We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 27 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Shining light

While Eurostar satellite dishes are a common sight in Dubai, the group's involvement in renewables is not as well known. MEP Middle East speaks to Eurostar Solar Energy LLC divisional manager: solar technical and business development Jit Chakravarty.

Shining light
Shining light
An example of a generic solar hot water heating system.

While Eurostar satellite dishes are a common sight in Dubai, the group's involvement in renewables is not as well known. MEP Middle East speaks to Eurostar Solar Energy LLC divisional manager: solar technical and business development Jit Chakravarty.

What is your background in the sector?

I have a BE in electrical and electronics, with over 25 years' entrepreneurial experience in power electronics and the energy industry, and ten years in solar energy. I joined Eurostar in early 2009. As divisional manager, I am responsible for the overall functioning of the solar business, including business development and overseeing the technical and design aspects of projects.

What is Eurostar's background in the region?

Since its inception 27 years ago, the Eurostar Group has emerged as a prominent market leader in the digital satellite receiver industry. The group, based in Dubai, has branched out into businesses as diverse as consumer electronics, IT and telecoms, real estate, construction, logistics, integrated systems, channel and entertainment distribution and recently solar energy, through group company Eurostar Solar Energy LLC.

Today the group stands tall, with business operations across 50 countries and 30 showrooms at the retail level, allowing it to distribute a broad portfolio of products and services across the Middle East, Africa and the Indian subcontinent. As the GCC region is getting ready to harness the vast potential of solar energy, we are confident of participating in this green revolution and helping our customers achieve the vision of sustainable development.

What are your main products and services?

Eurostar Solar Energy LLC is focused on helping customers meet their energy and sustainability objectives through the use of renewable energy. We offer complete modular and customised ‘end-to-end' solar thermal solutions and solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions for off-grid and on-grid requirements. We also provide ‘plug-and-play' solar solutions like solar streetlights, solar water pumps, solar traffic lights and signage and solar aviation lights.

We offer a one-stop solution for our customers' solar-energy needs. First, we survey the site and consider the feasibility. Only then do we provide suggestions for the best course of action. After customer acceptance of the proposal, we work out a full design for the installation and commissioning. Our aim is to provide cost-effective, energy-efficient and environment-friendly solar solutions, backed by excellent service support.

Are your products fully imported?

Solar-energy products constitute multiple components, and for each component there are specialised vendors. We have a select network of global technology leaders and category-leading component brands and manufacturers to procure from. However, we have been successful in identifying and developing local sources for most of the mechanical components required.

We provide ‘fit-and-forget' solutions. A correctly-designed solar product requires very little maintenance. However, we have a team of engineers and technicians who are always on standby to provide support in case it is needed. The highlight of our offering is that we partner with our clients - right from educating clients on solar-energy solutions (how it works) to system design, supply, installation and technical training for their staff. Eurostar Solar Energy LLC offers complete support to its clients at every stage.

What is your main market?

Our main market is the Middle East and Africa - that is, the MENA region. The industries we target are construction and the hotel and hospitality segments. Our main customers are MEP contractors, developers, government entities, NGOs and traders.

What are some of the projects you have been involved with?

The main projects we have been involved with focus on meeting ‘green' building and EHS norms and requirements. In the UAE, we have mainly supplied 0.5 kW to 30 kW power packs for lighting (with or without back-up), and for solar water heating. In terms of standalone PV applications, we have installed solar streetlights in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and solar garden lights in Al Ain. We have supplied solar power packs for remote terminal units for basic power supply for fire-alarm control applications in the UAE, the operation of remote transmission units in Oman, solutions for mosque lighting in Afghanistan, as well as the supply of power pack kits to Africa. Our domestic solar water heating systems range from 100 litres a day to 1,000, with large-scale systems up to 100,000 litres.

Is this a very competitive market?

The solar-energy market is becoming increasingly competitive. There are more than 50 companies now in the UAE offering various solar-energy solutions. However, in PV integration, there are very few operators, and Eurostar is a leader in the field. Most of the companies just buy and sell. What we do is complete system integration.

What gives you the leading edge?

Eurostar is an established and trusted brand in the region; we are one of the initial few who started offering solar-energy solutions in the region. Strong back-up and support from the overall group ensures there are no internal constraints in business operations.

Our competitive strength is our strong technical know-how, understanding of the MENA market and our complete package for solar-energy solutions, with the approach of partnering with the customer at every stage of the project.
What impact has the downturn had on total demand?

The global downturn has affected most of the sectors, and construction the most, on account of the liquidity crunch. With building projects being not on track, the renewable-energy sector also got hit. As the global economy is recovering and investor confidence is being restored, we foresee a rapid recovery in the construction industry in the region. Implementation of solar-energy solutions is linked to the buoyancy in the construction industry, and we see demand picking up.

What are the main drivers?

The two main drivers for the implementation and incorporation of renewable energy are government policies and pure economics. From a sustainability point of view, the government has various mechanisms to choose from, which are being implemented all over the world at present: for example, incentives in the form of subsidies and feed-in tariffs, regulations on green building and market mechanisms like carbon tax.

Green building and sustainability norms will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the solar industry in the region. What industry players are looking forward to is strong government support for the key role played by solar solutions in sustainability initiatives.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for Eurostar?

Our major challenges are:

• Meeting customers' economic expectations on attractive payback terms for solar-energy solutions, and competing with traditional energy-generation sources in the process;

• A long supply chain - we need to have a stronger local supplier and manufacturing base, nurtured by a solar ‘free zone'; and

• Competing with operators who, in the absence of any required standards, offer under-designed products.

Our major opportunities are:

• The emerging market and the subsequent growth in demand due to increasing awareness of sustainability;

• Governments in the region are increasingly emphasising the use of renewable energy;

• A growing supply-and-demand gap in terms of the major energy sources, and electricity in particular;

• New projects and developments coming onstream in line with the overall economic recovery; and

• New regulations and incentives for generating power through renewable energy.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for the solar-energy sector?

The industry's major challenges are:

• The time it is taking to kickstart a fresh investment cycle, and limited funds available for large-scale investment in solar solutions (one-time capex);

• The Middle East region is rich with natural energy resources like oil and gas, meaning there is no real incentive to go for alternate energy solutions;

• Artificially low energy and electricity prices make total solar solutions unattractive economically;

• Limited local know-how and skilled resources; and

• No industry association or united voice to call for the adoption of renewable-energy solutions.

The industry's major opportunities are:

• Increasing support on the part of government in the form of green building norms and sustainability efforts;

• A widening supply-and-demand gap in the electricity sector;

• Total solar system prices are on a downward curve; and

• Awareness of climate change and global warming issues is boosting customer needs for sustainable solutions.

Anything else you would like to add?

We need ongoing support from leading magazines like MEP Middle East, who should dedicate space to renewable-energy topics. There is also a strong mandatory requirement for standards and certifications so as to keep unhealthy competition at bay.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.