Founded in 2004 by a group of former graduates from the University of Ljubljana, the GEN-I Group is today regarded as one of the most innovative and rapidly-growing players on the European energy market.
From its base in Krško in the south-east of Slovenia it runs operations in more than 20 European countries, owns 16 subsidiaries, employs more than 470 experts and specialises in offering its partners the most advanced trading, retail and purchase services on the market today. Through them, it supplies electricity and natural gas to all segments of its end-customer markets and maintains a competitive price structure and reliable supply service for both households and SMEs.
In 2016, it launched GEN-I Sonce, the first Slovenian power supplier to provide domestic solar plant installation and to guarantee year-round power by offering top-ups from the conventional grid.
BIG talked to its founder and Chairman Dr Robert Golob.
BIG: Where does the Gen-I story begin?
Golob: It all started in early 2000s when I got together with some friends from my university days. We were looking to find ways of capitalising on the deregulation of the Slovenian energy market and decided to set up a company specialising in the trade of electricity as a commodity. It was so successful and grew so quickly that we had to ask GEN Energia [Slovenia’s state-owned electricity producer] to help us with our expansion plans.
BIG: Were you not concerned that inviting the public sector to get involved in what was a highly entrepreneurial private-sector set-up might blunt you competitive edge?
Golob: It was certainly an issue, because I have always believed that GEN-I could only be successful if it were run as a privately-owned company. I was fortunate that the people at Gen Energia agreed. Management practice and control have stayed in our hands from the very beginning. If it wasn’t for that, we would probably never have been able to establish a presence in so many European countries or to grow into a €2.5bn company.
BIG: What would you say has been the biggest benefit of retaining control?
Golob: We have always prided ourselves on our ability to keep abreast of changing market conditions, and being our own bosses has meant that we have also been able to react accordingly and at pace.
BIG: Your decision to launch GEN-I was obviously driven by the deregulation of the European power markets, and coincided with the wholesale restructure of both distribution and pricing models. How did that influence your strategic thinking?
Golob: Very early on, we realized that anybody who carried on conducting business according to the patterns and behaviour of the previous millennium was staring defeat in the face. About four years ago we also recognized that the supply of electricity (traditionally our principal revenue stream) was losing its competitive edge and that the future lay in developing innovative services, the aggregation of consumption and the decentralisation of production into virtual power plants. In layman’s terms, that meant finding new ways of providing our customers with reliable and affordable energy.
BIG: GEN-I also came into existence at the same time as the clean energy movement began to take off in earnest and that has clearly also had a big influence on the direction you have taken.
Golob: The provision of reliable and affordable energy will alway be our first priority and was one of the main reasons we decided to enter into the electricity and natural gas retail markets. The same holds true for our approach to solar power. The innovative financing model we designed for GEN-I Sonce’s customers has made affordable solar power available to all our customers. This in turn has helped open the door for everyone to participate in a greener, carbon-free future.
Dr Robert Golob
Obtained his B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering at the University of Ljubljana in 1989, 1992, and 1994 respectively. After graduation, he was awarded a post-doctoral Fulbright scholarship of a Visiting Researcher at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Between 1999 and 2002 he served the Government of Slovenia as State Secretary. He is a founder and a leading member of the Laboratory for Energy Policy research group, and has published a number of papers in the field of Power System Protection, Energy Source Optimization and Electrical Power System (EPS)
In 2004 he was co-founder of Gen-I and remains its chairman to this day.