BR Interview | Carlo Pignoloni, President of the Romanian Wind Energy Association (RWEA)

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 10/05/2022 | 12:56

Ahead of the RESinvest 2022 conference, the premier event that will bring together EU Commission leaders, national government authorities from across Europe and wind and solar industry top executives, on May 17-18 at the Face Convention Center in Bucharest, Business Review sat down for an exclusive interview with Carlo Pignoloni, the President of the Romanian Wind Energy Association (RWEA), to talk about the opportunities and challenges which arise from developing a robust renewable energy supply chain in Romania and the SEE region.

 

  1. The RESinvest 2022 is drawing near and you will be delivering the opening words at the conference. Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about the topics you think are the most important in the current context for the renewable energy industry in Romania, but also in our region and in the EU?

The EU Green Deal is pushing an unprecedented second wave of wind and solar energy investments in Europe. Countries are pursuing extremely ambitious targets – Romania for instance will more than double its clean energy capacity. At the same time the wind and solar equipment manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand, leading to long delivery times and higher costs for all stakeholders involved.

The need for equipment and components for wind and solar farms is, therefore, greater than ever. However, the huge economic opportunity and the favorable context offer the necessary conditions for attracting and developing a chain of production and services to operate in Romania.

The opportunity to have a robust local value chain is addressed by RWEA, which is acting as a facilitator in order to help authorities, companies, investors and all interested parties to find the right solutions to take most of the benefits of the energy transition.

The shift to a low-carbon economy comes with a number of social implications, which need to be addressed from the early stages of the transformative process. Therefore, we treat it with priority and try to come up with concrete measures to make sure that we all cross the energy transition safely and no one is left behind. People in this domain keep on talking about a ”just transition” – well, we have to make sure it will be as such. .

Romania already benefits from the experience of the training center for wind turbine technicians – Renewable Energy School of Skills, which has already produced specialists and experts who serve both the national market and other European markets. In the same context, RWEA continued a program for professional reconversion of the people in one of the traditional mining areas in Romania, in Petroșani, where it was recently opened a new Professional Academy.

 

  1. As President of the Romanian Wind Energy Association (RWEA), what are your plans and objectives for this sector and what can you tell us about the strategies you have and will implement at the Association?

It is with great honor to speak from this position, as we talk about such an active association, very responsive to the industry’s needs and always present in the debates at the European level.

In order to assist to a successful clean energy transition, the association has the responsibility to act as a facilitator and to further and better represent industry’s interests and needs in the discussions with Romanian authorities and all stakeholders,  as well as at the European level.

The regulations and legislative fundamentals that stay at the basis of renewables’ development require consistency and harmonization with the European guidelines and RWEA will continually signal and address the discrepancies that might disrupt or jeopardize the RES development.

RWEA is actively seeking to make a contribution for the industry and aims to produce data-driven business cases. For this reason, the association is collaborating with reputable independent consultants for conducting two important studies: one related to the targets for 2030 that the Government needs to review through PNIESC and a technical one to understand the capacity of the National Energy System to accommodate this new wave of renewables.

 

  1. The EU has been pushing for the adoption of renewable energy for several years now, but how important is to speed up this process in the current context?

The increased energy consumption and the dependence of fossil fuels from not trustworthy partners showed to all EU countries that the only energy resources free of economically and geopolitically constraints are wind and sun.

Clean energy transition means much more than the installation of new production capacity. It implies the production of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, or their components in Romania, of digital solutions that will make possible the energy transition, the training of the workforce at all levels of qualification, as well as investments in education and research.

RESInvest is the event dedicated to this purpose, that will bring together key people from the European Commission, Romanian and European government representatives, as well as key industrial actors from various sectors, in a call to action with a common goal: to develop the local production value chain of technology for the renewables sector and to create investment opportunities.

 

  1. The renewable energy sector has seen its own recent issues with supply chain bottlenecks and raw material price increases, so is the industry capable to cope and maintain growth?

The transition to renewable energy is at an irreversible point, as evidenced by the already over 3,000 MW operating in wind farms and the important number of projects under development already announced locally and the growing interest of investors.

The sources of financing already exist, in addition to important private capital available, Romania having at its disposal well over 10 billion Euros for the energy sector only through European Funding allocated for the country. It is the context in which Romania has the huge opportunity to let the energy sector stimulate and support the growth of the economy.

The lessons learned from the first wave of RES development combined with the industry’s maturity and the huge economic opportunity have the potential to make for a successful transition towards clean energy.

 

  1. In recent news, we saw that Romania might finally get its first off-shore wind farm; what can you tell us about this type of project which has seen significant growth worldwide in recent years?

The interest is growing in this area, and we already have in the association projects announced in this respect. We are still waiting for the legislative framework on Offshore wind. To that respect, Romania is registering a slight delay, as, according to conditions stipulated in the PNRR, by the first half of 2023, Romania must already have a functional mechanism for investments in offshore wind. Moreover, as we know, the EU strategy on offshore renewable energy aims to increase Europe’s offshore wind capacity to at least 60 GW by 2030 and 300 GW by 2050. We do hope that Romania will not miss the opportunity of becoming the first country to count offshore wind activities in the Black Sea. We will do our best for this to happen.

Of course, we have to look at the whole wind picture, both onshore and offshore, and decide upon the opportunity for each. Although we are talking about wind in both cases, we should consider the onshore and offshore two separate business cases, due to the technology involved, costs implied and, not in the least, operations & maintenance. The Black Sea benefits of strong continuous winds, so this is a crucial factor for the offshore case. A recent World Bank map was estimating the technical potential of the Black Sea region at 435 GW, of which 269 GW fixed and 166 GW floating.

 

  1. What is the future of wind energy? Will we see more AI, machine learning, or IoT used in the industry?

Maybe we should rephrase this question into “What is the future of energy?” because the answer would be ”Energy from renewable sources, such as wind, is the future”. We were mentioning the energy transition that is enabled by digitalization: for sure, the newest and the most complex technology allows for the energy industry to grow. But, at the same time, technology advances due to energy industry and its specific requirements. We are talking about two domains acting in synergy, feeding one another. And, if we look into the labor market, we can see how many “IT people” the energy industry is looking for. AI, machine learning, IoT are not the future, they are the present, as they are already used in energy at a massive scale. As industrial equipment used in energy needs to become more and more sophisticated, flexible, and precise, so do the software solutions that will enable their production and functioning will transform and reach the next level. We are very optimistic about the future in energy, and we are here to continue to design this future.

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