Interview with the Director of meeco America latina S.A., Dr. Oliver Jann
With its huge rural areas missing any connection to the national power grid, the demand of off-grid solar projects in Paraguay is growing. To supply those remote territories with drinking water, The meeco Group, a Swiss-based clean energy provider, developed special solar water pumping solutions, the sun2flow system. These systems are working without any connection to the grid, just by utilizing the natural power of the sun. Since five years, Dr. Oliver Jann, Director of meeco América Latina S.A., the Paraguayan subsidiary of The meeco Group, is in charge of the development, launch and management of such new products. Before acting on behalf of The meeco Group, he shared his expertise in the sector of agricultural science. In Paraguay nearly the whole solar market is connected to agricultural production systems, which Oliver Jann and his team improve significantly by installing meeco PV solutions
What role does solar energy play in the Latin American market? Are lots of Paraguayan people aware of the solar technology and the advantages it can provide them?
meeco is operating in Paraguay for more than five years and has been in the forefront of the development of clean energy supply. By now, the renewable energy sector in emerging markets is about to take off. Also in Paraguay the interest in solar on- and off-grid projects is increasing. But due to extremely low electricity costs from the national grid, the demand for an alternative power supply is just growing little by little and we still need to be patient in this particular sector. Coincidently, the request of an affordable energy supply in off-grid areas is rising. In the last four years we contributed to a general acceptance towards the utilization of solar energy in remote territories. However, there is still a long way to go.
|Discover meeco’s subsidiary in Paraguay…
Which meeco product achieves the greatest success in the Latin American market?
Our most successful product is the sun2flow, a solar water pumping solution, which is available as a mobile and fixed version. Local companies in Paraguay are suffering from poor water management. Bringing water to remote areas to irrigate fields or to feed cattle without any kind of access to the grid is an exhausting and expensive process. Still today a lot of farmers use diesel generators to operate their water pumping systems and thus distribute water to where it is needed. Thanks to our know-how and the innovative sun2flow turnkey solution, our clients are now able to tackle effectively their water access issue by using solar energy to pump the water to the place, where it is needed and consumed for watering fields or feeding cattle. This is much cheaper than to run pumps with diesel generators and as well the costs of maintenance are considerably lower. Moreover, it is a vastly better and sustainable solution to protect the environment.
As a Country Manager of Paraguay you have already managed a lot of projects. Which one did you enjoy the most?
Each single project was a real challenge and gave me the unique opportunity to discover something new. However, if I have to choose, I would pick out the Agroganadera Madrejon Project, which was finalized in August 2014. This major cattle ranch is located in the north of Paraguay close to the Defensores del Chaco National Park. By installing 17 sun2flow water pumping solutions in total we could enhance and ease the everyday work of the client enormously. Indeed, up to 40’000 litres of diesel per year can be saved thanks to this turnkey solution. In the long term, it will increase profitability and efficiency of the cattle sustenance and meat production whilst the environmental impact has also been reduced substantially.
|Read more about the Agroganadera Madrejon Project…
How do you stay in contact with the other members of The meeco Group? As you are working in an international team, do you usually face issues regarding intercultural differences or language barriers?
As a global group, English is the main language among the meeco subsidiaries. However, English language skills are not very common in Paraguay. Hence, this language barrier can easily become an obstacle for operating in this country. Thus, all marketing materials and contracts must be translated. Moreover, the language gap is not the only challenge. In fact, the Paraguayans have a completely different culture, which includes different working processes, habits and rituals. As our commitments to customers go very deep, it is crucial to adapt in order to build strong relationships.
Does the Latin American solar market offer opportunities to potential investors?
The trend will go slowly towards the investment into solar energy. At the moment, the Paraguayan market offers some limited opportunities for Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) in the off-grid sector. However, as we expect an increase of electricity costs in the next coming years, investments in our turnkey solutions will consequently gain attractiveness. Other emerging countries, such as Pakistan, show how profitable a solar investment can be. I am sure, Paraguay will continue to follow this trail – even more in a few years from today.
Preservation of the environment and thus the whole Earth is an important reason to invest in clean energy. Are the Paraguayan customers aware of this benefit?
The environmental awareness of Paraguayan customers is not as distinct as in European countries. However, there are some foundations working with indigenous colonies for which the environmental aspect is of great importance. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness impedes a sustainable development. What we are actually fighting for is to make people aware of those environmental issues through our expertise as a clean energy company.
So, which are the main arguments to convince Paraguayan investors or potential clients to invest in solar projects?
Through our solar turnkey solutions, clients are able to decrease their diesel consumption and thus reduce logistical issues. Moreover, making crucial savings belongs definitely to the key motivations new investors and clients are focused on.
Do you currently have an ongoing project?
Besides several sun2flow projects, we are participating in a project financed by the bi-national hydroelectric company Itaipu to equip a park and green area in Asunción – with PV generated electricity. As this park is located at a very present position, this project is meant to raise awareness of sustainable energy supply and to produce publicity for the Paraguayan solar sector.
|– Read more about the “How meeco changes life in Paraguay”
|– Water pumping solution eases life of rancher in Paraguay