How does this unique global-local approach affect the ways in which you address market specificities?
ERIK GROEN: Our geographical spread enables us to grasp the specific characteristics of the individual markets in which we operate. Our ability to adapt to these market developments and anticipate them underpins our strategy. We stand out as an international EPC partner with expertise in high-voltage connections, hybrid projects and in-house automation and engineering. Our centralised approach offers customers a single point of contact and tailored solutions despite the diverse markets and regulatory environments.
We created this unit to combine the agility and technical know-how of a centralized division with the scale of a global organisation. The complexity of the supply chain, especially in times of geopolitical tensions, requires close relationships with our suppliers and the development of contingency plans for material shortages.
The energy transitions has been referred to as the 'third industrial revolution'. How is Equans navigating this transformative era through its innovative Solar and Storage Solutions?
ERIK GROEN: This revolution is redefining energy systems from the ground up. We're moving from centralised power generation to a decentralised, diverse energy landscape with solar and wind energy. One of the biggest technical hurdles is retrofitting the existing grid infrastructure to accommodate the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources. Battery storage systems not only play a crucial role in the storage of renewable energy, but also in load shifting and frequency regulation, which stabilises the grid. Battery storage projects are evolving into decentralised mini power plants that respond to the needs of grid operators. The main business model is centred on frequency regulation, where storage systems are remunerated per megawatt hour fed into the grid. This model drives competition between developers and independent power producers (IPPs) to build storage systems by 2025-2026. However, it's not just about expanding storage capacity, but also about improving grid intelligence through advanced inverters, smart metres and real-time monitoring systems to efficiently control the decentralised energy flow.
What are some of the barriers that could prevent this revolution from happening at the necessary speed?
ERIK GROEN: Barriers include different local tax regimes that can either encourage or hinder the growth of battery storage. For example, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in the US is an important incentive, while double taxation in the Netherlands hinders rapid adoption. Another challenge is grid congestion, which can be exacerbated by tax policies that aren't yet aligned with the rapid development of battery storage. Countries such as Germany and Belgium have updated their policies to allow for larger projects, which is attracting significant investment.
In addition to network stability, what other benefits do Solar and Storage Solutions offer companies?
ERIK GROEN: Whereas we primarily collaborate with IPPs or utility companies on substantial projects ranging from 50 to 100 MW, supporting industries in frequency control and load shifting, another advantage is that companies can manage their energy consumption more efficiently by storing energy for later use rather than feeding it back into the grid. The viability of this model depends on the national subsidy scheme. Currently, most Western European countries like France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK tend to focus on large-scale front-of-metre projects that are directly connected to the transmission system operators' (TSO) grids. However, in Germany home storage is subsidised. For companies facing network connectivity issues or seeking additional bandwidth for consumption Equans is exploring back-of the metre storage solutions, as we are seeing an emerging interest in this business model. But it will require stronger economic incentives to become widespread.
With increasing demand, what are the biggest challenges to scaling battery storage solutions?
ERIK GROEN: There are several challenges: finding the right talent and managing a complex global supply chain, to name a couple. We're preparing to meet the surge in demand, which is expected to increase from 40 gigawatts to over 400-500 gigawatts by 2030. This will require a huge expansion of technical expertise, particularly in electrical engineering, and an efficient supply chain to support this. Project financing and bankability are also crucial, as investors are looking for secure, solvent EPCs for project realisation.
Another challenge is dealing with the different legal frameworks of maturing markets. In France for example, initial forecasts based on data from the International Energy Agency assumed lower demand due to stable nuclear power. However, interest in large-scale battery storage projects is growing. We're now being invited to join requests for proposals on a weekly basis, indicating that this market, which not long ago wasn't nearly as mature as the UK, is quickly catching up. Its regulatory environment is therefore also evolving rapidly to keep pace with the maturity of the market and requires us to remain adaptable and informed.
In terms of technical challenges, integrating DC coupling into hybrid projects requires a high degree of precision and an understanding of the complex grid dynamics. It's a challenging dance between innovation and reliability that requires us to constantly hone our expertise.
