Interview with Barthélémy Rouer, CEO, WPO
Can you give a brief history of the company and its aims?
I founded WPO more than ten years ago, in 2008, and today we’re an international company with staff in four countries and businesses in ten. We are specializing in the provision of asset management services for third parties with renewables assets, consisting of mainly wind and solar parks. We provide property management or facility management for their owner’s investors, lenders, or insurers, and we also bespoke specialist services. We can do technical due diligence or professional advisory services, such as white-collar technical consultation or blue-collar consultation.
We’ve grown into an international platform, managing the equivalent of more than seven billion euro worth of assets, with 75% being wind parks and 25% solar parks, which are mostly owned by infrastructure funds and equity firms. These assets are generating the equivalent of 800 million euros of green electricity sales a year. It’s a broad platform, and that’s been possible because the renewable green electricity market has grown very fast and we have grown with it. We are proud to say that wind and solar parks under our management are delivering 98% availability on average. We deliver the full range of required services from technical management and performance analysis through to commercial and financial management. If you want to gain the trust of the asset owners, you need to deliver excellent management services that are safe, reliable, and fit-for-purpose.
We act as a property manager to make sure that the promise of such green generating assets delivers safely against financial, environmental, and potentially technical criteria. Our key aim is to ensure that the electricity is delivered to the grid in a safe and efficient manner.
Can you give an overview of how the software that you produce helps energy businesses? Is it widely used?
We are not a software producer nor a software editor; we are a service company. One of our key elements today is a system that allows us to connect to renewable energy generating plants in a way that is unique compared to existing software. It’s an extra layer that aggregates all the tiny technical details of a given wind or solar park onto a comprehensive dashboard. We call this product the WPO dashboard, it’s been successfully implemented on several projects, and we operate it 24/7.
The key function of our system is to access large amounts of data and to process it through a blockchain service, which allows irrefutability while following the new cryptocurrency regulations. And of course, the ability to trade through those digital assets.
You can read more about WPO’s blockchain service at https://wpo.eu/wpo-3-0/
You recognize the blockchain, in some form, as being very useful. What methods do you see a need to be implemented to stop scammers?
Often with innovation, regulations are just left behind. Fortunately enough, regulations are catching up fast, and they have – especially in France – set the backbone for utilization and deployment of blockchains in a way that is bringing security to investors.
Blockchain is a fantastic technology and a protocol still seeking applications. Some regulators in Europe, and France in particular, have established a law that defines what crypto assets are and how a crypto asset can be traded, and how exchanges or intermediaries can operate. The law is very recent since it was approved on April 11th by the national assembly in its final reading. It’s been in process for a while, but the French government and the national assembly are extremely diligent on this.
What kind of security implementations do you have – how do you protect consumer data?
Well, this one is a little bit more technical than the first one. We systematically have a multi-factor authentication approach. It implies three checks while logging in – it’s who I am, what I know, and what I have.
In terms of payment proceedings or authorizations, we always have a two-person validation process, and that has been in place for four years now. So the person actioning something is not the one to approve it, and we’ve secured that.
Three years ago, we secured a very good cybercrime and fraud insurance policy and that not only protects our data, but it also protects our clients and business partners.
Throughout our systems, we gather a lot of data. We get technical, financial, and occasionally personal data. We’ve gone through the GDPR process, and last year we enhanced our data protection system since we’re moving towards blockchain and fundraising through an ICO. We will very much go down the ISO 27001 certification road in the near future.
Do you see growth in line with the current uptakes in renewables?
Renewables are increasing, and the recent European elections are showing that green is at the top of the citizen’s preoccupations. I’ve been personally in the business of renewables for the last 20 years, but in the last decade when WPO has been operating, we’ve seen double-digit growth in renewables every year.
We are indeed growing faster than ever because we are tokenizing. We have implemented the first step of our new services for data concepts, and in nine months, we’ve secured new business ten times faster than before.
What role do you see AI and machine learning playing in the future of the energy business?
The holy grail for energy, and especially for renewables, would be moving down the route of production forecasting. Today, we are merely responding. We have some program maintenance or programmed stops of wind and solar parks, but most of the time, we are just responding to no wind or a random failure.
We need to build algorithms that articulate this data. Once it’s articulated, we’ll be able to project the data to accurately forecast, in particular, wind and solar energy outputs together with maintenance forecasting operations. So all together it provides a production forecast which allows us not only to respond, but to predict and prevent problems.
Which technology development do you see as the most important for WPO in the next 5 years?
We mentioned blockchain, and I think you know the key element for us in the coming years will be a low-energy scalable and bankable blockchain. There are quite a few blockchain initiatives that have been successful and will grow, and we are part of them. In the next five years, we’ll hopefully see the emergence of a low-energy, scalable, and real-time blockchain to migrate our existing wallets and systems. It’s the scale-up of such a system that is critical for us as well as for anyone involved in the blockchain environment.