Virginijus Ramanauskas – CEO Enerstena Group

Established in 2002 and headquartered in the south-central Lithuanian town of Kaunas, the Enerstena Group is one of the Baltic’s leading specialists in biomass energy production. Its customers come from right across the region’s district heating, electricity production sectors as well as from a diverse range of industrial companies.

Its principal activities are the design and manufacture of furnaces, hot water and steam boilers, flue gas condensers and other technological equipment used in the design, manufacture and installation of biomass boiler plants. It also provides post-installation technical maintenance and operation services.

BIG talked to Enerstena Group CEO Virginijus Ramanauskas

BIG: What inspired you to move into energy production?

VR: I grew up in the 1990s when the Lithuanian economy was young and we were quite a poor country. As a child, I remember some winters when half the family household budget went on  gas and electricity bills to keep us warm and the other half went on food. I wanted to do something to improve the quality of my family’s and my fellow Lithuanians’ lives, and providing them with affordable heating was one way of doing it.

BIG: Why biomass?

VR: Lithuania may have been poor at that time but it had all the ingredients needed to make biomass energy and it still does. [In addition to landfill gas feedstock, the principal raw materials required for biomass energy are urban, agricultural and forest waste products. About one third of Lithuania is covered in forests and around 50% is dedicated to agricultural use.] We were just missing the technology to turn that biomass into energy, which is where Enerstena came in.

BIG: What sort of technology are we talking about?

VR: Basically everything was missing, from the furnaces and boilers to the flue gas condensers and the technology required to convert existing boilers to run on biomass. Today, around three-quarters of Lithuanian houses are connected to the biomass heating grid, and we in turn have been involved in a large part of these installations. We have worked very hard and we have up-to-date experience in the conversion of old boilers, which is very important. We understand the issues involved, and they are nor specific to Lithuania alone. Over the past 20 years, we have successfully completed more than 180 complex projects in Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, France, Denmark, Estonia, Belarus and Ukraine.

BIG: Which of those export markets have been the most rewarding for you?

VR: Right now, the most interesting markets for us are Poland, the Scandinavian countries and Poland. This is partly because they have similar climates to us and therefore face many of the same challenges, but also because they are neighbours. On average we have to send between 10 and 20 trucks to a project and the further away a site is the more expensive it becomes. Having said that, I went to China for discussions not so long ago

BIG: Clean energy technology is evolving rapidly. How do you try and keep ahead of the curve?

VR: We have our own Centre of Science and Research which collaborates  with the Kaunus University of Technology and the Lithuanian Energy Institute. The three bodies have been working closely together on the development of secure and environmentally friendly combustion technologies and affordable products. We also have our own accredited fuel laboratory which specialises in the impartial analysis of sold fuel products. It helps engineers across the region chose the right materials as they develop biomass technologies.

BIG: What does the future hold for you and the Enerstena Group?

VR: Ultimately, I would like 95% of our business to come from outside Lithuania and that will entail creating a genuinely international workforce. That could pose some problems because of the different cultural attitudes they will bring to the party. There are bound to be some misunderstandings but the biggest challenge for me will be to mould all these different cultures into one great team. I’m looking forward to it.

Virginijus Ramanauskas graduated from Kaunus University of Technology with a Master’s degree in 2000 and founded the Enerstena Group two years later. He has been President of the Lithuanian Biomass Energy Association (LITBIOMA) since 2014.