With more than 1.000 employees, the Adrem Group is one of the main players in the utility grids services area. Corneliu Bodea, the executive director of the group, is also president of the Romanian Center of Energy – a quality in which it is a reputed voice in the public space. We have discussed with him about 2020 and how the projects of the Adrem group continue to adapt to the challenges of the moment.
Dear Mr Corneliu Bodea, entrepreneurship means being highly adaptable – the last years have fully tested this feature. In a few phrases, how has the Adrem group evolved over the last 3-4 years, in terms of business model, services offered, but also in terms of financial and human resources?
The Adrem Group consolidated its position as the largest Romanian supplier of energy services, redefined its business objectives when it was beneficial – the case of Adrem Link, which in 2019 took over the activity of reading electricity meters from sister company, Adrem invest, as a clear and unified direction – and has continued to develop its portfolio of services and solutions, including in the B2C segment, for energy consumers.
The two companies, of which Adrem Invest offers management services for measurement groups, together form the largest supplier in Romania on this segment with services offered to 1,4 million clients of Distribuție Oltenia, in seven countries.
The third company in the group, Adrem Engineering, has developed strongly on the direction of large business projects, by replacing the SMG Isaccea 1 gas measurement station, projects of national strategic interest such as the BRUA pipeline, and by digitizing and automating the national energy network in hundreds of stations and transformation stations across the country.
As for the human resource, we currently have about 1.500 employees, with Adrem being one of the biggest family business in Romania. The health crisis and all its immediate effects have raised challenges, both in terms of managing such a large team, with people operating throughout the country, who must be protected and work safely, but also economically. We had two clear goals, aligned with the values of our companies, that guided us through these challenges: people’s health, which was and remains the number one priority, and business continuity, where we tried to deliver on our commitments to our partners.
As a sum-up, I can say that the last years have been good for Adrem and we will continue in this direction to strengthen our position in the market as a key player, but also to expand our portfolio of services and products to meet the needs of our customers.
The main activity area remains power distribution (Adrem Invest). Have you felt the acceleration of smart metering implementation projects according to programs announced by large operators?
Even though we are not yet at the level of some European countries such as Spain, which completed this process in 2017, we can see an improvement in efforts to bring smart meters to the domestic market, even in the difficult conditions raised by the pandemic. Adrem Invest has been involved from the beginning in all the smart metering pilot projects that have taken place in the country, so we are currently the most experienced smart meter installer in Romania. In 2020, for example, the Adrem teams installed 40,000 meters in Vrancea County alone, for the client Distribuţie Energie Electrică Romania SA (DEER), and 10,000 meters in the Oltenia region, for the main contractors, Intrarom and Distribuţie Oltenia, part of the CEZ Group in Romania. According to the ANRE calendar for the implementation of smart metering systems at a national level for the period 2019-2028, by 2028 a total of 4 million smart meters should be installed by energy distributors. This goal means nothing more than alignment with the direction set by the European Union, so we will have to find a faster pace for Romania to meet its commitments.
What were the main projects involving Adrem Engineering in 2020?
Adrem Engineering develops and implements comprehensive energy infrastructure solutions, from complex general entrepreneurship works to equipment developed in-house. The company is the result of 15 years of research, development and implementation of SCADA solutions and process automation, and our goal is to become the main provider of solutions for the energy infrastructure in Romania and to strengthen its position at a regional level.
The year 2020 was the year of big and ambitious projects, and we did our best to respect our commitments to our partners even in the context of a health emergency. My colleagues continued to work on the digitization of 250 substations in six counties, by integrating them into the SCADA system, for our client Distribuţie Energie Electrică Romania SA; only 28 objectives remain to be completed. Another important project was the new natural gas measuring station replacing SMG Isaccea 1 and designed to perform the commercial measurement of gas transported in both directions, from north to south, respectively from Ukraine to Romania, or from south to north, respectively from Romania to Ukraine. Last but not least, I would like to mention the BRUA, a project of national strategic interest, for which we completed the integration in SCADA of the three compression stations – Podișor, Bibești and Jupa, and we completed the first functional tests with large valve stations, including SR2 Podișor which is the most complex valve station on the pipeline. The works continue, and at this moment we have sent to the site and prepared for testing 10 of 21 fully equipped containers in terms of automation, communication and security against fire and burglary.
