We have not yet taken full measure of the stakes of the Energy Transition: locked in our mental schemes, we continue to act in a frame of reference which dates and does not correspond anymore to the realities of today.
It is therefore not surprising that, in the areas of energy transition, Smart Cities or Smart Grids, our actions are shy or perceived as shy. The nuance is important because many decision makers have the feeling of progressing rapidly. But, in relation to the issues, we are very slow and are now behind the expectations of the society.
The main beneficiary of the energy transition or Smart Cities will be the entire society, which can expect an improvement in the quality of life, public health, a revival of economic dynamism and a better future for our planet. The main initiative should come back to the public actors.
It is often the individual, private and citizen initiatives that are the most numerous; they try to initiate or stimulate a more global movement. They show that all actors are gradually moving. Many manufacturers have made more frank advances and have developed many solutions that can contribute to the Energy Transition or, thanks to digital, to a better “performance” of cities.
We are no longer pioneers and we can therefore move resolutely into action by relying on many strengths:
– Many city employees and utilities are in full swing. They are full of ideas, motivated by their environment, the media, conferences and industry.
– Many technologies are available and allow to build high performance solutions. They have been tested and proven; to wait for them to reach a degree of advanced maturity and deployment is to wait for others to take initiatives that we do not want to take.
– Many pioneers have paved the way and now offer an important reference base. Among them are major actors such as ENEL, E.ON or Engie, highly visible initiatives as USEF, but also a host of local achievements on particular topics that should be considered with interest and attention. To find them, I suggest you in Europe, to look at the most dynamic countries: Germany, Netherlands, Great Britain, Scandinavian countries, Estonia.
– The dynamism of start-ups seems unprecedented, in all countries, but perhaps more particularly in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, France. They offer many valuable alternatives. The current rate of progress of energy transitions or the digitization of energy does not always allow them to flourish as some would deserve, or to be very visible. There is, however, a large number of nuggets.
– Investment funds, VC or infrastructure funds, have adapted to the characteristics of new energy markets and seek projects to support.
The context is favorable to the multiplication of local initiatives. Let’s go to action! The role of public authorities is likely to change : instead of stimulating and providing a framework for individual actions, they will arrive later to give coherence to all initiatives to maximize the common benefit. As at some energy companies, strategists will be more interested in giving meaning and coherence to actions than setting a course.
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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.