The Beam interview series, edition 19: Christian Siemoneit
To lighten up your week and give you even more energizing thoughts, we publish interviews from our partner The Beam twice a week.
The Beam takes a modern perspective on the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.
This week, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Christian Siemoneit, co-founder of Hansalia, a renewable energy company specializing in Project Development & Sustainable Private Equity Investments in Latin America. We spoke to Christian about the challenges and advantages of developing renewables in Chile and the main obstacles to the development of renewable energy today in South America.
The Beam: Christian, you formed the company Hansalia Green Energy four years ago. Can you give us a little bit of your background?
Christian Siemoneit: I had worked in the finance and investment banking world before beginning Hansalia Green Energy. There I was able to become acquainted with the financing mandates required for solar parks in Europe. After projects in Europe had become less attractive due to the decrease of feed-in-tariffs and also some regulatory problems, I co-founded Hansalia together with three partners. Within the group of founding partners we have, besides me, an engineer and two lawyers. This interdisciplinary skill-set was very helpful for starting our company as a project developer.
What were the greatest challenges of building your company?
The most important issue maybe is to get the right people together. This luckily has worked out well within our core team. I would treat it as a coincidence and I am happy about that. I would say that the greatest challenge was and still is to build the bridge between Europe and Latin America in the most efficient and successful way. Continuing challenges for us include communication, the distance between Europe and Latin America, and different mentalities; these are aspects where we can always improve ourselves.
How did this company start, and how did Hansalia become one of the largest independent power producers in Latin America?
At the beginning, we analyzed different countries in the region and used existing relations that my Spanish business partner and the co-founder of Hansalia, Leandro, had already developed. We then received feedback and were offered various sites in Chile, Uruguay, Mexico and others. However, the most attractive opportunity was in Patagonia in southern Chile, so we went there and negotiated a lease contract in order to prepare for the development process.
This was my first trip to Latin America and I was fascinated by the beauty of the country, the nice people, and especially the great framework for working successfully as a developer in Chile. During this first trip we got in touch with a group of local development specialists, which became part of our team over time. This is how it started in Chile.
Back in 2012, Hansalia was one of very few international renewable companies active in Chile with a locally-based corporate infrastructure. Being a developer, you have to be close to the market, you need to have people on the ground in order to work closely on acquiring permits with the local governmental bodies, engineers and others.
The market developed very well, and we benefited from our ‘early-mover’ advantage. Chile became the most attractive renewable energy market in the world and, suddenly, we were part of it.
Why is Chile interesting for renewable energy today?
Over the last years, the Chilean market has really blossomed. More and more projects have not only been developed but also constructed. The market was maturing while the financial conditions improved, and as a result, more and more international actors arrived and set up offices in Santiago in order to get a share.
Chile is interesting for several reasons. First of all, the conditions for solar and wind energy projects are the best in the world. Chile is a country with a good legal framework, an efficient infrastructure, high income per capita and solid economic growth. Also, the energy demand is on the rise, while other energy sources, like nuclear, are not an option due to the risk of earthquakes.
Despite limited energy demand because of a small population (only 17 million people), the Chilean renewable energy market can look to neighboring countries in order to grow their market and export energy.