Sunday, August 14

Sergio, the janitor who has invested in 60 photovoltaic plants

There are people who have solar panels at home, others put money in a photovoltaic project and then there are superinvestors. Sergio Genicio is 44 years old and lives in Vitoria. He has no money to spare, but in photovoltaics he has found a way to save. “I am lucky to have a permanent job, and in the end you don’t know what they are going to do with your money at the bank, so I have my savings this way for now, I know exactly where they are going,” he says. Since 2013 Sergio has invested in some 60 photovoltaic installations, but he is not dedicated to finance or anything like that, he works as a janitor at the ikastola Odon de Apraitz.

In a documentary he discovered solar energy to produce electricity a few years ago. “What happened, I thought, we are here burning coal and with some plates you can generate energy”. He began to investigate and the Ecooo project caught his attention. This non-profit company is dedicated to buying photovoltaic installations already built on roofs of buildings that are in poor condition, prepares them and then opens them to citizen investment. “The other thing would have been to invest in large plants”, comments this Vitorian, “but for ordinary mortals it is not affordable, however, here you can enter from 100 euros”.

When asked how much money he has invested in total, he pauses; He prefers not to say it, but he does have 85 active shares, which is as much as having invested 85 times. In fact, he is one of the people with the most contracts in a project whose income from the participation of individuals has multiplied by four since 2012, according to the entity Ecooo in a recent report. From one million euros that year it has gone to more than 20 million euros in 2021 with 3,529 people in 143 plants.

Sergio, who is not financial, talks about “diversifying” his savings: it seems safer to put money in different plants. But, above all, this janitor who at the school where he works picks up the phone, helps the educational community or does cleaning tasks, knows very well why he does it: “Mentally I like to put the money in the right thing.”

The plants purchased were built until 2012, when economic aid was still given to photovoltaics conditional on a number of hours of production. Those were the years in which a part of this market went to large companies and investment funds attracted by premiums. But many facilities have not been as profitable as expected due to lack of sufficient production hours.

Buying facilities built on roofs of buildings is a way of using an unused asset that already exists, they explain in the company, to give citizenship access to renewables. On the other hand, putting plates on the roofs brings the point of electricity production closer to that of consumption, reducing losses in transport, and encourages more people to participate. “We have to decide if the energy transition will be a replica of the previous model or if we redistribute power, which ceases to exist if electricity becomes distributed,” says economist Mario Sánchez-Herrero, co-founder of the project.

Sergio put money for the first time in 2013 in an installation in Lébrija (Seville). He put in 2,000 euros that he had been saving in plants on various roofs of municipal buildings whose electricity was consumed by the town hall itself, such as the gym or the library. After a quarter, the settlements began to arrive, remunerated at 4.5%. These are long-term projects that coincide with the useful life of those plants, of about 20 years. “More or less, for about a thousand euros invested you receive about five each quarter.”

Transfers kept coming for the next two years and since then he has put money in more or less every month. “Always that I can”. What you usually do is reinvest what you receive in new shares. “I love that this is between many people, it does not enter my head how there are not many more people who invest like this.”