Siemens is ready to cover from local resources the digitalization projects which will definitely not circumvent Romania: the rates of employment at the Energy Management division in Romania might see a two-figure percentage increase this year. The total volume of investments in the market grew in the second half of last year and this trend is expected to be maintained in 2018. Meanwhile, Siemens installed the first functional storage megawatt in Romania – a project it will make public as soon as practicable, said Petru Rușeț, Manager of the Energy Management Division of the German company, in an exclusive interview for energynomics.ro.
The Energy Management Division of Siemens is rather new; it was established three and a half years ago by joining all the divisions dealing with the energy sector. From a technical standpoint, it covers all the necessary segments of energy equipment, from low- to high-voltage.
“Our focus is on electrification, digitalization and automatization. These are the priorities of the staged Vision 2020 program launched six years ago”.
The investments made during the last National Energy Regulatory Authority (ANRE) regulatory period have increased after a prior period of stagnation.
“We are glad that the investments in the transport and distribution of electricity have been on the rise since the latter part of last year. The trend has changed a lot lately. This is the time to restart the T&D investments.”
Even in the renewables sector the investments might be restarted in the upcoming future – it all depends on the decisions made by Brussels. ”From this perspective, the 2035 vision of the European Union might just restart its «engines»… More importantly – and this is bound to attract change, – technology is intent to reach that point of inflexion where it would no longer require subsidies.”
”To the Energy Management division, the engines of future increase will consist in the electrification, which encompasses everything from transport and distribution of energy, to automation – which is an intrinsic growing area, and digitalization – meaning basically everything we can imagine; this is the area in which one may order electrical stations and power plants from an iPad.”
While the projects in the digitalization area are numerous in Western Europe, they have not developed sufficiently in Romania. Also, there are not enough diversified blockchain projects, either.
”Blockchain is a technology requiring certain market drivers, especially financial and banking ones, which is incipient in Romania. An energy market recently liberalized still needs time for a correct regulation of all leverages. Digitalization is ranking high in this area”.
Siemens develops projects worldwide in a number of segments such as smart metering, dispatch platforms, micro-grids – ”projects that might also be launched in Romania – in certain areas managed and optimized from the power consumption standpoint. A mayor’s office, a hospital, a small town. The micro-grid concept is connected to the smart city concept.”
Siemens has already organized a conference in Romania this year on the smart cities and micro-grids segment.
“There is a number of relevant projects in the digitalization industry in Romania, too, but they are performed at a limited speed, among others, on account of the switch from the 1960s to the 2020s technology. The power installations commissioned 40-50 years ago have not been retrofitted. This programs is taking its course.”
The investments in digitalization and smart platforms also stagnate on account of indecision regarding the regulatory area. The entire smart metering program is stalling although the authorities declared initially that it was more important to invest in infrastructure and only then in smart meters.
Petru Rușeț did not comment on this situation. He merely stated that “this is not our segment, we are the suppliers, with Siemens, we are talking smart platforms and digitalization of the existing ones. We have less connections to the apparatus sector. We are not producers of electrical meters”.
However, the delays in the market are also reflected in the horizontal industry.
Romania became a significant IT outsourcing regional center in Europe, with varied services, from programming to research. Companies all over the world came to take advantage of the Romanian intelligence, and Siemens was no exception.
Furthermore, Siemens Energy Management provides the local human capital for the entire portfolio of services. ”According to Siemens, the most important thing is that we have four research and development centers in Romania: in Brașov, Cluj and Bucharest. As soon as the digitalization projects come to Romania, we will have no problem covering them locally.”
Romania has a good power mix and there are many countries that would wish for some similar mix. Other than that, it is up to us what projects we choose to promote, but it is difficult to comment at this point what projects they will be. “Romania needs strategic lines, insofar as they can be pursued in the long run. We are the suppliers, not the decision makers, we follow the strategic lines. It appears that investments are required in the power production area, but we do not know exactly which ones will be promoted. In the transport and distribution area, things are moving as we speak, while in the digitalization area there are elements established by the latest strategy which are definitely subject to improvement considering technology changes fast and this field evolves year after year.”
On the other hand, the investors are extra careful about the projects announced. “We are extremely connected, we watch carefully, we size up our presence in Romania depending on what is happening.”
The figures and the general business load have increased. “A sustainable growth, with a highly performing local team… We will definitely see a two-figure percentage increase in the employment rates at the Energy Management division – this division is due for a bigger growth than the last three years”, Rușeț said without providing an exact number of employment rates, but mentioning that there were some newcomers on the team.
Human resources are however hard to find. “It has been almost 30 years since I started working in the power sector, and almost 20 years in the public area. Over the course of my career I believed in the exchange of expertise, in growing human resources around some specialists, and when I entered the private area, I already had 100 intern engineers I trained in the industries I managed. Siemens is taking a giant leap forward and creates an entire process. We have an extraordinary collaboration with the Polytechnic University, we have training programs for students as well as graduates – more than half the employees come from these programs, in IT as well as energy. We have a serious connection with a number of universities across the country, I would say that the Romanian school still delivers sufficient human resources of top quality.”
But what makes the difference is the training programs. “Three years ago we launched an all-company internship program with 250 students. We kept the best. And there is always a chance to recruit students the moment we are expanding. It is a pattern that works, one which I like.”
“I started to work before the Revolution. And if there ever were a merchandise that had all the features of the West, to which we all looked, it was energy… We had a small problem with the frequency, but things worked out in the meantime… they worked out then and there. It was a political matter, it had nothing to do with the quality at which it could be supplied… I see the digitalization and storage projects as highly feasible since we have many renewables and they give rise to the need for storage.”
In addition, Siemens is the company that installed the first storage megawatt in Romania. ”We installed the first storage megawatt in Romania, which has been operational for six months. This is one of the elements that would become essential for 2030. Back to energy – it was the only merchandise that could not be stored. Things have changed ever since.”
The switch to smart storage concept, with elements of purchase of energy for an optimum price, is ever more present in Europe, especially on account of electric cars batteries being used to store energy that might then be re-sold into the grid.
“This is a concept coined by Siemens. It pertains to the micro-grid and smart grid; each car, when it gets home, is connected to a socket, then it can make sales. Insofar as the flow can be followed by digitalization. Think an office building with some hundreds of cars in the basement which, during the eight-hour working schedule, are charged with tens of kilowatt. The charge takes a few hours, then the battery may be used in the grid.” However, it is hard to believe Romania will reach one million electric cars in 2030, like some specialists claim.
“I do not think that the amortization point has been reached. Everybody wants to build electric cars, but nobody stops the research and development of traditional cars. This might take a while, in my opinion. We have a traditional horizontally developed automotive industry with a certain inertia. Yes, basically, I can see the development in the electric cars industry, and the public sector is moving along, as well, with electric buses. What I do not know is whether the one million units figure is feasible for 2030. Neither do the producers, for now”.