Could you provide more details on hybrid projects?
ERIK GROEN: Hybrid projects integrate solar energy and storage — sometimes as stand-alone systems or in combination. There is a growing trend for governments to require new solar developments with storage solutions. We develop innovations with direct current coupling, which consolidates the connection of solar and storage systems to the grid. Not only does this introduce complexity, but it also offers opportunities to reduce costs through fewer components and improved system integration.
Considering the prudence of the market and current geopolitical context, how has Equans succeeded in securing its position as a leader in Solar and Storage Solutions?
ERIK GROEN: Our financial resilience and strong balance sheet are proof of our ability to deal with economic fluctuations and ensure the continuity and stability of our projects. This strength is a beacon for investors and customers, confirming our ability as a robust EPC partner even in the most financially contracted markets, which is a key differentiator.
In our industry, the supply chain is the lifeblood of operational success and its security is paramount. As an EPC partner with over ten years of experience, Equans is at the intersection of technical innovation, procurement expertise, construction, maintenance and monitoring expertise. We aren't just contractors; we are a strategic partner who has a 360-degree assessment of the energy project life cycle. At a time when energy independence is increasingly important, we provide the stability, visibility and security needed to navigate complex markets and supply chain dynamics.
Our approach is holistic. We analyse geopolitical risks, assess material availability and adapt our sourcing strategies accordingly. By diversifying our supplier base and investing in relationships with key stakeholders, we mitigate these risks and ensure that project timelines and budgets are met.
Furthermore, energy independence isn't just about access to resources, but also the ability to use these resources effectively. The expertise of an EPC partner is essential here. We ensure that the projects aren't only planned and built, but also optimised in terms of efficiency, sustainability and scalability. Our role goes beyond construction: we're integrators who enable our customers to utilise renewable energy sources, store this energy and feed it into the grid when it's most useful. This strengthens the resilience of the grid and reduces dependence on fossil fuels and unstable energy imports.
Essentially, our mission goes beyond completing projects: it's about laying the foundations for a self-sufficient, robust and sustainable energy future.
The energy sector is heading towards a decarbonised horizon. What do you see happening in the next five to ten years?
ERIK GROEN: The sprint towards 2030 is in full swing, and we are not only chasing gigawatts, but also talent, struggling with a global supply chain that is as complex as it is critical. It’s about developing a workforce fluent in the language of electrical engineering, ensuring the independence and resilience of our industry, and delivering on all the critical parts of our value chain without missing a beat.
The coming years will be disruptive. With storage demand expected to increase tenfold by 2030, growth is not just about scale, but also about leveraging new storage technologies. Looking ahead, I foresee an expansion in project scope and technology diversity. The dominance of lithium-ion batteries is likely to give way to a broader range of storage technologies, such as hydrogen. Digitalisation will revolutionise the sector by improving predictive maintenance and ensuring optimal operation. However, a crucial part of this development is the human element — there is an urgent need for skilled technicians and electrical engineers to support this growth. Equans is investing in talent and innovation to be at the forefront of this development.
Could you provide a short overview of a recent battery storage project?
ERIK GROEN: The Giga Buffalo project, conducted by the Equans Netherlands teams, which began early last year, is an example of speed of execution and efficient collaboration in Equans’ project portfolio. Our quick response and rapid realisation are a testament to what our newly formed Solar & Storage Systems Business Unit is all about.
The project involves a 25 MW/47 MWh system that uses a complex array of battery modules to store energy. From a technical perspective, we addressed the intricacies of site-specific energy capacity planning and ensured the design of the system was responsive to changing peak demands. Our collaboration with Wärtsilä also demonstrated the integration of advanced control systems to optimise battery operations and energy distribution strategies.
Despite strict deadlines and complex logistics, we delivered it in less than a year. Working with Wärtsilä, we managed everything from site preparation to grid connection, demonstrating our ability to handle complex logistics and work proactively with local safety authorities. The project underlines our commitment to operational excellence and safety and now serves as a blueprint for future initiatives.