New markets are the Holy Grail for businesses, but success in accessing and serving new markets is far from easy. The difficulties are multiplied when those new markets are in parts of the world where language, culture and regulation are completely different.
Brazil’s energy market is undergoing a transformation that opens up new opportunities for many businesses that might have steered clear of the tightly regulated sector in the past, despite the obvious temptations offered by the country’s broader economic growth trajectory.
Foreign companies investing in Brazil have often relied on their own systems and distribution networks, but the new model for companies like smart grid communications technology firm Trilliant is built on leveraging partnerships with existing market leaders. Trilliant has partnered with ELO Sistemas Eletrônicos (ELOS), a Brazilian company that provides meters for the Latin American market.
The company recently kicked off an expansion in Asia through a similar model. Read more about that here.
Trilliant built its reputation in Canada, helping Hydro One in Ontario build out a communications network as part of its smart meter and smartgrid network that has helped that utility monitor energy usage and implement an ambitious renewable energy program.
“Part of the interest that Trilliant has is in building out a network that would enable distributed generation and renewable energy” in Brazil, Trilliant managing director for the Americas Walter Lowes told Breaking Energy recently. Brazil’s dependence on hydropower is matched by an enthusiasm for wind energy to balance out the hydro cycles, and increased use of the two generation sources requires coordination enabled by technology like Trilliant’s.
Trilliant already has access to the region through earlier partnerships with GE and ABB, as well as through its acquisition of Skypilot Networks, a provider of long-range wireless mesh broadband equipment whose products are widely distributed in Latin America. “[The Skypilot acquisition] makes it a little easier for the utility executive to choose Trilliant – a big chunk of our network component is already in the region,” Lowes said.
But the partnership with ELOS is a central component of Trilliant’s expansion plans, which involves integrating one of Trilliant’s communications modules in ELOS’ meter. “The ELOS partnership is critical – they’ve taken the market by storm,” Lowes said of his firm’s new partners.
The strategy is to take advantage of the Brazilian regulatory approach of a gradual phase-in of smart grid capability by building a scalable model that utilities can later apply their own technology to. Putting in the communications network first, and then layering in technology as required rather than placing smart meters and then connecting them, is Trilliant’s approach for Brazil, Lowes said.
The skills the company learned in Canada and in proof-of-concept projects in other places like Ecuador will apply to the Brazilian market, even if the business strategy differs. “There are highly transferrable skills getting a network live,” Lowes said, adding that he expects the company to hit its late 2012 deadline for integrating Trilliant modules into the ELOS units.