Thibault Desclee de Maredsous of Alstom: Brazil now seeing importance of O&M

Alstom’s experience in Brazil is instructive for any original equipment manufacturer (OEM) looking to break into an emerging market. Product management director, Thibault Desclee de Maredsous, talks of operations and maintenance (O&M) and more.

Thibault Desclee de Maredsous talks of operations and maintenance: We take local content seriously. If we take the example of Brazil, today you have to be close to 80% local content.

Interview by Jason Deign

Q: How is your O&M business developing in Brazil?

A: In Brazil we have 2GW of orders booked. As a less mature market, the customers in general had not looked at the O&M part. But many have come up with knowledge from established markets and now things are changing as customers see the importance of O&M.

As a result, we have started to build more tailor-made offerings. Before, there used to be a strong differentiation between capital and operational expenditure. Now customers look at the full picture. In Europe, that is standard.

O&M in Brazil is different to established markets because of the distance of the wind farms. In Brazil, you need guys nearer the site.

Q: How have you faced up to the local content requirements in Brazil?

A: We take local content seriously. If we take the example of Brazil, today you have to be close to 80% local content.

That is the game you have to play. We have a tower factory there and a nacelle factory, and we are creating jobs by building a local industrial footprint and creating O&M jobs.

Q: How important is O&M in helping you achieve a competitive edge?

A: O&M is a way to make the difference between your brand and everyone else’s. There are a lot of guys who can make good turbines on the market. When it comes to service, that is where you can offer an advantage. The O&M helps differentiate us from competitors.

If you look at who is successful in the wind business it is those who are delivering the highest quality. I don’t think you are going to win contracts on O&M on its own, though. It’s the full package.

Q: What is your view of who should be responsible for turbine O&M?

A: Clearly, when you are building a wind farm it is the OEM who understands the business.

Q: How do you see O&M developing in future? Do you think wind OEMs will come to resemble auto manufacturers in terms of their after-sales capabilities?

A: Wind is very different to an industry like hydro, which we are also heavily involved in. There, with each project you have to design a turbine. Wind, though, is all about standardisation and so for me the benefit of maintaining these products is part of the full picture.

Q: More widely, what areas of innovation are you focusing on at the moment?

A: We are doing a lot now in cold-climate countries, bringing additional features to our turbines. The customisation of the product is important, like whether you have de-icing features for the blades.

Q: Back in Europe, what is your position regarding O&M?

A: Our strongest O&M story is in Spain, from when we bought Ecotècnia, with 1.7GW. In offshore a lot of customers want to begin running and operating the wind farms themselves. If you look at guys like Dong, they want to take care of it. It’s a new business.