CleanTech Global Renewables – The Next Generation of Energy

CEO Salvador Antonio R. “Aboy” Castro Jnr talks about how his background in basketball coaching is helping him to inspire CleanTech’s renewable energy business.

CleanTech Global Renewables, Inc. is a renewable energy company based in the Philippines, mainly focusing on solar and wind power. Established in 2014, the company received praise from the local government for the speed with which it responded to the national call for renewable energy sources. “From finding the land site, completing the technical studies, permits and financing to construction and operation, we managed to get the first solar plant finished in just 13 months” recalls CEO Salvador Antonio R. “Aboy” Castro Jnr.

Coach Class

Companies will often use sport as a metaphor for motivation. In Aboy’s case, sports as a metaphor for communication and motivation comes from real experience. “In our company, I would define myself as the Chief Energy Officer (if you’ll excuse the pun!)  I see myself as a leader, like a sports coach. For 14 years I was a professional basketball coach, leading teams on the college, professional and national levels” he states.

Aboy goes on to explain the skills he learned on the court and how they also apply in the world of business. “When you are a coach, you have to sell the vision to your team. It is about being able to show people a direction and strategy to get things done” he further details.

Aboy and his team had to dig deep, especially early in the life of the business. “As a family-owned company, we did not have deep pockets compared to the larger local conglomerates. Over time, we managed to get funding from private equity firms, but to start with our equity was our blood, sweat and values” he colourfully describes.

Aboy felt that initially CleanTech and the renewable energy industry were not fully supported in the Philippines, feeling that the industry has been better supported in the United Kingdom. “In the UK, the regulations have allowed for more investment in wind power. Between 2016 to 2019, we had a lull in renewable energy investment in the Philippines, so we did not get the same benefits” he explains.

Since then, the need for renewable energy has been more recognised in the Philippines and there has been more support for CleanTech with the business continuing to push forward. “It has been picking up since 2020, although this has been more to do with technology such as solar panels becoming more affordable. CleanTech is now branching out into other markets such as Australia and Vietnam” Aboy outlines.

Words of Inspiration

Aboy is inspired by the American industrialist Warren Buffett, citing his advice when it comes to recruiting potential employees. “Warren Buffett identified three key traits when looking for employees. The first is intelligence, as you need a certain amount of intelligence so that you can move forward within the company” Aboy explains. “The second is energy. We want people who will take ownership of their work and will not back down” he further explains. “Finally, we need people with integrity. The problem with people who have intelligence and energy without integrity is that they could end up robbing you” he quips.

Aboy continues to use sport as a metaphor, this time citing horse racing when looking at how you work with your team. “Some people need the stick to encourage them, while with others you can let go of the reins and let them move forward.”

As well as sport, Aboy is passionate about CleanTech Foundation, the charity and community project arm of the business. “I’m as passionate if not more so about our foundation than I am about the company. After our father died when I was still in Elementary School, my sister and I benefited from scholarships and without that, we would not have been able to complete our education. I am a Chemical Engineer, and my sister is a Doctor of Medicine.” he recalls.

He goes on to break down the key areas that CleanTech Foundation has been established to address. “The foundation covers four main areas, the “Four E’s” as we call them. The first is the Environment, as this is an important part of our business. The second is Education so that we can provide the means for families and students to get the support they need. We will continue to grow the scholarship as we complete more projects and expand the company” he explains.

“The third part of the foundation is Emergency Response. We are based around the infamous ‘ring of fire’ so we have to deal with emergencies such as volcanic eruptions and typhoons regularly, we would like to be able to avoid these, but we cannot” he states. “This is why we have funds allocated to provide clothes, food and shelter. We also provide solar panels so that people can charge their phones and contact loved ones in an emergency “he further explains.

As with education, the final key area that CleanTech Foundation wants to address is personal to Aboy and could have a potentially massive impact in the local area around the Philippines. “The final part of the foundation is Entrepreneurship. We provide training and opportunities, as well as small capital access. We aim to encourage new businesses and spur the local micro-economy” he says.

 The Future

CleanTech is in the process of completing a major renewable energy project. “We are working on multiple renewable energy projects with an aggregate capacity of 1000MWs that are to be completed in 2025. We are hoping to partner with a global leader in renewables. One that is at the forefront of the energy transition, giving us both access to capital and expertise. This will happen in the next two weeks, and everything is looking to be on track” Aboy explains. The company is also looking beyond wind and solar energy to investigate the next potential renewable energy source. “We are also looking into hydrogen technology. Studies have suggested that this could be possible within the next 8 to 15 years” Aboy states. The company is also researching sites in the United Kingdom so that they can further develop their offshore wind technology.

Aboy concludes with a final sporting metaphor, outlining CleanTech’s motivation to push their industry forward. “Over time, CleanTech will be expanding into more markets. I compare it to a half-marathon or even a marathon, you must always look at the next goal post, like the next kilometre in front of you! That way you break the entire run into more manageable and reachable goals.”

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