Danish Environmental Consultant Expands in Southeast Asia

Danish Poul Erik Kristensen is the owner of consulting firm IEN Consultants, which advises companies in Malaysia and construction companies on how they can create new buildings that are energy efficient. In a country like Malaysia, there is big money to save for the owners or tenants of the new buildings, and savings of up to 50 percent on electricity bills is not unheard of.

“Despite the financial crisis and general downturn in the construction market it has been going forward for IEN Consultants, and concrete plans to expand to both Singapore and Indonesia are now very close,” the Danish owner says. IEN Consultants has 10 employees, who come from different countries such as Denmark, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Greece.

Great opportunities in Malaysia
Poul Erik Kristensen is trained engineer from Aalborg in Denmark 1977. He first came to Malaysia in 2000 as part of a work he had started with his Danish company. Immediately he saw great opportunities in the country, and he quickly agreed with himself that here he would want to move his activities to Malaysia. In January 2001 he moved to Malaysia permanently and sparked the dream, and it is not new dream:

“I have always been very interested in energy savings. First it was about solar power, and in the 70s we all thought that the sun would save the world. But during the 80s more and more acknowledged that there was an incredible amount of energy savings to get the in buildings,” explains the director, who has always worked in the field. He has worked as a research assistant at the Technical University of Denmark for five years and then in 15 years as head of Energy R&D in the Copenhagen branch of Esbensen Consulting Engineers from Sønderborg Denmark.

Companies want a green profile
The dream merged into the company IEN Consultants, which stands for Independent Energy Networker. The plan with the company was at first working with small, interesting projects, but IENquickly  won a large government project in Kuala Lumpur, and so the company moved to Malaysia. The first tasks were only a matter of consultancy and advice on how buildings could save on electricity bills, but since 2001 it has gone forward for the company, which gets more and more work to do.

“Things are going quite well and we’re pretty good if I have to say it. The company is currently involved in eco-labelling of buildings in addition to consultancy on energy efficiency in buildings. Large companies will today ask to have their buildings certified as green and energy saving. A recent example is Shell, which even had it as a requirement for their new office in Kuala Lumpur that it had to achieve the LEED Gold environmental certificate from the US Green Building Council,” says Poul Erik Kristensen, and continues:

“The trend is now that the big firms come to us to get environment-saving buildings and offices. It helps to give companies a green profile and a good image, and it also ensures that the energy costs are kept in a low level for many years to come,” says Poul Erik Kristensen.

Future in Indonesia
Right now the company has started, together with Danish Energy Management, a project funded by  DANIDA, the Danish International Development Assistance. The overall goal of the DANIDA project is to promote energy efficiency in buildings in Indonesia, and the task of IEN Consultants is to demonstrate the technical and economical feasibility of energy efficient buildings in Indonesia by designing two full scale demonstration projects. At first, IEN Consultants is responsible for an energy retrofit conversion of one floor of a government building owned by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Jakarta. It is simple renovation to show that energy consumption in existing buildings can be reduced by at least 50%. Subsequently, IEN Consultants will head the energy design of a new office building to demonstrate energy efficiency in new buildings in Indonesia.

“Demonstration buildings are alpha-omega in this part of the world. They want to see energy efficiency in buildings in practice before they believe it is working. That is how it is here, but it is also excellent for us. We learn from it ourselves,” says Poul Erik Kristensen, who believes that they can transfer their experience from Malaysia to Indonesia. It is the same climate, about the same price and same way of working:

“Therefore, we have a natural advantage, I think. If it goes according to plan, we may look into opening a permanent office in Indonesia.”

Actual plans in Singapore
But just now IEN Consultants has further advanced plans in Singapore. Here the company  is opening a permanent office to be ready as early as January 2010.

“We will have two jobs down there, so we must employ at least one more in the company. Additionally, one from the Kuala Lumpur department will be attached the new office on part-time basis,” says the Danish director, and explains about the Singaporean market:

“Singapore is an interesting market for us, because the Singaporean government is now requiring all new buildings to be certified as environmentally friendly. We have plenty to do here in Kuala Lumpur, but we may have even more to do in Singapore. The ambition is that we will bite us into both the Singaporean and Indonesian markets.”

Good times through crisis
The big question is how the situation surrounding the markets regarding the financial crisis has had an impact on businesses wanting to pay extra for environmentally friendly buildings. Poul Erik Kristensen says that he has felt some close-fistedness on the market, but IEN Consultants has still gone up this year:

“The crisis has obviously affected the property market, but investors and developers interest in green building has remained fairly stable. They would still like to assert themselves and be among the first to invest in eco-efficient buildings,” he explains, and continues:

“The boom in eco-efficient buildings had come under all circumstances, because corporate customers now have that demand. The crisis may have delayed some plans, but they begin to come back now.”

Not an ideological crusade, or maybe ?
The construction sector contributes with 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions, so it is an area where you can really see the changes. But is it business or idealism, which is the motive power behind the eco-fixated company?

“It is both money and idealism. I will not become rich by selling myself or my employees on an hourly basis, but it is very interesting to me,” the Dane says.

And especially in Malaysia the figures can be moved. In Denmark we are talking about making incremental improvements on energy efficiency in buildings, because so much have already been done over the last three decades. However in Malaysia and in SE Asia at large, we can achieve 50 – 70% savings:

“It makes it of course even more interesting when you can make major differences,” Poul Erik Kristensen says, and finishes:

“We are not engaged in an ideological crusade, but our attitude is that it is an important place to do something good for the environment, while it is an interesting job because you can really make a difference. Of course, we also need to earn a living, but when you also feel good about what you’re doing, so it is extra good.”

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