We’re going to turn off the heating and drive less. “We live in unprecedented times”

Without its systems, data centers, mobile signal transmitters or freighters or transport ships would be difficult to realize. The Czech company ComAp is the world leader in the production of control units for emergency and independent power sources.

Energy will become more and more expensive, we will save more, we will drive less. So far we haven’t noticed if it’s from a “dirty source”.

Libor Mertl, co-founder, ComAp.

“Energy will become more and more expensive, we will save more, we will drive less. Until now, we did not perceive if something came from a ‘dirty source’, it is now accelerating with the war in Ukraine says Libor Mertl, one of the founders of an international company with a turnover of two billion, in an interview with SZ Byznys.

“We live in a time of energy transformation unprecedented in history,” he adds.

ComAp

  • This is a Czech company with global activities, which belongs to the world leader in the field of development and production of control systems for emergency and independent power sources, including software and accessories.
  • Its installations operate, for example, in a hospital in the United Kingdom, a data center in Switzerland, a large commercial complex in Indonesia or a small hydroelectric power station in French Polynesia.
  • Number of employees: 500 worldwide.
  • Turnover for 2021: less than 2 billion crowns.
  • Number of representations abroad: 12. A total of 21 offices worldwide.
  • Type of customers: manufacturers of generators, operators of various buildings (hospitals, schools, hotels), shipowners.

During a power outage in a Russian or Australian hospital, a remote-controlled source operated by a Czech company turns on. Doctors can continue to operate, incubators for premature babies continue to operate. Likewise, they support schools, public buildings or an oil rig in a remote place at sea.

“Of course, we are seeing a general trend towards decentralized power generation. This is actually a huge shift, an energy revolution,” says Petr Matas, Director of Product Management at ComAp, in an interview with SZ Byznys .

“The war in Ukraine will accelerate the transition to local energy sources”

Today, the international company, whose development, research and headquarters are still in the Czech Republic, has nearly 500 employees and 21 offices worldwide. It closed its branch in the Russian Federation. It stopped deliveries to the country immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The war in Ukraine increases the prices of raw materials on the market even further, which further incentivizes end customers to switch to decentralized production and thus reduce energy costs”, explains Petr Matas, how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine affects their business.

“The pressure comes directly from the end consumers, who have high consumption. They then install local resources in the factories,” he adds to explain why their business based on backup energy sources is growing. twenty percent last year, this year they expect even higher growth.

If people had concerns about the use of gas and diesel and wanted to be more environmentally friendly, now, in addition, it comes from Russia.

Libor Mertl, co-founder, ComAp.

“If people had concerns about using gas and diesel and wanted to be more environmentally friendly, he now adds that it comes from Russia. So it also has an emotional dimension. In fact, the frame in our heads changes and is constantly accelerating. I see it more as an acceleration of the trend,” says Libor Mertl, one of the founders and co-owner of ComAp.

“In general, the Czech Republic is several years behind. Unlike Australia, Scandinavia, Canada or the United States. Companies are working to be less dependent, greener. What happened there is five years could be called “greenwashing. Most companies have talked about it more than they have. It has changed drastically in the last two years. Companies are really doing something about it. Banks argue, investors and owners are asking. This trend will come to us in two or three years as well. The Ukraine-Russia dispute is only accelerating, “says one of the company’s founders.

So there is a growing interest in local resources that you control remotely?

Petr Matas (PM): Certainly growing, practically everywhere in Europe and elsewhere as well. These are photovoltaics in combination with battery systems, with locally installed cogeneration units. In general, the market globally grows by about ten percent per year. It is one of the fastest growing markets. In my opinion, this changes the crisis in Ukraine. The growth rate increases.

Libor Mertl (LM): And hydrogen in the future. He will come in five or ten years.

What other trends are you following in relation to what’s going on?

LM: While so far we are used to one or a few large resources, with stability being driven by large ones, in the future, in countries like Australia or England, there will be a large number of smartly managed microgrids. The more renewable energies are important, the less they will be predictable in electricity. The sun shines – does not shine, the wind blows – it does not blow. It is therefore much worse than before, when a coal-fired power plant could be installed to generate electricity and run on it. Intelligence will be much greater on both the production and consumption side. It will be more expensive but more durable.

What will happen in the next few years in Europe?

LM: It’s the question of how the gas is involved. And now, no one knows. Will we continue to take Russian gas for the next ten years or not? Will Russia supply us? Will we want to take it? Can we do without it? It is clear that there will be no more gas here and no renewable energies in thirty years. But what will happen for the next ten years? So far, gas has been expected to be a means of transit.

Comap’s story

In 1991, the trio of cyberneticists Libor Mertl, Aleš Procházka and Martin Málek started their own company in a temporary “residential” office of one of them after leaving the ČKD Research Institute.

When the name was coined, they were inspired by the English phrase Computer Applications.

The first order was for a system for sound signaling stations in the Prague metro.

And now maybe not. It is certain that now many States will reconsider nuclear energy. Maybe Germany is a big topic in the Czech Republic right now. Nuclear energy is therefore a trend. Much more energy goes to renewable sources. More windmills, more photovoltaics. This trend is also evident. It is clear that this cannot completely replace gas. And what happens in between, I don’t think much is known yet.

PM: I see it the same way. But I would split it anyway, the transformation of energy is not only in the production of electricity, but it is the heat, the electromobility, which brings a huge unknown. Heat generation is, in my opinion, a big problem. There is simply a gas base if you want to reduce emissions. So if Europe is strictly saying: we don’t want Russian gas, we can’t replace it with any liquefied gas imports, then I think coal is coming back for a while.

Is the Green Deal dead for now?

PM: For me, Green Deal is a vision. It was never a plan. So the vision is still there. It is not known from what sources it will be produced. Practitioners will say: you cannot simply replace a heating plant with a solar plant.

LM: If the gas will be replaced and to what extent, nobody knows now, and it could theoretically slow down the Green Deal. Using coal instead of gas for a while.

So what is the forecast for the energy mix in the Czech Republic?

PM: I think the gas will be 100% there. In the final, I think there will be Russian gas. When I hope the war is over, there will simply be an agreement between the European Union and Russia. Because we will be pragmatic. And then there is the question of how quickly we will achieve these ambitious renewable energy targets. Because before this conflict, everyone said that it was very ambitious for the Czech Republic, for example, to respect the percentages of renewable sources in the future energy mix of the Czech Republic.

LM: I also can’t imagine that we should go without gas. The question is where we are going to get it from, but also whether we want to mix the hydrogen into the gas. Then we need this gas as a base.

And what about the price? Next year and in the years to come?

LM: I think the price has to go up. And it will go up. It is a rare raw material and renewable energies are in principle more expensive. Until now, energy has been cheap, affordable, stable, but unsustainable, it just isn’t. We have to switch to something that will be much more expensive and durable. And I’m afraid we have to learn to save energy in principle as something that is very rare. Starting by lowering the temperature at home, he ends up riding more on public transport than in the car. After driving slower and thinking about where we are going. All of this must be done. And there is no other way than it will cost us dearly to appreciate it. There will be expensive gasoline, expensive diesel, electricity, there will be expensive gasoline. And I think that will also help Green Deal. Of course, the question for the state is how it will support low-income households and how it will solve it. This is a difficult question.

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