Interview Paul Wakefield, Head of Origination
We talked to Paul Wakefield, Head of Origination at Younergy and Managing Director of Younergy Spain about this and much more.
Can you imagine our country being completely powered by renewable energy by 2050? Do you think we have that potential or a similar one if we put our minds to it?
Spain certainly has the potential to lead this transition. It is important that those of us who invest have the necessary legal certainty to make long-term decisions and that the administrative processes are as streamlined as possible. Many companies in our country have demonstrated their professionalism and vocation to ensure that this transition to renewables is deep and sustained.
Younergy offers solutions for solar energy financing and you are a fintech and a cleantech. In short, what do you do and how is your business model different?
Younergy makes it possible for companies to have self-consumption photovoltaic plants in their facilities without having to make any investment or worry about maintenance, i.e. by paying for the energy they consume from the plant with a contract known as a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement).
Our main advantage is our experience of managing thousands of small self-consumption plants and a significant technical know-how, which gives peace of mind that the plant will be well designed, executed and maintained for the duration of the PPA contract.
Like Triodos Bank, you attach great importance to the decentralisation of energy production. What are its advantages for companies and for our society now that the debate on energy independence or resilience is, of course, on the table?
One of the most important factors is to produce energy where it is consumed, because this reduces transport losses and ensures that the source is renewable. In addition to meeting their environmental objectives, installing decentralised energy production allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to the transition to more sustainable energy.
Can any company provide self-consumption of energy through your proposal or do you target companies of a specific size?
Our company is active in the market with the financing of plants from 30 kW (which corresponds to the volume used by many moderate-sized companies) up to 4 MW.
What are the savings on my electricity bill when contracting one of your installations?
Before this year's energy price increase, our customers were saving 20-30%. Now, the figure can be as high as 60 %.
You state that your energy consumption contracts are "fair and flexible". How far does your commitment go?
Those who work with our company pay for energy based on their actual consumption. We believe this is the fairest way to structure our contracts. The easiest and most predictable thing to do would be to bill the customer a fixed monthly amount, as other funds do, but we believe that operating in this way is not aligned with the customer. At Younergy we believe that when signing 10-20 year contracts it is critical that the interests of both parties are aligned.
In other words, we are your "solar landlord" for many years and we want the contract to be fair for both parties. In terms of flexibility, we give the customer the option to choose the term and an option to purchase the installations from the end of the fifth year.
A fundamental part of your work is to have 'Solar Partners', i.e. solar partners. What is their role?
They have a relationship with customers to whom they offer a self-consumption photovoltaic solution. Until now they could only offer the option of buying the plant, but with Younergy's PPA financing they have a tool that allows them to offer alternatives. The companies accredited to offer our contracts include installation companies, energy efficiency companies, electrical material sales and engineering companies.
Our proposal is an alternative that allows them to sell more and offer a clear and efficient financial solution from an operational and financial resource consumption point of view.
Younergy was founded in 2015. How did the idea and motivation to take the project forward come about?
Our company was founded in Switzerland, a market that is highly fragmented but aware of the importance of the ecological transition. Younergy saw an opportunity to offer a comprehensive solution in self-consumption, as developed in the United States, and was a pioneer in offering a PPA contract for small and medium-sized plants. The motivation was twofold. On the one hand, to offer a product that did not exist and that facilitated access to a solar installation and, on the other hand, to contribute to the conviction of the founders to start an unstoppable ecological transition through decentralised sustainable energies.
Why did you decide to work with Triodos Bank and what is your experience like? What does it bring to you as a bank committed to renewables and a pioneer in financing this sector?
We understood each other from day one. The Triodos team was able to see our needs and came up with an operation tailored to our needs. Financing small self-consumption plants is not easy and in Spain this type of financing was only given to large operations. Triodos offered us a solution because they understood that, as well as helping to accelerate our mission in Spain, they were helping small and medium-sized companies in the transition to renewable energy. It is clear that their commitment to this sector is total and that being pioneers has given them an experience that allows them to be a reference bank in our sector.
We can see that you have already worked in the energy sector and that you are now turning to the solar sector. On a personal level, what does the current stage mean to you, and is it more than just a professional performance?
My professional life has been divided between the real estate sector and, for the last 10 years, the energy sector. Although I have seen many changes in recent years, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a major transformation. The electrification of the way we live and work is creating a change that we have not seen in the last 50 years. This creates opportunities and at the same time many challenges to overcome. From a personal point of view, it is very rewarding to be at the forefront of this change and to know that with every deal we close we add more sustainable energy to the system.
At Triodos Bank we now talk about "positive rebelliousness" as the vocation of our customers not to leave things as they are, but to sometimes row against the tide for a good cause, to bring about change. Do you consider Younergy or yourself to be "positive rebels" as well? Do we need more rebellious people and companies?
Of course! We're on the move and we know that the trend in the self-consumption market is clearly towards PPA´s and we want to be, like Triodos Bank, a benchmark. We have many positive rebels in this country who are doing great things and now that this sector is booming, more are coming on board. Let's hope it stays that way!