The German multi-utility company RWE has now been operating in eastern Slovakia for seven years. Through its 49-percent ownership of Východoslovenská energetika a. s. (VSE) it has been distributing electrical power to almost 600,000 customers. Apart from a reliable power supply, VSE wants to offer comprehensive energy services to its clients. Through launching its services in the field of energy efficiency, VSE has also become a more attractive partner regarding potential new customers. Moreover, saving energy is a matter of responsible approach towards the environment for our company. We talked with the CEO of VSE Norbert Schürmann, who is also the company’s Chairman of the Board of Directors, about what the company has managed to do so far in energy efficiency.
1/ What have you managed to achieve in the area of energy savings during the last year?
When we started to deal with this topic, we built our program on four pillars. We pledged to begin saving energy ourselves; then we launched vast consultancy and counselling activities; we also built overarching partnerships with other companies; and lastly, we have not forgotten to involve the young generation, either. Every year we encourage pupils to think about saving power through a literary competition. They write essays, draw comics, or invent fairy tales – always with the common theme: how to save energy. This year we received 300 works from all across eastern Slovakia. Currently visible activities include our co-operation with ‘Green Schools’. This is a national concept of creating an environmentally-friendly consciousness at elementary schools by involving them in ecology programs, evaluating their activities and giving them certificates. VSE is supplying learning materials aimed at saving energies.
2/ Let us begin with what has been accomplished. What has been the progress of VSE in these individual areas?
At first sight, probably the most visible area has been in the field of energy consultancy and counseling services. Our website www.SetrimeEnergiu.sk has recorded 6,500 users monthly. It is vastly expanded in comparison with its beginnings and it now contains sections with many kinds of advice, for instance, about how to purchase energy-saving appliances. Analyses of using heat pump devices have also become very popular. More than 100 customers have asked us to help them with calculations about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of heating systems. Based on these analyses some customers have decided to use modern heat pump devices for their heating needs.
3/ Another pillar of your campaign are the partnerships. How do your collaborating partners evaluate them?
It is built on a system of joint opportunities. Synergic effect emerges for all involved parties when the contributions are balanced and the benefit is evident for everybody. I think our working concept guarantees this. VSE enters the partnership with a beneficial tariff rate, EKO DOM (or EKO), and a voucher for € 670; our partners agree to supply heat pump devices with a 10 percent discount; and our customers get a much better return on their investment. The numbers speak for themselves: more than 70 customers already have this advantageous rate; the first two heat pump devices supported by VSE are already operating; and the number of the partners in the project has grown from 5 to the current 8.
4/ You said at the beginning that VSE began saving energy itself.
You are right. We have already installed two heat pump devices in two VSE buildings that should save us about 70 percent of the previous energy consumption. We are running an extensive campaign which is aimed at our own employees: we encourage them to save energy, but what is more important is that we question them about improvements. The great ideas that have been coming from them prove that our company colleagues do care about not wasting energy and I like this very much.
5/ It is necessary for individuals to save energy but this cannot provide energy stability for an entire country. What is the key to this in your opinion?
I consider it as a fight on several fronts. First, it is necessary for Slovakia to free itself from dependency on energy imports. However, it is very demanding from the viewpoint of investment to build new production capacities and it requires a stable environment for several decades. The world will also have to look more at renewable sources of energy. We are ready to be engaged in each of these possibilities. Of course not alone, but rather in cooperation with other players in the market, whether they are the state, generation companies or other energy distribution companies.
6/ Finally, how do you see the future of the parent company RWE in Slovakia?
In the segment of power distribution, we want to keep our existing positions. We are also actively searching for opportunities to enter projects of power generation. And of course, the engagement of RWE in the sphere of gas sales should also grow through the company RWE Gas Slovensko s.r.o., which entered the market at the beginning of this year and offers natural gas for key account customers with gas consumption greater than 4 GW-hours per year. This year, we want to address other market segments with an offer that will attract new customers.