Kristoff Praet: "We need to dare to make choices"
Please tell us about your background
“I grew up in Wetteren in Belgium and have always worked with technology and technical products. I became fascinated with them at a very young age! After studying Applied Economic Science at Gent University, I began working for a manufacturer of cooling machines and heat pumps at the age of 25. There I learned about the importance of engineering and technology in the development of energy-saving products.”
“That experience was to serve me well throughout my professional career, during which I worked for a number of companies in HVAC and in the ventilation branch in particular. When going global with a sales organisation, it’s essential to find the common factor within the European market. Over the past decades, attention for safety and the environment has steadily increased. Reduced consumption and the recovery of energy have become basic preconditions if a product is to be successfully marketed internationally.”
“I've been fortunate that the sales processes I had to internationalise were at companies that had low-energy product design pretty much embedded in their corporate DNA. So why not go one step further and focus on products for which energy is not a prerequisite but rather a basic feature? Time for a change!”
And that change became Innecs. What attracted you the most?
“As a company, Innecs is currently in an ideal position. There has never before been so much focus on energy saving and energy recovery, both nationally and internationally. What applies to the private sector – such as the housing market – certainly also applies to industrial buildings and processes. The European legislation set out in the EED needs to be translated into national targets, and Innecs’ technology will contribute to achieving those targets.”
“And then there is the economic motivation: low interest rates make capital affordable. If we invest in energy-saving hardware now, the effect will be doubled. Not only will the payback be short because of the low cost of capital, the expected increase in energy costs will also render companies more future proof.”
“At Innecs, we're ready to take full advantage of this. Investing in our energy-saving products has never been this financially attractive, and it also means that companies immediately comply with the European legislation that requires them to use the available energy more efficiently.”
What will your role be at Innecs?
“To continue developing the current and new markets, establishing contacts with energy managers and others responsible for energy within companies, and offering solutions. My task is to direct us towards projects that we can realise successfully wherever possible. For the SteamExpander in particular, we should be focusing on companies where we can start generating electricity without affecting their existing steam installation too much. We're getting a great deal of interest from companies that need steam to be pressurised due to the large distance between the boiler and the actual process where the steam is required, but also from companies with, say, a net steam surplus from an exothermic chemical process, and those faced with extremely high energy purchasing costs.”
“We simply have to dare to make choices. We are an emerging company that needs and wants to collaborate with the production departments of our potential customers, so we can provide solutions. We will therefore mainly be focusing on medium-sized companies and industrial estates for now. Becoming more targeted is key. Not only in the Netherlands but internationally too, definitely. Companies in countries such as Belgium, Germany and Italy are particularly interested in our solutions, and we are also getting more and more interest from Asia. (see also the report “Growing international interest in Innecs products”)
Does that mean the organisation’s approach will have to change?
“It certainly does; we need to streamline our internal processes. The challenge now facing Innecs is the shift from engineering company to manufacturer. We shall be marketing ourselves as a proactive producer, and that will require a new approach within our internal organisation. It’s about channelling and commercialisation. It all comes down to the old marketing strategy of first deciding what you must NO LONGER do in order to ensure the success of your core activity: in our case, helping companies realise net energy savings by implementing the correct Innecs product at the customer's company in the best possible way.”
What do you think tomorrow's energy market will look like?
“We'll remain partly dependent on fossil fuels for the time being. But no matter what we do, we need to do it well. It is much easier to transport gas than it is to transport electricity. So if we need to distribute gas for the decentralised generation of steam, let's use that same infrastructure to generate electricity at those locations, thus avoiding the transport losses that occur when electricity is centrally generated.”
A man on a mission! Where does that drive come from?
“I've been fascinated by energy saving and safety ever since I started my first job. The use of fossil fuels can actually be limited in many cases. For example, my own house has a heat pump for the central heating and hot water, while a large part of the electricity we need is generated by solar panels.”
“Even though we are producing more and more green energy as a society, the demand for energy continues to increase, and that’s despite the fact that products are becoming more and more economical. The gap between the supply of green energy and the total energy demand is therefore not likely to be bridged completely in the near future. We are all aware of the fact that fossil fuels are finite, but actually finding a solution is not always self evident. Paying sincere attention to rational energy consumption and prevention of energy loss is the key to successfully getting through the coming decades.”
“And therein lies the strength of Innecs: the commitment to implementing technology that allows them to use the available energy as efficiently as possible, with the greatest possible yield and smallest possible carbon footprint.”