Restart Energy interview with Denis Rouă.
We sat down and had a virtual chat with Denis Rouă from Restart Energy Democracy in Romania. We found out about a whole bunch of things they are doing and have planned for the future, including their plans for world domination, well mostly! Denis was very interesting to chat with and had some really good perspectives on where the energy industry is headed – and how the blockchain integrates into everyday life.
This is an abbreviated and minorly edited version of the original transcript:
On what premise was the company formed? Can you give a short overview of the company and why it exists?
Well, the company itself was formed in order to supply energy to Romanians, specifically green energy. We focused quite heavily on renewables and it’s been something we have aspired to do since day one. RED and the actual blockchain implementation of our crypto-token MWAT came along a bit later. Since then we wished to start a trend and also expand internationally. We are currently expanding across all fronts and the company is doing quite well for itself.
What do you see as the biggest advantage or disadvantage of using the blockchain? In terms of the energy market and how you market itself?
Well, in terms of advantages, there are literally dozens. Possibly the most important one being able to eliminate the middleman through smart contracts. Unnecessary procedures are starting to slow down the entire energy industry structure; then blockchain came along and promised to get rid of those unnecessary procedures and costs that ultimately are better for everyone.
It’s always difficult to implement something for the first time, and blockchain is certainly no different in that regard. Blockchain requires quite a lot of specialized knowledge, a lot of technical skills and a proper base platform that allows something to be built on top of it.
We wanted to use the Ethereum platform initially, however, we found quite a few constraints along the way, especially security-wise. The problem was that we couldn’t really do it completely decentralized. Part of it had to be centralized and done in a dual-layer sort of implementation, where one part would be decentralized and the other part wasn’t. This was not ideal, so we moved on to a custom-built blockchain. We are still building it but it’s going very well and it doesn’t limit us; especially because we can customize it according to whatever needs we have – it’s our own to a large extent, so that´s obviously a bonus.
How large is Restart Energy at the moment? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Restart Energy currently has about 150 employees. We are expanding both internally and externally. Our headquarters are in Romania and we currently have offices in Spain, the UK, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Singapore.
We intend to expand even to China, once they’re done with their deregulation. We are also set up in Hungary, Germany, and we have a new franchise in the USA now. So Restart Energy is doing well on the expansion front – it requires a lot of resources, as it is a lot of work. There are a lot of people working on it, but it’s necessary for our vision to be in as many countries as possible and to be able to offer our services there as well, eventually. We are working towards that goal.
Who are you targeting as customers in the first instance? Is it consumers, businesses, governments or where is it sort of headed?
I would say it will be a mix of both consumers and producers, because we wish to migrate to the blockchain and bring consumers and producers closer together – again, eliminating a lot of unnecessary parties in the middle and thereby improving the price for both consumers and producers. In order for us to provide such services, we need consumers, producers, and importantly: prosumers. All of these aspects have to be taken into account.
This brings us to the next question. With prosumers and renewables – how big of a technical problem do you see the possible overvoltage being?
This should not be too much of a problem at first until people try to go really high and get the necessary funds to output a lot of energy. You have to consider that most of the time prosumers also consume energy themselves, so they won’t be outputting all of the energy that they produce. The issue that I’ve seen is often in the cabling itself; so in terms of infrastructure, that still needs to improve, and it does put a hard-cap at the moment on how much energy you can inject into the grid.
In Germany, where they have the most prosumers per capita at this point, they are doing a lot of work regarding this and the infrastructure is catching up. So it’s a matter of recognizing the problem and stepping in early to prevent it from becoming an issue. It’s not really a problem until we are talking about higher loads. If you can figure out what the grid needs, you are much better equipped to handle that in the long run.
With the help of blockchain, our smart meters will register energy data over a period of time, in a specific area – this can then be used to determine what the input/output is. We will be issuing these to producers as well, and over time this should give a much better picture of the overall energy grid, which will translate into fewer losses for suppliers and a more stable energy grid in general. It’s a matter of adapting.
Yes, it is. So who do you see as the biggest competitors at the moment for you guys?
Well, currently we are in the process of taking rather large bites out of our competitors. You see, while other companies may be monolithic in nature and have almost a monopoly in certain countries, a producer/supplier that is more adaptable is a lot better equipped to enter markets and supply what people need/want and therefore outpace the local competition, even if at first it is daunting. As we are very competitive and our market share has been growing, our profit margins have been growing in Romania as well, so we’re doing pretty well for ourselves in terms of competing with the giants of the energy industry.
