The EDP Business Summit ’21 - Leaders and Corporations Committed to the Energy Transition was held on June 17, bringing together twelve energy and sustainability experts to explore different angles, opportunities and best practices for the energy transition journey. Among all these incredible speakers, one certainty: this is an urgent matter that, if not properly and quickly put into action, can have a brutal impact on our planet and people, compromising future generations.
“In this transition the energy sector will have to step up to the challenge. But so will all of you – industries, services, large corporations, small businesses - everyone will have a big role to play in accelerating the energy transition and shaping a more responsible society. We believe that to change tomorrow, we need to start acting now.” shared Vera Pinto Pereira, Executive Board Member at EDP Energias de Portugal, on her welcome speech.
It is in this context that EDP Comercial launched this summit, which had more than 1300 participants registered from 25 countries around the world. An exciting and thought-provoking event, full of crucial messages that we tried to summarize below. Enjoy!
Pioneering Spirit to Invent the Future
With Bertrand Piccard, Serial Explorer, Psychiatrist and Ambassador for Clean Technologies
“It is very dangerous to only think the same way”
Bertrand Piccard is an explorer who achieved two absolutely aeronautical firsts: to fly around the world non-stop in a balloon and later in a solar-powered airplane.
He strongly believes that, to change the world, people have to defy the status quo and stop thinking in terms of production, to start thinking in terms of efficiency.
For Bertrand, businesses, governments and societies, must try all the options to really innovate. This can be frightening, but it is the only way for a company – or even an industry – to survive. It’s the permanent ability to create new and more meaningful realities and adapt to new and cleaner opportunities. Yes, for Bertrand the future is clean.
Many see protecting the environment as a challenge and a very expensive cost, but for Bertrand Piccard, they should imagine the opposite and look at it as a profitable change.
“The success is not the result itself, it is the steps that follow which allow us to take it further”
That is why the green solutions that exist today are only used by pioneers and, for Bertrand Piccard, what we must figure out is how these solutions can represent an opportunity to show a pioneering spirit from all of us.
How to Green your Business: Sustainability and Profitability Hand in Hand
With Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London
Mariana Mazzucato is considered one of the world’s most influential economists on a mission to save capitalism from itself.
In her opinion, we are facing an important moment to rethink economy, businesses, how we govern public-private partnerships, etc. But the main question is “how to build back better” while investment in green energy is still 20% of what it should be and 56% of the COVID-19 recovery funding allocated to energy companies has gone to fossil fuel projects.
“We are talking, but not walking enough.”
Mariana Mazzucato highlighted the main reasons for the so much needed change, such as the fact that “finance finances finance” instead of other industries. She also refers to the lack of purpose in business and that we still balance between shareholder and stakeholder maximization.
In the economist's perspective we need to learn from our own History and embrace again big missions like the one that took man to the moon and back.
The Apollo Project was a success because this public-private partnership had a great purpose and the results got so much further than the moon landing itself. Today we have LEDs, camera phones, portable computers, wireless headsets, water purification systems, among many other things, all thanks to that project.
Creating a Brighter Tomorrow: The Sun Leads the Way
With Gabriel Nebreda, B2C Managing Director at EDP Spain
As managing director of EDP Solar, Gabriel Nebreda really understands the positive impact that the sun can have in creating renewable energy.
He started to deconstruct the reasons why only today we are able to take the most advantage of the sun’s potential: one hour of sunlight can power the world for a whole year.
• Technological innovation, among other achievements, allow us to measure our energy in real time
• The cost of solar has been reduced by 80% in 10 years
• Many markets worldwide have strong regulations in place to promote self-consumption
• Solar guarantees profitability, and it is the cheapest energy source
• Awareness about urgent matters such as climate change is global and collective
For Gabriel Nebreda, this means that we are facing all the conditions to make, in the next 10 years, a solar revolution with regions such as Iberia, Italy, US, France and Brazil leading it.
And even with the limitations that this kind of energy can face when implemented in a city center, distributed solar is all about democratizing access to clean energy. In Portugal, for example, if we installed solar systems in every feasible rooftop, we would be able to cover 100% of the energy consumed by the entire population.
Gabriel Nebreda ended by sharing the Local Energy Communities concept – the consumption of one premise (business, flat or house) can be offset by solar energy generated in another building within in a certain distance. This new concept will allow everyone to take part in this solar revolution.
“It’s a technological revolution that comes along with a social movement.”
Transforming the Way We Move: What Lies Ahead for E-Mobility
With Jan Burdinski, Executive Director of Hyundai and Head of European Government Relations; Roger Atkins, Managing Director at Electric Vehicles Outlook Ltd; Koen Noyens, Director of EU Policy at EVBox; Pedro Vinagre, Executive Board Member at EDP Comercial
The four participants of the panel were challenged to respond to different questions:
What would be the importance of utility companies such as EDP in reaching carbon neutrality?
Pedro Vinagre stated that EDP feels that is leading a fundamental moment for our planet – the decisive decade, and that transportation is a fundamental part of this equation because its electrification is the most cost effective way to bring emissions to zero.
He shared some figures that show that this path is already in motion: there will be 10 Million electric cars in the streets in the end of 2021 (3M sold only this year); electric car sales have increased by 41%; projections defend that in the mid of this decade, the cost of an electric vehicle will be lower than a fossil fuel one.
For Pedro there is not a single sector that can solve the problem alone: utility companies have to be enablers with a private-public approach to bring smart solutions to everyone and EDP has been working with other companies in this sense.