The legislative changes of recent years and the European funds now available promise a new wave of investment in renewable electricity generation. How will the Adrem Group be present in such projects?
With a history of almost 30 years in this industry, the Adrem Invest group has become a major provider of integrated services in power distribution, natural gas and renewable energy. The installation of smart meters, the automation of stations and electricity grids, the hardware and software developments that we make and have made us a leader in the local industrial automation market contribute to the modernization and transition of the national energy system to green energy. From this perspective, you can expect us to continue to see us in big business projects, infrastructure, digitalization and efficiency of the energy system in the direction of development outlined by the European Union and assumed by Romania.
I would also add that, through Adrem Link, we have expanded our portfolio to include solutions that address power generation through photovoltaic panels and continue to develop B2C services and products for final consumers. With the Green House government program, for example, in which we are a validated installer, we address both industrial and commercial environments and people who want to become prosumers. We also support the vision of integrated services and to this end we develop energy efficiency solutions dedicated to urban centres, aiming at transforming them into smart cities – energy management for smart cities.
The energy transition will not be easy for Romania, which is lagging behind other countries in terms of technology, digitalization, infrastructure and innovation. From this perspective, the main disadvantage of our energy industry can be converted into an opportunity to develop and catch up, especially through instruments such as Green Deal. Adrem Group will certainly be increasingly present in this segment of renewable energy and we are ready to support our business partners and customers with services and products to facilitate the energy transition.
Is Adrem interested in the Electric-UP program?
Yeas, we definitely are. Adrem Link provides its energy audit services and our teams of installers and electricians are ready to provide the services needed to implement such projects. Our company is licensed, under Order 38/2013, as an energy auditor class II complex by the National Energy Regulatory Authority. Also, our 6 energy auditors authorized by ANRE on thermal and electro energy balance sheets confirm our technical competence in the delivery of this service.
The energy industry is in a profound transformation process, as you know too well. How can the Adrem group capitalize on this process, which has already started, but which will run for many decades from now on?
The transformation of the energy industry is in line with the very ambitious goals of the European Union, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. It is difficult to imagine how we will achieve these targets. without going through any mandatory steps that include creating a predictable legislative framework for investors and launching large-scale projects to streamline and modernize the energy system. In the future, more emphasis will be placed on regional interconnectivity, and energy services will most likely come bundled as integrated services. The Adrem Group has two major advantages, one related to know-how and our experience of almost 30 years in which we have invested in research, development and implementation of solutions for automation (from SCADA to smart meters), and on the other hand, we serve customers from all over the country, from companies to municipalities to the final consumer. We have constantly adapted, we have learned and grown, we have expanded our portfolios with new services and technologies and thus we have become one of the main suppliers in the local energy market, from the management of measurement groups and solutions for energy infrastructure. we offer them to end consumers. We will certainly continue to play a key role in this long-term transition to more responsible and efficient resource consumption, sustainable and clean technologies, regional interconnectivity, and we will support our partners in this process.
How should leadership in the energy sector look in 2021?
Leadership in all areas has suffered in this extended period of remote work, because it is difficult to inspire people from behind a screen and the comfort of your home when they can go in the field to repair damages, under emergency situation included. In the case of the Adrem group, for example, I used to travel around the country every year and meet face to face with all employees in the area, especially with electricians, readers and those who spend their time in the field. We feel this distance we are forced to keep and try to compensate for it some other ways, using internal communication actions and through a permanent online dialogue. In 2021, leadership can only be collaborative, oriented towards the exchange of ideas and a partnership with employees to ensure business continuity in a context of uncertainty. We don’t know exactly what this new normalcy we are heading for will look like, but the pandemic has certainly changed the way we work, the way we relate to our jobs, our businesses and our relationships. In 2021, we still need solidarity, a return to the values we believe in and a partnership, including with our employees, to build resilience.
This interview firstly appeared in the printed edition of Energynomics Magazine, issued in March 2021.
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