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Francisco Fernandes, technical director of the company in Póvoa do Varzim, provides Buildings and Energy with details of the new project and outlines the profile of the company which consolidated its position in the market as the manufacturer of the “solar heat pump”.
ENERGIE is preparing the launch of a product it says is “revolutionary”. What´s it all about?
"It´s a step which directs ENERGIE towards a type of market which didn´t exist previously. We´re talking about the apartment market – the vertical market. Thermodynamic technology has clearly been highly focused on houses and industrial facilities. We are now going to invest in vertical construction within the residential standard apartment sector, featuring domestic hot water equipment (DHW)."
Is this market also different in terms of sales channels?
"Sales are always conducted through the installer. We focus on the network of installers and technicians in the sector rather than the megastores and the client directly. As national manufacturers, we understand how much it costs to implement a brand. Our procedure will always be conducted via this professional channel. This is also due to the fact our equipment is subject to the installation factor, meaning it needs to be executed by accredited and qualified personnel. This automatically applies to this range of thermodynamic products. Aerothermal products involve more practical solutions with fewer installation components."
What are the major differences in this new equipment?
"To start with, this is a market which was not being exploited. Moreover, it meets clients´ needs in relation to DHW solutions, always geared to high levels of efficiency and energy savings, these being the main characteristics. We then attempt to integrate with the solutions we have in the market, in increasingly difficult and limited facades and roofs."
Do you work with architects for this? How was the product developed?
"Normally, the creation of a product at ENERGIE is conducted using internal knowledge and leveraged by the demand of the domestic and international markets. This is what we have always done: trying to find the best solution by combining existing solutions or not. In this case, it was obviously meeting a need through a product which already existed in the aerothermal sector and wall heat pumps for this type of solution, but we believe that thermodynamics could also follow this path with certain benefits. This was the idea and the motivation."
Has your R&D department been conducting this work?
"ENERGIE has placed a major focus on this area, but we have also sought out and entered into several partnerships with both Portuguese and international laboratories and entities."
Will your market strategy for Portugal in 2018 be geared more to thermodynamics?
"ENERGIE always has been and always will be associated with thermodynamic technology and its solutions. We have three new features in this range. The vertical range, new high-performance central heating equipment with inverter technology to meet the needs of the market and the trends demanded by our customers, and the resulting industrial implementation – large-volume hot water solutions for hotels, schools, gymnasiums... always based on the expertise of the architects, project designers, engineers."
How are the two solutions related?
"Our investment in aerothermal products began a few years ago for French and Italian clients at first. As far as ENERGIE is concerned, the aerothermal sector in Portugal is more than being just a manufacturer, active player or marketer. In relation to branding, we wish to make our presence felt and to gain recognition as a means of showing the global market that we are manufacturers of heat pumps working in partnership particularly with the major retailers."
What was your opinion of the year 2017?
"It´s obvious things are getting better, boosted by construction, however we haven´t changed our way of working much. We have always placed importance on sustainable growth and we have no desire to embark on large-scale growth. One step at a time is our motto. We are going to achieve positive results. Indicators point to a growth of over 30%, surpassing our initial objectives. We want to maintain this curve in 2018."
Internationalization has been a major feature...
"We are active in around 40 countries, with a bigger presence in some than in others. We are present in the main countries in Europe and operate in other continents."
You operate in Australia and New Caledonia, unusual places.
"We have made a huge effort in terms of certification, acknowledgment, the difficulties we´ve managed to overcome. There is considerable protectionism in a lot of markets and that doesn´t happen here. To be able to operate in France, we have to repeat the tests in restricted French laboratories at a high cost. The same happens in England and certain Asian countries. It´s common in a lot of the countries we operate in. What we notice in the domestic market is that there is no monitoring. There are laws, but without using the word protectionism, we should, perhaps, operate under the same conditions."
How did you adapt to the issue of energy labeling?
"It was smooth. We were prepared. We belong to international technical commissions and a number of work groups. We regarded this as mandatory, and, furthermore, as a competitive advantage. We have energy labeling, but some clients have told us that the market is not fully aligned with this requirement. We often take part in tender and application processes in which certain companies have no energy labeling and this results in a lack of motivation. What we hear is that there is a lack of information. We don´t know if our competitors have energy labeling or not. We don´t really understand how this comparison is made. There is no concern or demand with regard to the quality and origin of products in Portugal at this time in our sector, and this is a disadvantage. And we set an example in so many areas with regard to quality..."
How can you deal with this problem?
"It has a lot to do with our culture. Spain and Italy have the same kind of situations where products are specified with less rigour than in northern Europe, for example. Protectionism there is considerable with regard to the quality of the equipment installed. Laboratories, public entities and universities all work to this end."
Do you have any direct competitor in thermodynamic panel technology?
"No. We´ve had the patent for several years, and due to the fact the product is so exposed it´s normal for similar products to appear, but which the market itself screens."
And what about abroad?
"It happens too, and particularly in countries lacking technology, but everything has run smoothly, as we are well known and respected internationally. It hasn´t been easy, but in most countries our partners have helped to disclose our technology."
How has the company developed?
"We first appeared in 1981 in another market sector based on thermodynamic solar products. The biggest unit was created in 2007 and we grew 3000 m² in one go. The effort we put into being more competitive and agile involves striving to discover new skills in relation to knowledge and know-how, as well as working together with our industrial partners both at home and abroad."
Is it easy to network in Portugal?
"It´s a lot easier nowadays. The mentality used to be everyone closing their doors and working for themselves. Today, you can see the doors have opened and the industry will only gain from this reality."
Do you provide training?
"We have several areas of training in different languages due to the fact we have people from all over the world. Training is normally monthly, but it depends on what the customer asks for."
How many people work at ENERGIE?
"Around 50 people, in addition to an entire network of other people and partners. We are hiring workers for the production unit. We enjoy sustainable growth of new products, new technologies and we are prepared for continue growth. We have new projects for the manufacture of heat pumps for a number of expanding Nordic markets, which has forced us to restructure the unit."
What are the perspectives for 2018?
"Work based on accreditation, innovation and the improved efficiency of all our equipment."