Is there a conditionality between emission reduction and building infrastructure?
Jan Burdinsky agreed that yes, there is.
The simplest example is the number of existing gas stations that allow consumers to fuel in a very convenient way. The same conditions have to be created towards electric transportation so that consumers feel confident when choosing to buy an electric vehicle.
"There’s the need for a solid critical mass of infrastructure to kick electric mobility off."
Concerning battery technology: is it going to face a new break through?
Roger Atkins agreed and also shared that there is actually a process going backwards in this technology because of the impact of the batteries.
For the future, he estimates that this technology will take time and it is one of the challenges for the industry because the entire value chain has to be revised (from mineral processing to the right chemical mixture, etc).
What is EDP doing to introduce electric mobility and help the corporate sector in that way?
For Pedro Vinagre, EDP is acting in three dimensions.
What are the main obstacles to electric mobility?
Koen Noyens believes that there are two:
Is there a need for a plan for this transition?
According to Roger Atkins, in addition to a plan, we need partners to move forward.
But for the plan, it should be a short-term plan with monthly iterations, like the smartphone industry plans. Automotive industries typically have 5-7 year plans, but in this case they need to be stopped for progress to take place.
Finally, what needs to be done from the policy side?
Koen Noyens suggests that policies should be aligned with the ambition of electric mobility. When policy makers analyze the charging process, it's important that they understand the use case and its rationale for creating policies that meet the needs of the public and allow to accelerate this transition.
Koen shared some examples that show that local laws can represent a bottleneck and limitation in the process: no apartment owner is able to individually implement a solar panel in the building; in addition, the infrastructure required for public charging faces often slow approval procedures.
Rethinking Power Systems: Understanding Energy Flexibility
With Norela Constantinescu, Head of section Innovation at ENTSO-E and Vice-Chair of ETIP SNET, Sanda Tuzlic, Managing Director, Energy Transition Services at Accenture, Michael Phelan, CEO and Co-Founder at GridBeyond with the moderation of António Coutinho, Chief Executive Officer at EDP Innovation
The main purpose of this panel was to talk about the need for flexibility when planning energy transition and its challenges.
Therefore, Michael Phelan started by sharing the technology that GridBeyond has been developing related to carbon reduction, starting with energy flexibility, which allows companies to take advantage of different energy sources such as the sun or wind, to optimize energy consumption according to the needs. The company has worked in different sectors meeting companies' energy targets and delivering both savings and revenue.
Why do energy systems need flexibility and how if we are to meet the renewable targets by 2030? How much flexibility is needed to balance the system?
Norela Constantinescu explained that flexibility is very much needed to balance the energy supply and demand sides. New frameworks will have to emerge, which will combine different energy sources from storage or smart charging, to instruments - such as tariffs - that encourage their integration into the market.
Regarding the range of capacities needed through 2030, Norela Constantinescu believes that we could possibly go from 80GW to 80GW hourly, so we will need a huge ramp rate to handle this flexibility.
What is needed to engage customers on providing this flexibility to the system?
Sanda Tuzlic strongly believes that customer engagement is essential for achieving zero carbon targets.
For the acceleration of change to happen, Sanda thinks the demand side (businesses and residential customers) also needs to tap into this value pool. But for customers to engage in flexibility, Sanda advocates three main things: transparency, simplicity and control (from these customers).
In addition, accessibility is also a very important factor for customers to engage as quickly as possible on this path.
Concrete examples of industrial assets that offer flexibility.
Michael Phelan explained that most customers don't realize they have flexibility and, in fact, different household and kitchen tools serve this purpose (the food processor has flexibility in refrigeration, for example). In addition, most commercial buildings also have this possibility through their storage capabilities.
How is the regulatory framework regarding all these existing technologies?
Norela Constantinescu mentioned that in 2018 there was an initiative to put a regulatory framework in place by putting customers at the center of the equation – a task that is not easy because there are a number of complex issues that must be taken into account.
As for the countries that are more advanced, those that have made the most deployments in renewable energy (mainly islands), are the ones that are pushing this issue forward – two examples are Ireland and Great Britain.
What key stakeholders are needed to drive the adoption of flexibility?
For Sanda, energy suppliers must become their customers' trusted partners, which means they must understand customers and leverage the flexibility of their assets by providing effective and affordable solutions. Also policy makers and regulators are fundamental to ban technical and regulatory barriers.
Innovation and technology will also play a very important role, as “it's not just an energy transition, it's an industry transition”.
What are the big challenges that a company like GridBeyond face in this context?
For Michael Phenan, the biggest challenge is to explain to customers the opportunities and solutions that exist in energy suppliers - such as EDP - because they are not fully known and understood by the public.
This is actually the work that GridBeyond has been focusing on so that companies manage to leverage their flexibility regarding carbon reduction and profitability in their energy consumption bills.
Prototyping the World of Tomorrow
With Daan Roosegaarde, Artist and Innovator
This renowned artist led us on an inspiring and magical journey where energy is integrated into different artistic initiatives in a creative and beautiful way. Some examples were the bright bike path, powered by the sun during the day, inspired by the famous Van Gogh paintings or the GROW project that used light to create a beautiful setting and also help crops to grow sustainably. The world's first urban sun that cleans viruses while still being safe for people was another facility Daan talked about on tomorrow's prototyping path.
"If we cannot imagine a sustainable future, we also cannot construct it and engineer it".