Startup.info talked to Dmytro Lukomskyi, CEO and founder of Avenston Group, co-founder of Rentechno, member of the Board of the Association of Solar Energy of Ukraine, PhD about Ukrainian solar market and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fortunately, we are good during these hard times. Of course, current global changes also affected our lifestyle. Firstly, we started to work and study in partial remote mode. It was difficult in the beginning and is still not comfortable till now. Secondly, our life space is more narrow now. Less trips, meetings and other activities. For example, my daughter is studying at home having less contact with other children now. But to compensate for the negative factors we started to spend more time in the pool and gym taking care about our health. Life is changing for all of us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company
I am an entrepreneur, who has been involved in renewable energy projects since 2001.
My professional growth started at a local company, where we produced Si solar cells and solar modules. It also included scientific and practical activities, within the framework of which a number of R&D studies were carried out with the involvement of leading scientific institutions of Ukraine, Turkey and the UK. Later I obtained good experience in project management in the energy and industry sectors working in very big Ukrainian multi-industry holding.
My first business project – Rentechno company was founded together with partners in 2010. It was one of the leaders in the solar energy market in Ukraine, EPC contractor and distributor of solar power equipment. The total capacity of solar power plants constructed by our group of companies exceeded 150 MW. Taking into account the prospects of the bioenergy market, Biosynergia company was created a bit later. This start-up was focused on the development and implementation of technologies for industrial gasification of agricultural waste.
In 2018, I founded and became CEO of Avenston Group, which provides consulting, engineering, construction and O&M services to renewable energy projects in Ukraine. Also I am a member of the Board of the Association of Solar Energy of Ukraine, whose goal is broad support for the development of the solar energy sector and promotion of Ukraine’s innovative potential development. And during all these years the solar PV industry was and still is the main focus of my activities.
How does your company innovate?
During the last ten years our group was a pioneer in implementations of new technologies. We have built the first solar power plants based on 2-axis solar trackers, mounted the first BIPV installations and implemented many other projects based on modern technologies. We have always tried to find the right mix of innovations and sustainable business growth. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, today we continue to invest and develop all started projects. Avenston has a deep understanding of the market, its capabilities and risks. For all, it is now extremely important to maintain a sober look at all events and calmly follow the set goals. A clear strategy and confidence in our values lead our company to success. Recently, we have started some new projects and are going to implement new technologies. For example, the building-integrated PV (BIPV) projects are now among our priority.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Really, our sector has got big troubles last year. I mean the solar PV industry in Ukraine. But it was caused not only by COVID 19. Some negative changes at green legislation were one more important reason why solar companies in Ukraine significantly decreased their growth. Our total turnover of our group in 2020 was almost three times less than the year before. It was a year of changing strategy. We have moved focus from utility-scale solar power plants to small-size and middle-size installations as well as MEP-systems and PV projects for self-consumption. So in 2021 we are waiting for growth. I expect a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15-20% for our company.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
We understand how crucial the discipline and proper observance of all the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the decisions of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine are. Therefore, our company has implemented all the necessary quarantine measures to protect its employees and their families. During lockdowns all personnel were at home and transferred to remote work with the same payment conditions. People have been instructed and were implementing recommendations for the prevention of the disease. We devoted a lot of time to strategic planning, focusing on long-term goals. As a result, the company will not reduce staff. Moreover, we are seeking new colleagues and inviting professionals to our team. In this year we hired several people to PM and Sales departments.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
During the last 2-3 years we worked mainly with foreign companies which invested to Ukrainian solar projects. And of course COVID 19 was a reason for some difficulties in communications. There were periods of time when we communicated only online by a special software. But now they have the possibility of visiting our country so communication was back to personal contacts.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
No. We haven’t got anything. Unfortunately, governmental support was zero. Moreover, Ukrainian PV market was attacked by many not planned inspections by regulatory authorities. There was an artificial crisis of not payments by green tariff. A lot of companies refocused to neighboring markets or even were closed.
Your final thoughts
We see very quick changes till the new reality of humanity lifestyle. World has changed. As soon we understand it, new opportunities will be open for everyone. I hope the main threat will be defeated – a way to stop COVID 19 will be found.