Voltalia’s Helexia plans to put into operation its first distributed generation (DG) plants in Brazil by the end of this year, Aurélien Maudonnet, CEO of the company, tells BNamericas.
The solar plants will supply power to Vivo, part of the Telefónica group, which has contracted total capacity of 87MWp with Helexia.
In this interview, Maudonnet presents an overview of Helexia’s projects and talks about its plans for the coming months, which include growth in the energy efficiency market.
BNamericas: What will be the impacts of the end of the distribution system use fee exemption for new distributed generation projects [TUSD] after January 6, 2023?
Maudonnet: We believe that this deadline will be postponed, because there are many obligations that have not yet been fulfilled by [regulator] Aneel to allow the new regulatory framework to come into effect.
And, even if you start paying the TUSD, this will be done gradually, through a transition regime until 2029. The DG projects will become less profitable, but they will still be profitable.
Here at Helexia we’re doing a geographic breakdown, evaluating the conditions that we can offer to our customers depending on the distributors’ prices in the states.
We’re still being very much sought after by customers who are seeing the deadline [of January 6, 2023] coming while they have their demand for energy growing.
BNamericas: How is Helexia’s project portfolio going? Could you give us an overview?
Maudonnet: We had 60MWp with Vivo in the solar DG modality and increased this capacity to 87MWp with them. Now we have several other clients, with a signed solar DG backlog, in the portfolio, totaling 100MWp.
Today, we’re in the final phase of the first five plants with 25MWp for Vivo, with the prospect of putting them into operation by the end of the year. Throughout 2023, most of the 100MWp will come on stream.
We have another 300MWp pipeline of projects under development that could be categorized as DG or shared generation.
BNamericas: Are self-production energy projects on Helexia’s radar?
Maudonnet: We see a lot of potential in this area. Besides factors such as the large volume of energy consumed and the ESG agenda, there’s the issue of industrial installation. In some buildings, it’s necessary to review the structure of the roof so that it can support the solar equipment. So an engineering project is required, and we offer this service.
BNamericas: How’s inflation affecting DG projects?
Maudonnet: Solar modules, which make up 50% of the capex of the projects, have seen an increase of between 30% and 40% in the last two years, which implies a lower discount rate for customers and lower profitability for us.
The positive news is that the cost of solar panels in 2023 is likely to fall, mainly due to the reduction in logistics costs.
We’ve benefited from a scale effect because we bought solar panels from Voltalia, a group we’re part of. But we’ve been impacted by the increase in prices of structures such as solar trackers.
BNamericas: Any additional comments?
Maudonnet: Solar DG has been our gateway to the Brazilian market, but our specialty is energy efficiency, and we’re going to enter this business strongly starting in 2023.
We believe there’s a lot to do here. In 2021 we got close to the need for energy rationing [as a result of the drought and consequent reduction in the levels of Brazil’s hydroelectric reservoirs]and it’s likely that in the future we’ll have a law to mandate increased energy efficiency.
We offer clients an energy diagnosis: we go to their facilities and make an assessment that includes energy and utilities, such as gas, water, steam and heat, and determine the potential for reducing consumption.
This allows the client to reduce costs and the environmental impacts of its activities, contributing to the achievement of ESG goals.
I believe that by the end of this year we’ll announce our first energy efficiency contract in Brazil.