So you are talking about traditional giants; the ones that are in place at the moment?
Before deregulation hit, everything was run by a single company, in terms of the production of energy, the delivery of energy, the supply of energy – these three aspects had to be available from the same company and this leads to monopolies. If you are able to do all the things required in the grid, your natural next step is to try and monopolize that grid, and this is what happened in many countries. This leads to stagnant competition and that leads to inflation and overpriced services.
Eventually, this is an inefficient system where the company itself – the one that monopolized – is not really interested in developing anything new. It is a model that anyone from the outside would never want to engage with, so this needed to change. The EU has almost completely deregulated or is in the process of doing so and internationally we are fast approaching the point where more than half of the world will be in a deregulated energy market.
What do you see as your competitive advantage/USP – what is it that really differentiates you from other companies?
Well, for one, we are going all green, even though it’s not actually possible to currently supply an energy market fully with green energy; however, we are quickly approaching that point. We’ve invested heavily in green energy since we are here for the long haul and the fact is that we are a green energy supplier.
Then there would be the RED app – the Restart Energy Democracy platform. You see, we intend to allow people to send and receive energy worldwide. Even if you’re in Japan, with our platform you can actually buy your energy from Romania, even though Japan and Romania don’t have a landline connection. So we are able to scale upward internationally in a way that others just can’t due to our technology; and not to mention, you can choose where your energy comes from – you can see precisely what your producers offer and you can choose freely. So the blockchain element does a lot for us as a company and we intend to fully embrace the technology.
What do you see as being your biggest challenge so far? In terms of getting to where you are; where have you found to be the hardest bit?
The hardest bit? Most likely the technological aspect, given that we have always been an energy company first and we have adapted to the blockchain element; the hardest part has been the technological challenge and the team challenges for that technical aspect. We have been making strides in that direction: we found SWAZM and we’ve made a lot of partnerships. I would like to say that we have overcome most of the parts we had very much struggled with, and we are now at the point where we are poised to deliver something that, we think, can change the world.
What measures have you taken to preserve the capital that you have raised? I assume from your tokens that you had an ICO?
Yes, we have had a TGE (Token Generation Event) and it’s gone very well even in terms of when we made it; it was also a very good time to do one, and we raised 30 million USD. Since then that has very much powered our ability to build our blockchain, safeguard the promises made and be where we want to be in the future.
So what is your view on the volatility of an unstable market regarding token prices? How does that affect or discourage customers or businesses from adopting?
Well, first of all, I would like to say that there is a way around this and we are currently in the process of implementing, precisely that in terms of adoption. However, let me answer the first part first.
So, cryptomarkets tend to work based on enthusiasm; they tend to work based on emotions which makes them volatile, however, there are several ways of fortifying yourself against this and the most important one as a project is to have a real use for your token! If you don’t have a good use case, then your token will be utterly swept away by the whims of the market.
I would say this, however: the way to get around cryptos’ volatility is to make sure that people who would benefit participate. There are ways you can do this. Mass adoption is crucial for any project that wishes to go global in a meaningful and rapid fashion.
So what we are doing is offering fiat pairings with our MWAT; we will be offering this directly from the platform, and people will be able to simply buy MWAT on our platform with a credit card. This means you don’t have to go to an exchange, you don’t have to know blockchain, you don’t have to know crypto, and it’s something that most people these days have – a credit card. Even people advanced in age know how to use banking services, and if not, it’s pretty easy to explain. We are working with a Lithuanian bank in order to facilitate this, and once it’s done, people can participate on our platform without having a background in crypto or the blockchain. There are various ways you can get around these issues that are inherent in terms of tokens and their volatility – the main one is that if your token gives you a service, then that’s its value.
We want to thank Restart and Denis for such an in-depth interview – it gives a real insight into how the market is sitting right now from the viewpoint of one of the currently most successful companies in the blockchain energy sector. We look forward to following their journey and wish them all the best with their growing company. You can follow RED’s progress over at https://restartenergy.io/ and https://t.me/restartenergy.
Pictures thanks to RED: https://restartenergy.io/