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FOCUS 71: Renewable Power With Positive Social Impact

Jean Ballandras, CEO of Akuo Energy Pacific, talks about the company’s commitment to producing renewable energy that improves the lives of inhabitants living in sometimes off-grid places. 

 

Please tell us more about AKUO ENERGY’s operations in Asia Pacific 

Akuo grew up in the islands, where land scarcity and grid weakness make it a challenge to develop solar renewable energy projects. To adapt itself to such environment, the company has very early on developed and promoted the concept of Agrinergie® - the combination of agriculture and clean solar energy production on a same parcel of land – and been an early player in the storage industry.  

Starting from the French islands and overseas territories such as Corsica and Reunion islands in the early 2010’s, the company has then exported the concept and know-how to other parts of the world, including Asia-Pacific. Akuo has successively opened an office in Indonesia in 2014, another in Sydney in 2017, now the regional headquarter, and gate to the Pacific islands, and is further looking at expanding to other countries in Southeast Asia. 

While expanding our global footprint, we have also increased our range of solutions, and have added to our portfolio technologies such as our Solar GEM®, a containerized relocatable and modular solar farm, ideal for remote installations. Together with our Storage GEM® and in-house Energy Management System, they make up a comprehensive hybrid system engineered to drastically reduce fuel consumption in areas so far powered with diesel gensets only. 

 

Being a multi-technology renewable energies developer, what are the challenges you face? 

Akuo is indeed one of the few energy companies involved in all the main technologies – solar, wind, hydro, biomass, storage – and on the entire value chain of the project lifecycle - development, financing, construction and operation. However, despite a relatively large portfolio of assets in construction or operation of close to 1,3 GW worldwide, and an even larger number in development stage, Akuo remains a medium size company in terms of number of employees with some 350 people globally. 

As an independent power producer, being as diversified brings the need for us to focus almost exclusively on countries we are fully comfortable with the regulation and power purchase agreement terms, and to focus on projects we can finance through non-recourse financing. 

For any other country and/or for smaller projects, we team-up with local partners to promote our Solutions such as our Solar and Storage GEM® we then offer as a pure equipment supplier. 

 

What do you think companies should do more of to mitigate the effects of climate change? 

The reality of climate change is becoming harder and harder to object, but it would be naïve to expect companies in a global and competitive environment to drastically change their habits and business models towards more climate-friendly ones, unless they see an economic advantage in doing so (or are strongly incentivized by regulations). Fortunately, with the democratization of solar and storage technologies, amongst others, installing solar panels on a rooftop, or combining solar panels and storage capacity to an existing diesel genset, fully make sense economically, and increasingly so as fossil fuel costs keep rising overall. 

 

Can you share with us some successfully completed/ ongoing projects? 

Recent achievements in the region include the commissioning of three minigrids in remote parts of Indonesia, the commissioning of a hurricane-proof solar greenhouse in New Caledonia, and the award for 28 MWh of battery capacity to be delivered next year to Pacific islands. 

With an increasing presence in the rest of Southeast Asia, we hope to bring our Agrinergie® concept and hybrid solution expertise to the region more globally, and who knows, maybe one day to Singapore as well, to contribute towards the national objective of solar capacity installation and to the ’30 by 30’ goal of 30% food produced locally by 2030! 

 

Interview with Jean Ballandras, CEO of Akuo Energy Pacific, for FOCUS #71. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here

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