– Oleksiy, has your vision regarding the prospects for the development of the RES industry in Ukraine changed after the start of the full-scale war?
Yes, it has changed. Before the full-scale war, we were thinking about how to expand the awareness of Ukrainians about solar energy and show the advantages of own consumption of solar energy and energy freedom. Before the war, the idea of selling excess electricity produced to the state at a preferential rate was very popular. And it was very important for us to form a demand among potential consumers of solar energy for the idea of increasing their own consumption of produced energy. With the arrival of the invaders on our land, what was planned as the work of years happened in months.
In general, we can note two main trends that have emerged in society. First, the demand for solar power plants under the green tariff has almost completely disappeared, because most investors have lost the opportunity to receive payments for the energy produced. Secondly, the demand for autonomous domestic SPPs using lithium batteries and SPPs for own consumption has increased significantly. That is, consumers began to ensure an uninterrupted power supply and compensate for their own energy consumption. If earlier we had to persuade customers to think about their own autonomy and continuity, now this is the main driver of demand, which even leads to a shortage of some equipment.
I explain this by the fact that freedom is sewn into the DNA of all Ukrainians, we strive for it in all spheres of life. When part of the population sat in towns and villages without electricity, they felt the importance of their own generation, because with a solar plant the house will have light, heat and all electrical appliances will work.
In addition to the enormous losses, damaged generation facilities, and the outflow of personnel in the industry, the war also opened a window of opportunity for development. These opportunities for reconstruction and energy modernization of Ukraine will become available after our victory. Let’s say, in a couple of years, we see the renewable energy sector of Ukraine as one of the most innovative and efficient in Europe. At least from the point of view of legislation, procedures, and technical regulations that will meet the most modern global requirements. No, we have no illusions – it will not be possible to rebuild outdated networks in such a short period of time. But we can create all the necessary conditions and test the main elements of a new, decentralized, sustainable energy system. This will bring us and all consumers closer to our dream, our Vision, the energy freedom of consumers.
– How did the war affect the Atmosfera company? What problems and obstacles does the company face now?
In the first month of the war, we dealt with and discussed only the safety of employees and their family members. The first quarter is a crazy operating loss, the implementation of projects fell to zero, but we really didn’t like projects. Support of the team, relocation of most of it, efforts to pay salaries in the first months of the war in full pre-war volume, insane financial, organizational, and psychological burden.
Now we have significantly reduced expenses, while we managed to retain 85% of our employees. It is very important for us, because people are our main asset. Part of the team works remotely from different countries, where they had to leave with their families. Part – preparing to move into the new Atmosfera NRG.space office space, which we invested in at the end of 2021.
Despite the difficulties with logistics, we manage to fulfill our obligations to foreign partners. And they don’t stop wondering how we manage to do it in a country where the war is going on.
We continue to develop our educational platform Atmosfera Academy. Despite the war, more than 200 students are currently studying at it.
Since 10-15% of the already built stations remain without maintenance or were damaged and need repair, we collect requests for service throughout Ukraine, and with the help of a wide partner network, we provide service and repair of damaged equipment.
– What advice could you give to representatives of the alternative energy business? What should be emphasized today, what are the ways to overcome the existing challenges for the solar energy industry?
Together with the most active representatives of the solar energy business, we founded the Ukrainian Solar Association (ASEU) back in 2017. And this year, the Association of Solar Energy of Ukraine will already celebrate its first small anniversary – 5 years. Very recently, we became a member of the public initiative “Ukrainian Coalition of Energy Freedom”.
In fact, we should participate in all initiatives and business associations aimed at sustainable development, energy decentralization, and the development of renewable energy in Ukraine. Thus, our voice sounds louder in the fight for energy freedom and the transition to clean energy. My advice to colleagues is to join this struggle. This is our energy front, and the more of us there are in Associations and associations, the more influence we have. And we need to change a lot:
First of all, reasonable regulation of the market and creation of conditions for the natural development of renewable energy without additional subsidies and subsidies from the state.
Mandatory adoption of laws on net-metering or net-billing systems, and general liberalization of the energy market.
Reduction of state regulation and intervention, cessation of administrative and tax pressure on business in general. Now is the time to let business do its thing, stay afloat, save jobs and fill the budget with taxes not by compulsion, but by your own will.
The majority of entrepreneurs, owners, and shareholders of Ukrainian companies are maximally involved in helping the army and the volunteer movement, and also try to do everything possible to restore the operation of their business and save jobs, pay taxes on time. Also, new ideas are constantly being implemented, one of which for us was the creation of the Atmosfera NRG.space business hub.
– How did the idea to organize Atmosfera NRG.space, modern office space in the center of Kyiv, whose residents will be energy industry professionals, come about? What is it like to launch such a project during a war? What are your expectations?
For the first time, such an idea arose 5-6 years ago. At that time, we adopted the strategy of company development through market development. We realized that scaling in a market where there are not enough players is impossible. We adopted the idea of a “non-zero-sum game” as the basis of our strategy (ed. – In Game Theory, the concept of a “non-zero-sum game” is that the winning of one player does not necessarily mean the loss of another. In the business environment, this idea is referred to as the “win-win” or the strategy of “increasing the common pie”). But since that moment, the idea has constantly changed and transformed from a thematic logistics center, through a combination of service, educational, and exhibition facilities, to an open thematic co-working space, which will be able to gather under its roof all willing and ready players for co-creation and co-competition.
We want to create the basis for the transformation of Ukraine’s energy system into a state-of-the-art, efficient, technologically and economically stable one, capable of withstanding not only a war with an outdated aggressive neighbor but also competition with highly developed markets of other countries. We are sure that such a transformation is impossible without combining the expertise, energy, and resources of many market players, public associations, educational institutions, and the state, without creating a common goal and development strategy.
Before the war, we considered this project as a growth project, a development project, and now this project is a savior both for us and for many other companies that plan to become residents of Atmosfera NRG.space.
Launching a project during a war is very risky, but it is even more risky not to launch it, since we invested hundreds of thousands of euros in it even before the war.
It was a lot even before the war, but now it is generally crazy money. But, with the support of our landlord and now a reliable partner of the Europassage Business Park, we still dared to launch the project. It was a very difficult decision and we have a lot of work and big challenges ahead of us. All responsibility for the fate of the project fell on us. But we welcome our new residents and are always open to partnership.
We create a high-quality professional community in a state-of-the-art office space in the center of Kyiv for joint work, exchange of competencies, services, ideas, joint training and holding various industry events.
The main uniqueness of the project is its mission. This is not co-working as a business model. The business model of our space is located much deeper and is focused on the long-term process of creating value for residents. The project is focused on creating conditions for the emergence of projects and initiatives that have so far been impossible in the RES market. Actually, this fully corresponds to the mission of our company – obtaining energy freedom. We plan to open Atmosfera NRG.space already in mid-September.
Thanks for the conversation!