Europe’s ‘Electric Decade’ – the role of electricity companies

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Electricity companies are pivotal to the delivery towards a net zero carbon economy with direct electrification the cornerstone.

Pressure is growing to drive towards net zero with a transition in the energy system unparalleled in its history.

In its net zero by 2050 pathway the IEA has called for the 2020s to be the decade of massive clean energy expansion with clean and efficient technologies.

European electricity industry federation Eurelectric has dubbed the decade the ‘Electric Decade’.

Have you read?
Recent energy transitions point way to an ‘Electric Decade’ ahead
Make 2020s the decade of massive clean energy expansion – IEA

In a report prepared with Accenture and released at the organisation’s Power Summit 2021, the challenges and opportunities are set out providing pointers to the central role that electricity companies have to play.

Key objectives identified are to shape demand with residential and corporate consumers and to scale up at speed.

Residential customers want better experiences from service providers that reflect their values and lifestyles at affordable prices. Electricity companies should reposition themselves and become the trusted partner for net zero consumers, says the report.

For corporate consumers, investments in low carbon technologies present significant opportunities. Industrial clusters are an example of the opportunities available and utility providers should claim the position as the active leader decarbonising heavy industry.

At this point of the transition, the real innovation challenge is not in new ideas but bringing the technologies to scale as quickly as possible. Europe’s electricity companies possess the capabilities and assets to scale innovations, which will enable uptake among a broad customer base.

To do so, new solutions and technologies from small companies and start-ups would be critical, but they need to be scaled by larger players, the report adds.

Digital and data

The report also identifies two ‘enablers’ to the Electric Decade based around digital and data.

The new energy system has a data layer on top of the traditional physical energy system. Physical infrastructure data can drive value and differentiation by optimising the electricity system and helping guide the demand side development.

Digital twins optimise can be operated in real time to develop new models that optimise asset management, ensure grid stability and integrate technology to deliver new consumer propositions.

But people with deep digital expertise will be the main enabler determining success. A looming challenge is the reskilling of the workforce, which in turn requires a deep understanding of what people need and matching technology development and training.

Navigating the energy transition will require electricity companies to attract a new kind of talent who want to use their digital skills to solve the complex challenges ahead, states the report. As that level of talent is in short supply, electricity leaders will need to embed the latest technology and match that progress with a culture built on innovation.

Collaborating with nimble start-ups and large organisations is also a powerful tool to acquire new skills at speed.