Branded content – Growers certainly are well-informed users of natural gas, but they could do with a more rational approach to the way they purchase it. Ashwin Imambaks is sales manager at Naturgy and tells us about the gas market and the energy transition. His company recently changed its name from Gas Natural Fenosa in order to emphasise its new focus on sustainability.
Naturgy entered the Dutch market in 2011. The company has offices in 30 countries and is a considerable force in the international gas market, with a gross profit (EBITDA) of €3.9 billion and a net profit of €1.4 billion in 2017.
Up until June 2018, the company was called Gas Natural Fenosa. Imambaks: “We changed the name because of our new business strategy. In the coming five years, we want to busy ourselves with the energy transition. We’ll triple the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, sun and water. In the coming period, we want to focus more on electricity. Furthermore, we’ll improve efficiency by exploring all digital options and we’ll become even more customer-orientated.”
Customers that work in the greenhouse industry are somewhat special. They know about buying gas, undoubtedly, but often still lack some insight. “Most of the growers want to stay close to the day-ahead market”, Imambaks states. “But they frequently focus too much on what the supplier charges, and ignore the true market price. They zero in on what a supplier charges for his services. But that’s not really a good way to save money. Strategically purchasing the commodity itself, the gas, that is where the money is. We help our clients out by showing them the true market price. And that’s a unique approach.”
On balance, you don’t need a supplier to learn the true market prices. You could subscribe to a platform that shows the prices of all traders worldwide, for instance. “If you don’t need us to learn the market prices, well, that’s great. Trust is good, proof is better”, Imambaks says. “We offer maximum transparency when it comes to commodity prices, so clients can make the right, cost-saving choice: by buying at the right moment and at a competitive price.”
The gas market this year has been pretty volatile; prices went up and down rapidly. This kind of volatility often results in a longing for more long-term security. Imambaks: “Naturgy offers day-ahead contracts, long-term contracts and combinations of those two. Long-term commitments are more popular at the moment, but the million-dollar question is how long term that commitment should be.”
The Dutch government has decide to phase out the extraction of natural gas in Groningen (a northern province of the Netherlands), and that has caused quite a stir among growers. In cooperation with a national agricultural organisation, the government kicked off the campaign ‘Greenhouse Industry Fossil Fuel-Free’. Growers associations are discussing alternatives for fossil fuels; geothermal energy is often mentioned in these discussions.
Imambaks stresses that this is no time for rash decisions, though: “The amount of gas extracted in Groningen is decreasing, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon natural gas altogether. There’s plenty of gas available on an international scale, and the Netherlands can import as much as needed. Convert the gasworks, if and when necessary, and the problem is solved. You do have a choice, a drastic change is not needed. Besides, who’s going to cover all the costs? A more gradual transition might be better for everyone.”
There’ll always be gas
As stated in the Strategic Plan 2018-2022, the energy transition is important to Naturgy itself too. “We move with the times, but there’ll always be gas as well. You have to use your common sense when faced with problems, and judge innovations for what they are. Now and in future, there will always be a mixture of energy sources.”
Naturgy wants to help its clients to make future-proof decisions: “We assist our clients in Spain at the moment in taking energy-saving measures. This is a service we want to bring to the Netherlands too, in due course”, Imambaks concludes.
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