Interview: In Order to Become Smarter, we Must Experiment

Marie Pavlik has been working in ComAp for over 15 years. She started as a manager of the Bi-Fuel projects, later she was project manager of the development team for InteliVision 8. In 2013, she joined ComAp’s Australian subsidiary in Adelaide where she currently works as the Partner Development Manager for the Asia Pacific region.
What made you move to Australia?

In 2012, we were developing the new ComAp strategy together with the owners and managers. Through the process I learned a lot and discovered the area of “I know what I don’t know”. MBA studies aboard seemed to be the next step in my career.

And you ended up in Adelaide.

Yes. I’ve been in ComAp since September 2004 and it was quite an interesting journey. During development of InteliVision 8, we were looking for different solutions, cooperating with different companies and IBM HMI centre. The launch was successful even though the first reaction of distributors was not positive.

Why not?

Because it was unique. It was the first colour display in our industry. At the time we were proposing it as our new product, people said it would not sell because it was too fancy and expensive.

And now it’s one of ComAp’s highest selling products.

Yes, it’s funny. Then, in 2008, there was a big boom of renewable energy in the Czech Republic. Sales of the NPU (anti-islanding) protections suddenly increased and we thought that might be an opportunity. So, I was challenged to set up a division. We developed two new mains protections products and accelerated the business globally. Which was another success leading to several million euros.

What are you working on at the moment?

In 2017, Australian energy market operator opened a program for demand response. Similar to the one in the UK with the national grid Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) project. It’s good opportunity and I’m learning about the best way to approach the emerging environment in Australia.

What are the specifics of the Australian market?

There are many. The structure of the grid is much more fragile with not many interconnections between the states. There is quite dense grid around cities but as you get further out into the country, it becomes very unstable. In the middle of Australia, obviously, there’s no grid at all. Therefore, there is a lot of opportunities for power stations for remote areas. Whereas on grid it is ensuring its reliability for mission critical applications. Another thing I found quite typical for Australia, is that the energy market here is much more open to experiments. Starting companies are getting financial support from the government. They even opened Renewables Agency providing grants for various innovation projects.

Is moving towards renewable energy significant trend in Australia?

The goal is to decarbonize or at least reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and not to compromise on power reliability. With the increasing use of renewable energy sources, the weather becomes the most important factor affecting the power. Not only on the power generation side but also on the demand side, for example during heat waves. Last summer in Queensland, the electricity consumption record was broken five days in a row, due to extraordinary use of air conditioning to combat the heat.

Given that most of the energy in the world is still generated by nonsustainable means, will the renewable boom affect ComAp’s business in the APAC region?

Yes. From what I can see in Australia, there will be less demand for fossil fuel based power generation. Few years ago, I didn’t believe that, but you can see the fast progress on innovative storage solutions, which will substitute diesel generators. And I don’t mean just batteries but different ways of storage and load management. Some of the sites will run completely without diesel generators. Our products surely have a potential to become even smarter, we just must experiment more.

This interview was originally published in The Current. Subscribe to the magazine for free here.
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