Richard Holešinský, UCED: Our plan is to create a large virtual power plant

12. December 2022

2022 is a year of growth and major acquisitions for the UCED. The company is one of the largest energy distributors in the Czech Republic, and it has been recently focusing on investing in large energy sources. At the beginning of the year, the company bought a biomass heating plant in Kutná Hora. In the summer, it acquired a power plant in Prostějov, and it is about to make other large acquisitions not only in the Czech Republic. “We are betting on distribution, power and heat generation and the associated interconnections of resources into aggregation units,” says Richard Holešinský, Investment Director at UCED, a member of the CREDITAS Group.

In the next few years, you want to build a virtual power plant with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts in the Czech Republic. These are some big plans.
Yes, we do have big ambitions. Those 1,000 megawatts represent about half the capacity of the Temelín nuclear power plant. UCED currently produces electricity and heat in modern cogeneration units or local boiler plants, to name a few. This year we bought a biomass heating plant in Kutná Hora and a gas power plant in Prostějov. We plan to build and start up additional sources to reach the capacity of 1,000 megawatts. We then want to connect them into a so-called virtual power plant.

What do you mean by a virtual power plant?
A virtual power plant consists of several decentralised, interconnected sources that are controlled by one central control room. The main energy source of our aggregation unit will be gas, whether it will be steam gas, large cogeneration engines, green gas, natural gas, or gas with hydrogen admixture. The aggregation block will also include solar parks, wind farms or thermal and biomass plants.

Initially, you were focusing mainly on energy distribution, but today UCED is represented by an entire group of companies producing electricity and heat, among other things.
In 2015, we started building distribution systems, and now we are one of the largest energy distributors in the Czech Republic with more than six thousand regular customers. This year we will have a turnover of almost five billion crowns and EBITDA of more than 1.5 billion. This already provides us with sufficient financial stability to move one step ahead, or perhaps more accurately, one leap further.

You were awarded the Czech Top 100 award in the Dynamic Growth and Stability category. You bought two power plants this year, what are your plans for the next year?
The award is in fact an affirmation of the direction we try to follow. We want to be a leader in the new energy sector. From 2022, UCED is one of the domestic aggregators helping ČEPS to stabilise the electricity grid in the Czech Republic. The UCED Prostějov power plant is a natural gas-fired combustion turbine power source and essentially forms a stand-alone 58 megawatt aggregation unit, which we will continue to expand. We are acquiring a second 50 MW turbine, which is a roughly billion-crown investment. We are also investing in electric boilers and expanding cogeneration units. We are planning to build steam-gas power plants. We expect that the total cost of building an aggregation unit in the Czech Republic will be over CZK 20 billion. In addition, we are now completing a major transaction in the UK.

That looks like a wild acquisition ride. How are you financing your acquisitions?
We are growing steadily every year by 15 to 20 percent. We use part of the equity earned from our existing energy business to fund our projects, and we also have the backing of the Creditas investment group, of which we are part. But, of course, a lot of additional investments are needed for further growth. We supplement the necessary resources with bank financing and through our fund structure. Last year, we launched the Creditas energy qualified investors fund, in which we put our entire distribution business, and we offered external investors the opportunity to participate in our investments. I have to say that the fund is doing very well.

Today, you can often hear the term Energy 4.0. What does it mean exactly?
In simple terms, it can be summarised by 3Ds – decentralisation, digitalisation and decarbonisation. The energy sector is changing significantly and faces a number of challenges. Whether we are talking about climate change, the emphasis on sustainability or self-sufficiency. The new energy sector must also partly address supply to the grid during peak energy times. It is a combination of modern technology, sophisticated IT and a pro-customer approach. The energy industry is facing some really big changes. And we certainly want to be part of it.

This text was published in the weekly EURO and on tydenikeuro.cz.