Danish solar ambitions in the Philippines

He fought against cheap coffee machines and read up on old Einstein theories. Danish founder of Skandinavian Solar in the Philippines strongly believes that in a few years, alternative energy will gain popularity in Asia. “It is not my dream to expand to other countries, it is my strategy,” he says.

Leo on a conference about quality points of a solar power system
Leo Sørensen at a conference about quality points of a solar power system

It is everything from small garage companies to companies with around 4,000 employees that have shown interest for Skandinavian Solar, a Danish owned Solar Power System Provider in the Philippines.

The owner is Leo Sørensen, a serious and patient Danish businessman trying out his skills in a part of the world where knowledge about alternative energy is very limited.

“The Pinoys (Filipino people) are very suspicious to alternative energy actually. Some find the systems a bit like magic. They are asking the question: ‘Can this thing – standing towards the sky, really make energy?’” Leo tells.

That is why the Danish businessman saw it necessary to find other and maybe unusual sales arguments to convince some of the most sceptic costumers that solar system technology is not a scam, but in fact a very old and mature technology.

A long time ago he started to read up on the history of Solar Power, as we know it today, and that it is in fact based on one of Einsteins theories.

“It seems to work, when I tell my costumers that Einstein actually won a prize for his theories about photoelectric effect in 1921. In Denmark though, I never mentioned Einstein in a business conversation,” Leo laughs.

Green ambitions
Leo established Skandinavian Solar in the Philippines in the beginning of 2014. Although he must admit, he has not sold tons of products yet, the company is slowly getting there with a number of positive references on record.

“I knew it would be a long process, however at the moment I have around 200 leads in the pipeline, we cater to both big and small, around 100 of them are companies with commercial needs and the rest residential clients. Around 12 larger commercial deals are in the last stages of being finalized,” Leo says.

He is 100 per cent convinced that alternative, in particular solar energy, has come to stay in Asia.

“No doubt about that, whether it is to achieve savings on your electric bill or to have security in your energy supply. I believe that already this year alternative solutions will gain much more popularity and from then on it will grow very fast,” Leo says.

Especially the company’s “Constant Energy” solutions are gaining traction, which integrates Solar Power, Energy Storage and Fossil Fuel Generators into ONE centrally managed solution. According to Leo, this solution makes sense to many people in the greater Asian region, where the electrical grid is very unstable or simply not there.

Leo has also been looking towards countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“If the prices on electricity in these countries increase too much, people will start looking for other alternatives to save money. And when that happens, you can be sure of that I will start looking in that direction as well. It is not my dream to expand, it is my strategy,” Leo says.

Cheap coffee machines
In many areas in Asia, power blackouts are very common. According to Leo, the right system can help the quality of life and business in those areas.

“There is already a great need for our “Constant Energy Solutions” in any island or remote location where a good infrastructure is not in place,” Leo says.

Skandinavian Solar goes with the slogan: ‘Constant Energy’, which means the solar solution is delivered with a generator and a battery pack. So no matter what happens, there will always be energy available while burning only a minimum of fossil fuels.

But the company’s focus on sustainable solutions are not as glorified in the Philippines as in Denmark, and many of the potential customers, Leo talks with, think that five or seven years are a long time to invest in something, before it pays off.

“A lot of people here are fine with buying cheap coffee machines or whatever, which eventually breaks down one year later, and then they will say: ‘No problem, at least we got coffee for a while,” Leo says and continues:

“There is nothing wrong with thinking this way, it simply states a fact of the way of common thinking here – which is much different from Scandinavia”.

Slow but properly
Leo believes that quality is the alpha and omega for the company. All the hardware the company uses in their systems must be documented bankable and insurable.

“That means that if a company wants to have a Solar Power System from us financed by their bank, they are ensured that a serious bank will support them financially, because our products and procedures live up to the international standards required to achieve this,” Leo explains.

The negotiation process and everything takes longer time than in Denmark, and also longer time than Leo expected actually.

“We are learning more every day, it is a process that never stops and it is not so simple to adapt Danish quality mentality to the mindset in Asia,” he says.

Still he believes that it is no use to try to swim faster than the flow. Another foreign company based in the Philippines, that Leo knows of, is now getting sued by a client, because the solar system was not properly designed for the local conditions.

“That is why, I believe it is important to do things properly, no matter if it takes a bit longer time to do it” Leo says.

Leo Sørensen, Founder of Skandinavian Solar in the Philippines

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