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ISABELLE KOCHER, CEO, ENGIE

Isabelle Kocher spoke with the Congress organisers about her insights into challenges facing the energy sector, focus areas for innovation and her expectations of the 24th World Energy Congress.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 3-2019. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

What are the major challenges that the world and its energy sector are facing now that the grand energy transition is accelerating?

The energy transition requires a diversity of actions: efficiency, optimization, digitalization – in networks, in lighting, in mobility, in cooling and in heating and of course in innovation in renewables. Combining all these elements demands a high level of sophistication and expertise that Engie can deliver.

Which will be the most critical innovation areas?

We live in the knowledge economy. Competition will be led by the ability to bring as much (both human and artificial) intelligence as possible into the energy system. Software will be

key in optimizing networks and small decentralized energy sources, in monitoring consumption, to manage peak demand and intermittent production.

What does the future energy industry look like?

Nation-states used to be at the forefront of climate action. Thanks to citizens, consumers and civil society in general, corporations and local governmental authorities are now taking the lead. The industry will be structured by companies responding to tenders by adeptly gathering many innovations and technologies.

What are your expectations from the Congress 2019?

As you mentioned, the energy transition is accelerating. Why? Because almost every day a meteorological event or a scientific report brings some new and alarming light on climate change. Our call to action has never been so pressing. As entrepreneurs and innovators, our role is to find the ways and means to deliver on the zero-carbon economy and to create value and prosperity at the same time. I expect to hear colleagues and experts share their experiences in how they try to do both.

NUNO SILVA, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION DIRECTOR, EFACEC

Speaker and chair – Future Energy Leaders programme

What is the FEL programme?

The Future Energy Leaders Programme is designed to inspire, grow and develop the world energy leaders of tomorrow. It is a community of 100 bright individuals who are working in the global energy sector. The community builds on the creative ideas and innovative

potential of the next generation to challenge conventional thinking and explore new strategies for the future of energy systems. We do leverage on one of the most positive characteristics of the programme which is diversity - gender, geographic, background andsector. We have a collection of different people who really want to make a difference.

What inspired you?

What inspired me was really the will to make a difference. I would not be very happy if I had to sit down and wait for the energy transition to happen, and this inspired me to take matters into my own hands and join the global FEL-100 network which is helping to accelerate this energy transition.

What are the skills for the future?

We live in a unique time where there are several drivers for change in the energy sector. Definitely the transversal wide communication through high speed mobile internet, and digitalization (where I include AI, big data analytics and cloud technology as well as blockchain) are technological drivers of change, but there are also other drivers - such as bridging the generation gap - that we see prominently in the energy sector as well as the gender balance in the sector. All these will shape the skill set of the future professionals and leaders of the energy sector, and all obviously will need to be carefully analysed.

What sector would you recommend for those entering the market?

It is a great time to get into the energy sector: we are in a turmoil of transition and even now we can see evidence that the future is already here. I could name the roles that are in demand, but the list is quite extensive. Data analysts for example are clearly needed across the energy sector. People going into the energy sector and trying to drive digitalization forward have huge space to explore, with technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, cloud computing and telecommunications just a few examples that cut across the sector.

Greatest challenges on the transition?

I believe the energy trilemma the World Energy Council uses is a great way to answer current challenges on the energy transition. It is comprised of three main pillars – energy security (the reliability of energy supply that must be ensured to meet current and future demands), energy equity (because energy must be accessible around the world, particularly in emerging markets, at an affordable cost) and environmental sustainability (since global warming calls for improved energy efficiency and the development of renewable and low greenhouse gas energy sources).

Underlying this are several drivers: the energy mix (since we are transitioning from fossil fuels to a more clean energy landscape, there is no perfect mix but in fact several scenarios on the table); technological advances (e.g. digitalization); changes in behaviour; and finally of course, policymakers and the regulatory environment also need to provide the correct frameworks for transition to happen quickly.