Greenbuddies tips – January 2021

Plug-in hybrids – support or threat to European climate goals?

In January 2020, in blissful ignorance, we witnessed an unprecedented drop in CO2 emissions from newly sold cars across Europe as well as significant increase in electric car sales. It was not that the drivers suddenly miraculously changed their preferences. The key reason was the legislation, as the long-awaited rules for reducing CO2 emissions for cars in 2020-21 came into force.​​​​​​​

They require car manufacturers to invest in clean technology, mostly in electric cars, and reduce carbon pollution from car sales to an average of 95 g/km. This has triggered massive investments on the part of manufacturers, the range of so-called plug-in models (vehicles with internal combustion engines equipped with an electric motor that charges from a socket) has expanded significantly, and the steep increase in sales followed quickly come as a result of all these changes.

Despite the Covid 19 pandemic, 2020 will go down in history as the year when electromobility in Europe began to gain momentum. There has never been a better time to buy a plug-in car, which for many customers who are afraid to buy purely battery-powered electric vehicles is a sort of optimal compromise between the quest for emission-free individual transport and the desire to sustain sufficient range (and therefore comfort) to which they have been accustomed. However, this state is far from ideal. You ask why? Well, precisely because half of the sales of electric vehicles are plug-in hybrids. We have to realize that these cars are not, in principle, designed to have zero emissions – they are mostly powered by combustion (and therefore pollution-producing) powertrains.

Therefore, experts fear that higher sales of cars with alternative propulsion could, as a result, increase CO2 emissions in operation more than previously expected. For instance, according to a joint study of the German Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (Ifeu), the Ökoinstitut and the European Transport Association for Transport and the Environment commissioned by by the Federal Ministry of Environment in Berlin, this is mainly due to the high proportion of plug-in hybrids among the new vehicle registrations.

Plug-in hybrids, as already mentioned, use mainly an internal combustion engine in daily operation – and thus emit significantly more CO2 than stated with reference to the results of test measurements. According to one of the leading researchers at the Ökoinstitut, plug-in hybrids can be expected to produce an additional 4.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in the transport segment in 2030 in addition to the original market forecasts. And all this in a situation where, according to previous estimates, the transport sector would miss the original target of a maximum amount of CO2 for 2030 of 95 million tonnes by around 30 million tonnes.

According to the authors of the study, previous scenarios for the development of CO2 emissions in the transport sector derived the volume of emissions immediately after the official homologation of a given vehicle type. However, especially in the case of heavy hybrid plug-in models, the actual operation exceeds this value several times. In addition, the study states that about a third of newly registered hybrid plug-in vehicles are heavy SUVs or off-road vehicles, which are worse off in terms of environmental pollution than conventional lighter plug-in hybrids. The main reasons for the low portion of electric journeys in the total distance traveled are the lack of economic incentives for electric charging and the underdeveloped charging infrastructure. Another problem is the short range of electricity, especially for heavy vehicles.

The study advocates stricter conditions for the purchase of subsidized insurance premiums and tax benefits for plug-in hybrids. According to the document, discounts for plug-in hybrids should be related to “hard”, i.e. measurable criteria for purely electric driving range, electric performance and the evidence of regular charging. In addition, electric propulsion should be financially attractive to users. At the end of last year, for example, the German independent environmental agency Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) called for an end to government subsidies and tax subsidies for these types of vehicles. The reason was, among other things, a study by Transport & Environment, which found that CO2 emissions from three hybrid models tested in real operation were up to eight times higher than the values stated by the manufacturer.

So again like many times before, does it turn out that a hybrid solution, or compromise in other words, can actually be to the detriment rather than to the advantage?

Market opening in Belgium for Greenbuddies

Although Greenbuddies Energy BV and its head Jos Schlangen is responsible for the entire BeNeLux market until half of this year we haven’t explored the market in Belgium systematically and we did not have there any constructions (with one big exception of the mighty 71 MW Kristalpark).

This has changed as we recognised that several Belgian companies reacted on what we do in Holland. In one of the rare lockdown windows allowing to fly from Prague to Amsterdam and drive to Belgium we have flown in and together with Jos visited some of these interested companies. The interest proved to be genuine and since last quarter we are already building a few roof tops there on an EPC basis.
One of them is a project in Charleroi constructed on the roof of a shopping center. This is a technically difficult work of smaller dimension (250 kWp). For this application, we have chosen the Dutch mounting system Aerocompact, which offers a wide range of specialized products for photovoltaics. To offer higher quality services to our clients, we constantly try to improve our knowledge and skills, and for example our employees have undergone professional certification training with the Aerocompact assembly system in Holland. The construction of a structure of this size and complexity was planned with an obvious time buffer for 3 weeks, but as you all know the construction in photovoltaics is one of the fields that are strongly dependent and influenced by the weather. This fact manifested itself very strongly in this project. Heavy rainfall and a very sharp roof pitch (23 °), in combination challenged the deadline and cost us a lot of additional effort.

We had on mind the term promised to the client, and if these conditions occur, we always try to adapt the work as much as possible. Change the work schedule and complete at first the work that this weather allows (installation of cable trays in areas under the roof structure, installation of inverters etc.). The difficulty of work was not only determined by the weather. This project was on a very tall building with minimal space for equipment that could transport material on to the roof, so we must have rented a special car with a hydraulic arm (crane track) to transport the material.The last details on this project are being completed and will be handed over to the client, who seemed to be pleased by our efforts as he understood the complexity of the project, bad weather and very good and fast communication.

It seems that the Belgian market is promising and that we have opened a good path to 4-5 strong clients there, who would appreciate our flexibility, fairness, project management skills and ability to effectively source right people and components

With this article, we would like to wish you a lot of professional and personal success in 2021, interesting and useful projects and such good clients as Greenbuddies has.

Hindsight is year 2020

Surely everyone at the beginning of the 2020 expressed to everyone of his friends, families, business contacts a wishes of healthy and prosperous year. However approaching March we all knew already that this will be a year like no other.

From a health perspective in 2020 the COVID – 19 phenomenon fortunately did not adversely affect anyone from the Greenbuddies. Counting the numbers at the end of the year we have also did not experience any slowdown. Moreover, we went up with our revenues comparing to 2019.

The main difference we experienced was in the way how we started to work during 2021:

 – Keeping track of ever-changing regulations in all our target countries + in our home country
 – Finding innovative ways how to work with these regulations
 – Project managers spending much more uninterrupted time in the target countries
 – Sales meetings over MS Teams, Skype, Zoom instead of talking in person (which I am personally missing a lot)
 – Home officing
 – Testing, testing, testing
 – Emergency – quarantine – relief when it proved the emergency alarm was fortunately false
Etc., etc., etc.

First 4 months were entirely according to our plan. After that we arrived into the period when the home offices at the governmental entities started to affect the approval processes, there appeared hiccups in delivery of panels: 2-3 following months became difficult. For the rest of the year I cannot use other word than „hectic“, many important and complex projects coming at the last moment.

I would namely express thanks to our clients to continue trusting us in this challenging year. Due to the agility of the customers, their vision, ability to adopt to new circumstances our financial result is in 2020 even better than last year. For the same reason our committed pipeline for 2021 is even stronger than at the beginning of last year already.
In the course of 2020 we have been able to strengthen the internal structure adding Purchasing department and standardised Quality management into our organisation structure etc. This allowed to deliver most complex projects with all the components, open 2 more countries (Belgium, France) and enter full speed to a biggest carport/EV Charging project of its kind in Austria.

This time it will work: Have a Healthy and prosperous year 2021!