Energy Transition: An Offensive Approach

Energy Transition: An Offensive Approach

Eric Morel 05/01/2019 5

Unlike the United States and France, there are other countries that have adopted for various reasons a more offensive strategy in the face of energy transition issues.

An offensive strategy by choice: Denmark

In 1995, Denmark’s electricity generation is largely dominated by coal (97%). Denmark made a clear choice of migration to renewable energy by the end of the 1990s; it reached a penetration rate of 29% in 2005 and 56% in 2016 with a significant share of wind energy.

This “small” country of less than 6M inhabitants has become a “big country” of energy, observed for the rate of growth of renewable energies, its degree of digitization and its level of innovation in energy.

This policy has given rise to or stimulated the development of some very good companies: Vestas, the world leader in wind turbines, Kamstrup, a dynamic manufacturer of smart meters, Danfoss, Grundfos and Phoenix.

An offensive strategy enabled by very strong growth: China

China is a country apart, you say. Certainly. China has been favored by very strong growth and a favorable overall economic environment, you will say too. Certainly. Nevertheless, China has led an exemplary policy on energy efficiency and renewable energy development.

The stakes of this country were so great that the current situation is mixed: we can see in China a leading polluter with a large production of electricity from coal. We can also see China as a leader of many recent industries related to energy: photovoltaic cells and solar panels (Suntech, Yingli, Solar JA, Trina Solar, Jinko Solar), wind turbines (Goldwind), LEDs etc …

One certainty nonetheless: the proactive orientation of the Chinese government, which took advantage of the opportunities offered by the country’s strong growth, combined with a skillful industrial strategy, has positioned the Chinese industry as a leader in the energy market.

Fortunately, many of the opportunities offered by energy transitions, which have barely begun in most countries, remain untapped and may provide an opportunity for non-Chinese industries to take strong positions. China has recently won a battle, but it did not win the war: other countries to be inventive and willing to take back some of the lost advantage.

An “offensive” strategy enabled by a very low initial electrification rate: many countries in Africa and Asia

It is difficult to make a particular country stand out: the emergence of now-mastered technologies such as solar photovoltaic and electricity storage makes it possible to give access to electricity to villages through microgrids whose development does not require not an expensive national distribution infrastructure.

Highly increasing this rate of electrification is a major energy transition that potentially affects more than a billion people worldwide.

In each of these countries, installers and operators of such microgrids are flourishing. Local businesses, of small or medium size, they reinforce, by their own activity or that which they allow now, a base of economic activity across the countries.

A potential offensive strategy offered by the nascent emergence of certain economies: Tunisia

Tunisia’s energy mix is dominated by natural gas from Algeria, a major producing country.

The economic development of the country has deepened in recent years the energy deficit and the question of acquiring additional resources of electricity production arises. Will Tunisia make the choice of fossil fuels, yielding to the ease and not disturbing strategic reasoned lapsed and unsurprisingly, or will it choose a plan for development of renewable energy, mainly solar?

As in many countries with a booming economy, the issue is one of strategic daring and obvious political courage. But already, Tunisian companies like 3S have anticipated the movement and strongly developed activities of solar integrator or manufacturer of LEDs.

Among the offensive or defensive strategies, we have mentioned, there are no good or bad strategies. All are explained according to the context. These situations, however, lead to a paradox: the more energy companies in a country have acquired strong positions, the more they have to lose in the energy transition and the more they will push for a slow and cautious approach. They will de facto lag behind their less prestigious competitors, jeopardizing their future position, investing less or too late in new technologies and new energy systems.

The current energy transition therefore appears as a fantastic opportunity to change the established hierarchy. The actors of reference, to follow and to take as example, change.

But beware of the big energy specialists who will know, with or without the help of their regulator, take the turn: they will undoubtedly be the great leaders of tomorrow!

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  • Mark Hall

    There is no single mix that would be ideal worldwide.

  • Mandy Cox

    Still a slow process in Tunisia

  • Bill Roberts

    The reliability of energy supply must be ensured to meet current and future demand.

  • Claire Cooper

    Good article

  • Phil Angel

    Flexibility on how these countries achieve their energy transition must be accepted and supported.

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Eric Morel

Energy Expert

Eric Morel is a worldwide recognised expert of energy transition and digitalisation. In the past, he has served as VP Corporate Business Strategy and VP Global Smart Grids and Energy Efficiency at Schneider Electric as well as CEO of Ilevo, a telecommunication start-up. He is a founding member and a former Board member of the Gridwise Alliance, the main professional private/public association dedicated to Smart Energy.

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