Naresh Baluja: Seasoned Leader With Diversified Renewable Energy & Thermal Power Experience Throughout The Value Chain Of Energy Business

It's challenge to meet tariffs for wind power in India: Engie MD

When compared to other countries renewable energy markets, India ranks in the top five. The solar power industry in India is expanding rapidly, and this is mostly due to the country’s increased investment in renewable energy. ENGIE is one of the top organizations operating in the Indian solar sector, and Naresh Baluja is in charge of the company’s business development and commercial operations.

Below is an excerpt of Naresh’s exclusive interaction with CEO Insights magazine.

Make bold, this is a question I have overall about 17 years of experience, all through in the Energy sector and across the value chain of the energy business. I started my career in Sales and Marketing with a mid-cap company providing material handling systems for thermal power plants. Then I moved to the other side of the table on the procurement and contracts side with reliance power and handled procurement for over 250$ Mn of key equipment for approximately 5 GW of thermal assets. Intending to understand the sector holistically, I moved to management consulting with Feedback Infra and worked across several technical, commercial, and financial due diligence along with helping clients with their market entry strategy in the power business. In addition, while at Feedback Infra, I was given a responsibility to expand the business in BD and strategy team of Shapoorji EPC business and worked on securing several projects in Africa totalling over 200 Mn$. In 2015, I stepped down from my professional career to pursue my long-term aspiration of studying management and I went to Paris to pursue my full-time MBA at HECParis, which was ranked among the top 15 B schools globally then. Post my MBA, I joined Engie in 2017.

In 2017, I started as a lead for project development activities and then later took over the responsibilityfor the procurement and commercial department in 2020. Last year(2021), I was provided with an exciting opportunity to lead the BD, project development, and commercial activities of Engie’s renewable energy business in India.

Could you enlighten us about ENGIE India’s impact and presence across the Renewable Energy space?

Engie has a portfolio of around 1.3 GW in India. Around 1 GW of that is solar and the balance is wind. In the RE space, we have been in India since the acquisition of Solairedirect in 2015. We are a utility player and are in the business of holding on to assets in the long term. We currently have a partnership with Edelweiss for around 800 MW-odd assets where we have divested 74 percent stake and we continue retaining 26 percent share and also continue providing O&M services to that platform. Apart from that, we have around 290 MW capacity in Gujarat which is 100 percent owned by us and was commissioned during the pandemic last year. We also have a 30 MW wind capacity in Gujarat and a 220 MW wind project in Tamil Nadu. In India, we have a team of around 100-odd people in a corporate office and additional 100 people at various project sites. That is broadly our footprint in India.

“Engie is well placed to be a sizable player in the Indian RE space given our deep understanding of the market and the value that we can create by using our global industrial platform.”

India is part of the wider AMEA region (Africa, Middle East and Asia) and is one of the key countries for Engie’s renewable energy aspirations in the region. The company has four business segments globally. That includes Renewables, Energy Solutions, and Supply Networks and Thermal & Supply, which covers Hydrogen and battery storage too. Engie’s total global installed renewable energy portfolio is around 34 GW. Of this, around 18 GW is hydro, 12 GW is wind, and 4 GW is solar. Of these 4 GW, 1 GW is in India. So, India is quite a significant market for us.

As the Head of Business Development, what are the latest trends you have implemented in the company in your current role?

We have been seeing a lot of capital coming into the RE space in India and simultaneously, the churning of capital is also happening. Ever since taking over the responsibility of the BD function in 2021, my key task has been to focus on future growth, which I have tried and still trying to achieve by being abreast with the market.

Areas on which we have focused in the last years include making strategies to align ourselves with the market and implementing the strategy by doing alot of pre-development works including aggregating land for partially derisking the project and most importantly, getting back to the bidding and being competitive. This demonstrates our seriousness for the Indian market and management’s keenness to pursue and achieve growth in the Indian market, which is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. In addition, Engie despite being a utility has been operating globally through partnerships. This is an aspect that Engie values and has started the process of identifying new partners for its next phase of growth in the Indian RE space.

What are your goals for the next five years from now and how do you plan to execute them?

While embarking on Engie’s growth journey 2.0 in the Indian RE space, the company has given itself short, medium, and long-term goals. In short term, Engie intends to conclude the process of partnering with a leading financial/strategic investor, and secure MWs in the coming months, while parallel developing a pipeline of future projects. In addition, we are actively looking at fast emerging C&I space and hoping to conclude few transactions shortly.

In the medium term, we are on verge of developing a Greenfield Pipeline and would also selectively look at inorganic growth through acquisitions of operating assets if they come along with a substantial pipeline. Lastly, as part of mid-long-term strategy, it intends to be a player across the value chain of energy ar, wind, hybrid, storage, RTC, etc, and achieve a scale of 3-4 GW together with a partner in the next 3-4 years.

Naresh Baluja, Chief Commercial Officer, ENGIE

Naresh Baluja is Chief Commercial Officer –Renewables, Engie India. In this role, Naresh leads all Business Development, Project Development and Commercial activities and reports directly to Suresh Bhaskar – MD Renewables AMEA. Naresh holds a Graduate Degree in Engineering and an MBA in Business Management and brings in over 17 years of experience. He has been associated with ENGIE since 2017 and was most recently the Head of Commercial for ENGIE Solar, India. Before this, Naresh worked with leading EPC, management consulting and OEM firms.

Source: ceoinsightsindia