Florida company providing electrical power for the world

mwhitefield@miamiherald.comJanuary 7, 2013 

More than 4,000 miles from its home base in Doral, Energy International is helping keep the lights on and the power grid humming in Gibraltar, the British territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

Energy International, a global provider of power plants and energy solutions, sent a temporary plant that will provide power for at least the next two years while a more permanent fix is sought for the territory’s erratic and aging electrical system.

The Doral company was founded 14 years ago as MCA Power Systems and its initial goal was to pursue energy contracts in Latin America. It began 2000 with a name change and in recent years its focus has become global.

“The world needs energy,’’ said Brett Hall, EI’s vice president of finance.

While the 2007-2008 recession curtailed the growth of worldwide energy demand, the U.S. Energy Information Agency has projected that global demand for electricity will increase by 2.3 percent annually from 2008 to 2035.

The potential is especially strong in developing nations. The International Energy Agency estimated that in 2009, 21 percent of the world’s population — 1.4 billion people — didn’t have access to electricity. In sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of people without power rises to 69 percent.

Energy International has expanded sales from Latin America and the Caribbean to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, boosting revenue from $100 million annually in 2009 to more than $300 million today, Hall said. This year, EI is anticipating revenue of $350 million to $375 million.

In the next seven years the company, which is privately owned by American shareholders and affiliated with Gecolsa — the Caterpillar dealership in Colombia — hopes revenue will top $1 billion, he said.

Even though Energy International is based in the United States, it does little work domestically. Its sweet spot is emerging economies and contracts of $100 million or less.

“Our focus is to do whatever makes the most economic sense for a particular market,’’ said Hall.

“We’re not going to be building a nuclear power plant,’’ he said. But EI will accommodate its solutions to local fuel supplies whether it’s biofuel, natural gas or heavy fuels that are more prevalent.

When it comes to the type of temporary power solution needed by Gibraltar, which had been plagued by a string of power outages at its archaic electrical facilities, EI can have a temporary plant up and running in 30 to 40 days, supplying the engineering, rental turbines and other equipment and doing the installation.

“We were able to support Gibraltar’s power needs on short notice,’’ said Andres Molano, EI’s vice president of sales. “Some of their equipment required major maintenance and they needed to stop their plants.’’

EI, one of the world’s largest suppliers of interim energy solutions, signed a $12 million contract with the government of Gibraltar in November and the plant was operational by Dec. 21. The agreement includes an option for a three-year extension.

The equipment now in use in Gibraltar is considered part of EI’s fleet and will move on to other energy emergencies when its service in the territory famed for the Rock of Gibraltar is complete.

But when it comes to its permanent power plants, EI will build a facility for a client looking to generate its own power or construct a plant, run it and sell power directly to the final user.

“We can do all the work ourselves. We have all the skills in house — finance, design, operations, maintenance, building and the equipment,’’ said Hall.

Energy International has moved into the Middle East, completing projects in Oman and Yemen and establishing a subsidiary in Dubai in 2012 to pursue business in Africa and the Middle East, said Molano.

“Africa is new to us, but we believe there are opportunities there,’’ he said.

The company also is looking for continued growth in Latin America, especially in Colombia, which is now attracting foreign investors who previously had been spooked by violence.

Remote areas of the Amazon where temporary power solutions are needed also represent opportunity for the company.

“EI is very fortunate to be in a position in which we have more excellent opportunities than capital.’’ said Hall, so this year it will be concentrating on raising equity to finance growth.

“One of our biggest challenges in 2013,’’ Hall said, “will be to find investors or joint venture partners to provide capital that will enable EI to perform these projects so our aggressive revenue growth targets can be achieved.’’

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