ITM Power (LSE:ITM) CEO Graham Cooley caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss the progress of the Thuga project and future plans for the company
Q1: Quite a lot of news flow from ITM Power over the last month. The one that caught my eye was the Thuga Power-to-Gas project update. Is there anything that you can add to the announcement you made earlier in the month?
A1: Yes, we won a competitive tender over 2 years ago to deliver a plant, one third of a megawatt plant into Frankfurt with Thuga Group. The Thuga Group are the largest power and gas utilities in Germany and Germany is really the adoption market for energy storage and power-to-gas energy storage. The announcement was that the plant has now been operating for a full year and that a series of difficult performance measurements were identified by the Energy Institute in France and the plant has passed all of those. So actually, it’s a very successful year of operation.
Q2: We’re at a time of actual falling fossil fuel prices but also a time of very aggressive concerns about climate change which is obviously favourable to you. On a fundamental basis, are we heading towards the clean air, the green air market?
A2: Energy storage is a fundamental requirement if you’re going to plant up with renewable power. You get to a certain level and you start turning lots of renewable power down and we find now that rather than just talking about power-to-gas energy storage at conferences, we now have major power and gas utilities buying equipment. So we’re involved in a lot of tendering and there is now a very solid pipeline of projects coming through. So today we have £8 million in projects, we have a vastly improving pipeline, we’ve just qualified our plant, we’re the largest organisation of power and gas utilities in Germany and now we have a very strong engagement.
Q3: You’ve also got a very strong engagement with private investors. Is this something which you have in mind, are they a group of people that you try and reach out to?
A3: We have some very loyal private investors. I know private investors in ITM that have followed the story for 10 years. We IPO’d in 2004, we had a secondary in 2006 so we’ve been on the AIM market now for 10 years. What we’ve been able to do is transform the company from a Research and Development organisation through to a projects organisation, defining and selling product and that’s a tough journey for a technology company to go through but we’re now out the other side.
Q4: Do you think you’ve reached a critical turning point or a pivotal point in terms of the difficult work or the hardest work is over and now you’ve got positive momentum in terms of what you’re doing?
A4: We are quoting now for megawatt size plant with power utilities that have got real budgets that are buying stuff. This isn’t Research and Development anymore.
Q5: For those that don’t know, what’s your footprint in terms of activities? You mentioned Germany as being the great hub of activity, this presumably can rule out everywhere? How is that progressing?
A5: We identified the early adoption markets first of all, Germany has a very significant intervention of renewal power, about 30% wind and about 30% solar. We set up a company in Germany, ITM Power GmbH and we have an MD, Phil Doran who is very well known in Germany so the market is progressing well in Germany. In fact, power-to-gas energy storage was invented by the German utility industry. We also set up ITM Power Inc. in California, there is now 1.3 gigawatt mandate for energy storage in California and we’re negotiating with all the major utilities. We have an MD in California, Stephen Jones and our US representative, Geoff Budd. Geoff was European Sales Director for Ballard so a well-known individual in the US.
Q6: Basically you’re going international and you expect to drive yourselves to further places as well?
A6: We have our first reference plant in Germany. We are building 2 refuelling stations in California at the moment and we’re building 3 in London so we’ve got to the point where we have reference plant now all over the world.