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Member Spotlight: TergoPower aims for key role in modernizing Poland’s energy system
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Member Spotlight: TergoPower aims for key role in modernizing Poland’s energy system


CEO of TergoPower, Einar O. Vangsnes



The goal is to build a viable company with growth potential based on sustainable utilization of biomass as an energy source. Since its establishment in 2009, TergoPower has focused on the Polish market and has succeeded in positioning itself as an important partner for regional authorities.

Coal is currently the main fuel used for generating electricity in Poland. Coal-fired generation represents a major environmental challenge for the country itself and for the EU’s renewable energy expansion targets as set out in the energy directive. The Polish government therefore aims to increase the proportion of the nation’s energy generated from renewable sources from 9 to 15 per cent by 2020.

“We have positioned ourselves strongly as a prospective partner when the regional authorities in Poland start working toward the national goals. We intend to develop a strong portfolio of renewable energy solutions and hope the building permit for the first plant in the Lubelskie region will be granted this September or October,” says Einar O. Vangsnes, CEO of TergoPower.

Expertise and relationships
The company has been eyeing the Polish market ever since it was established in 2009 and has gradually been building up the expertise and relationships needed to enter the market.

Mr Vangsnes continues: “We chose the Lubelskie region in southeast Poland for our first venture because it offers a great combination of the factors we always look for: easy access to resources, clear political development goals, and good relationships with the regional authorities.”

Having made this choice, over the past three years the company has built up its own organization, developed relationships to secure a foothold in the region’s political planning process, located and acquired suitable land, obtained funding, and prepared its application to establish the first biomass-fired power plant in Poland based on the TergoPower concept.

Big reduction in CO2 emissions
The plant will generate 43 MWe of electricity from biomass (mainly straw and some wood chips), using tried-and-tested combined heat and power (CHP) technology. Estimates show that this first plant will generate enough electricity for 70,000 households, while reducing CO2 emissions from coal-fired power generation by 230,000 tonnes annually. Looking ahead several years, the total capacity of the plants in the pipeline is over 200 MWe.

What are the characteristics of this combustion technology, and why doesn’t it produce CO2 emissions?

“It’s not so much about the characteristics of the technology as about the energy
cycle. We build value chains based on proximity to energy sources. That’s one reason why the Lubelskie region was our natural first choice when we decided to locate in Poland. The region is Poland’s larder.

“As far as we’re concerned, the location provides access to large quantities of raw materials, primarily straw from grain production. We expect to use 270,000 tonnes of straw annually. We will use a soft boiler with vibrating grate technology, in which straw is burned in a specially constructed combustion grate. CHP technology yields a utilization rate of 75%, compared to a mere 35% for the standard combustion method. The ash remaining after combustion is recycled back to the farms providing straw, where it is used as fertilizer. Ash in the form of smaller particles, known as fly ash, is used in the production of asphalt and concrete.

“When the entire cycle is taken into account, the method is CO2 neutral. Meanwhile, we’ll be saving the environment from significant CO2 emissions, compared with coal-fired generation, yet still producing the same amount of energy.”

Human resources key
The key to gaining a foothold in the Lubelskie region was good human resources, says Mr Vangsnes, emphasizing that his most important job has been to find the right people at the right time to take on tasks and fill positions.

Two key players remain central to the development process. First there is Jörgen Andersson, chairman of the board. Formerly Sweden’s energy minister, he played a major role in negotiations with the Polish authorities over several years. He was also chairman of Vattenfall in 1997 when that company acquired Warsaw’s energy utility. All in all, he has extensive knowledge of the Polish energy market and a wide network of contacts.

TergoPower seems to be making a great success of its Polish venture. What is it that you’re doing right?

“It’s not possible to pinpoint a single factor as the reason why we’ve come as far as we have to date. Rather, it’s probably a combination of factors: besides having a very good team, we have an attractive technological solution, we envisage creating a significant number of local jobs at each plant, and we can document a significant positive environmental impact on the region and the country as a whole.”

Do you expect this first operation to be a valuable starting point for more Polish operations, or will it be a one-off?

“This first plant will be the proof of concept. Once it’s up and running, we’ll continue to focus on developing and establishing similar plants. In the first instance, we’re looking at several other locations in Poland, but we don’t rule out expanding into more cities in the region, other parts of Europe, and other markets where the conditions likewise favour our approach.

“Our focus is on developing sustainable solutions for energy production. The environmental aspect will always be important to us. Our niche is creating value in markets where it’s possible to combine the added value with improvements in the environment and surroundings. It won’t be our job to operate plants that are fully developed and established. For that, we intend to team up with local players in each location. In this way, there will be no geographical barriers to our expansion. Nevertheless, our strategic planning takes into account the very factors we have found to be so important: local knowledge, good relationships, and having all the practical aspects sorted out. That suggests we’ll be focused on Poland for a long time yet.”
For TergoPower, the rapid spread of technology that has proven its mettle is what counts. The company is innovative in that it applies established technologies in new markets, but being innovative is not its priority. A platform consisting of established technological solutions is crucial to the success of development projects involving interaction between concept owner, political authorities, public development programs, funding programs, and private venture capital. All the stakeholders want to see the project meet the goals for energy production and environmental impact. That leaves little room for uncertainty or experimentation.

What impact have public funding programs and government-backed export drives had on TergoPower?

“In the case of our Polish venture, public-sector involvement has had no impact. However, we have derived great benefit and pleasure from working with Green Business Norway. The organization’s accumulated know-how with regard to Poland, especially on the political relationship level, has made a big difference to us.”

Einar O. Vangsnes is an optimist and believes TergoPower has many opportunities to expand in the years ahead. The company is not wedded to any one technology, but is open to multiple solutions where it can apply the expertise it has gained in identifying needs, pinpointing possible locations, and choosing good solutions. Relevant niches include waste-to-energy, waste management, and solar energy. The Polish market is scarcely ready for such solutions yet, but intensive efforts are under way at the political level to find solutions to various environmental challenges. It is likely that these efforts will bear fruit, leading to new opportunities, he says.

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