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09 November 2016

UFE annual conference : a geniunely future-oriented day


Held this November 3rd, UFE’s annual conference gathered about 500 participants who largely exchanged views on the ongoing transformations of the electricity sector.

In her opening speech, UFE’s President Christine Goubet-Milhaud underlined the extent to which these changes are profound and affect society as a whole beyond the electricity sector. Indeed, every actor in the society, consumers, companies, trade union federations, local and national elected officials, is concerned and has a role to play. For Isabelle Kocher, the term energy “transition” is an understatement; she prefers talking about deep “revolution”. Economist Nicolas Bouzou stated it is nothing less than the “fifth great mutation of the History of manking”.

Changes going beyond borders

This inexorable movement is also global. UFE notably invited speakers from all horizons to reflect on this international dimension. Han La Poutré was able to share the experience of Amsterdam on developing mobility, whilst Saskia Sassia presented the vision she developed in New York on the social aspect of these ongoing changes. Francesco Starace talked about the radical changes undertaken by Enel in its investment choices, especially in the digital. Jean-Bernard Lévy, who illustrated EDF’s ambition to invest in smart and digital houses and to “outpace GAFA”, notably welcomed the way Enel strengthened its international position. Africa was also at stake in the debates, considering that European companies can contribute to developing access to electricity in an entire continent, symbol of accelerated human development.

Several leverages

This conference was also a great occasion to discuss leverages, means to reach the objectives that we collectively committed to, in particular in the light of the global challenge that is climate change.
The focus was first put on the role of political decision and regulation. The European level was fully present already at the beginning of this conference, with Dominique Ristori recalling in his speech the major actions undertaken by the European Commission in the field of energy and outlining the ambitions for the forthcoming “winter package”. The participants of the first round table were also invited to share their views on the possible consequences of Brexit. Lawrence Slade from Energy UK stressed that Brexit is not questioning the UK’s energy and climate commitments, but political clarity is essential to attract the necessary investments. For Luc Poyer, this context is also the opportunity for the French-German couple to reaffirm its position in the EU. Manuel Baritaud from IEA recalled the way “Europe managed to do what the United States has not done” through an integrated energy market, but also what remains to be accomplished to support low-carbon investments without undermining security of supply. Philippe Torrion called for ensuring the priorities that are capacity mechanisms and a trajectory of a continuous increase of the carbon price. The end of the conference was devoted to the local level, with participants of the last roundtable sharing best practices, be they in small towns and communes to bigger metropoles like Paris and Strasbourg. Jean-Michel Mazalerat and Yann Rolland specified what energy service companies could bring on the ground, whilst François Brottes and Philippe Monloubou presented, in this context, their vision on the evolution of the role of electricity grids. Robert Herrmann underlined that there was still a “need for the Strategic State and the regulator”.
The focus was also put on the financial tools to develop, discussion that was particularly driven by the publication of UFE study on prioritization efforts to make in term of energy consumption, in order to make the energy transition possible in France by 2030. Public officials, public and private investors, project leaders have all agreed that the availability of funds is not a limiting factor today, but that driving these resources towards the most efficient investments and ensuring visibility are key priorities. The roundtable on electricity uses confirmed the relevance of UFE’s message of climate efficiency, covering both energy efficiency and shift of energies, with examples presented in the building and mobility sectors. Didier Rebischung supported this message, underlining how much “promoting electricity usages are in the DSOs’ DNA”. Climate specialist Hervé Le Treut recalled why climate and public health challenges require “phasing out from hydrocarbon” and moving towards low-intensity usages based on decarbonized electricity.

Electricity and digital : the two faces of the same mutation

Last, though this transition, revolution or mutation is both energy and digital-related, it is first and foremost a question of innovation. Louis Schweitzer notably regretted the low level of applications for the Programme des Investissements d’Avenir in these two fields that are energy and the digital. Nicolas Sekkaki explained how, from IBM’s perspective, digital and artificial intelligence already had the potential to deeply transform numerous industrial processes, especially energy. Fabien Choné notably underlined the difference between the role of the digital in the energy transition and the digital transformation of professions, including those related to supply. Jean-Bernard Lévy is, in this perspective, convinced that as far as companies are concerned, « the digital transition affects us all », beyond financial considerations. Marie-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière expressed Orange’s conviction that this transition should « offer a customer experience that is user-friendly », argument that Olivier Derrien also supported on behalf of Salesforce, for which « the revolution at play in the energy sector is a great occasion to put the consumer back in the center ».
Despite a difficult economic context for several electricity companies, the sector shared a message of optimism and ambition at a time when regulatory and electoral changes are to come in Europe. The challenges are significant, some of the solutions remain unknown, but electricity is clearly a sector of the future; and companies are committed to play a role in the new page of history to be written.

Vision and missions

Vision and missions
About us

The Union of the French Electricity Industry is the trade association of the French electricity sector. We bring together companies from the whole value chain of the electricity industry.

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