogas projects across 6 European markets: Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Italy and Spain.
You have numerous solar projects underway and generally this sector is booming in Poland. What is fueling the growth in your view?
We are indeed witnessing what some people call a “renaissance of solar” in Europe. Just in 2019, the capacity installed grew by 100% (from 8 GW to 16 GW). Why? The answer is relatively simple: in the past renewable energy was dependent on state subsidies which was useful, but also fueled skepticism that this sector cannot stand on its own.
The growth now is driven directly by the market, in Poland as well as elsewhere in Europe. Renewable energy has in fact become cheaper than conventional energy sources.
Imagine you are a decision maker assessing a path that is cheaper, healthier and does not pose any threats to the environment - the question to be asked is not “why” but rather “why not”.
Companies are employing various strategies to seize this opportunity - what is the vision at Green Genius?
It is a combined strategy: we sell some of the projects we develop and operate otherst. It depends on technology, region, various economic parameters etc. What we deem important is to keep moving, add to our pipeline and generate new projects every year.
There are challenges of course – to transform the entire energy sector in Poland you would need vast financial resources. Also, due to current uncertainty raised by COVID-19 crisis globally, many businesses will have to reassess their strategy and plans. At Green Genius we will also have to adapt our business plans based for the new reality.
Nevertheless, Poland is and will remain a strategic market for us – we see big renewable energy growth potential here. We have already established ourselves in the market as large scale solar energy developer and last year announced about the plans to enter biogas market. So despite of current economic turmoil – we are here for the long run.
Everybody is talking about a balanced energy matrix but to what extent can we realistically rely solar? Looking at the land available for instance, how much can we still develop?
Not an easy question to answer unless you refer to certain assumptions. If coal stays, solar will probably contribute 15-20%. On the assumption that storage moves faster and becomes widely available it can go up to about 40%. There are various other scenarios, for instance, if the grid will be decentralized. There are villages in Germany that are 100% self-sufficient, completely disconnected from the grid - solar, biomass and biogas cover all their needs.
The EU is typically conservative but by 2050 most countries bet on 100% renewables. Is it doable? Yes, and I believe some countries will reach this goal even earlier.
In Lithuania, for example, the heating system is 80% fueled by renewables, whereas just seven years ago the share was 20% - the increase is fourfold, absolutely impressive.
The situation seems to be very different with biogas where very few initiatives stand out. Will you please explain your interest in this field, and why it is not receiving more attention in Poland?
PV projects tend to be very straightforward - once you finish development you hire maintenance and wait for the revenue to come in. Biogas is a completely different story. You deal with a complex value chain and a whole new level of effort: raw materials are coming in daily, logistics are fairly complicated, it requires maintenance, teams of biologists etc. It is also less scalable.
The reason we are so excited about biogas is because from an environmental perspective it is an absolute leader. If you build 1 MW of solar you will generate 1000 hours of electricity, whereas 1 MW of biogas generates eight times more.
And it does not end here: when you collect biological waste you extract methane, which would otherwise go into the atmosphere - every tonne of methane equals 21 tonnes of CO2. So when you calculate your footprint the difference is striking.
What do you find to be the most common misconceptions related to biogas?
One myth that was created is that biogas competes with the food industry, because it is using corn silage as the organic material. If it uses land which can be used for food production we see it less sustainable. We see biogas as organic waste’s sustainable treatment - the agricultural sector generates considerable waste and this is the primary resource for biogas plant. If anything, biogas adds an element of sanitation in the village and reduces the smell.
A second misconception is that biogas projects are too complicated and it is difficult to implement high quality project. However, everything depends on the knowledge you have accumulated in this area. If it is your main business, from the morning to night you think how to make it work, who can provide materials, you engage with municipalities and so on. The truth is that it can be done, just that you need to put in considerable effort. The truth is, we have quite a few biogas power plants developers but not all of them are professionals in the field or it is not their main business activity. Because of this the quality of these projects also differs.
Leaders such as yourself shape the market and set the direction of the future - which of your qualities do you credit most for the success of your business?
Passion, no doubt. I studied energy and worked across the sector, including in distribution and traditional fuels before I moved into renewables. I genuinely believe this is the place to be nowadays. And I also trust that work you love no longer feels like work.
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