Utilities: Several decades are needed to build a cathedral

We always learn a lot by paying attention to what the elders did. Cathedral builders have always been at the forefront of innovation; they exploited the potential of new technologies to improve the building: elegance, height, breadth, finesse and everything that contributed to the image of grandeur that they wanted to symbolize. For this, they did not hesitate to make a clean sweep of the existing edifice. In successive stages, over several decades, they retained only the foundations used to support the new edifice.

Would it not be the same for the utilities of today? Will they not have to focus for several decades on the construction of a new energy system?

All utilities are now facing the need to rebuild their “cathedral”: managing a major transition and rebuilding their energy systems in all its dimensions. The required changes are, at a minimum, strategic, technological, economic, human and organizational.

Building a cathedral is an exclusive project. It is so important that it should benefit from all the energy of the participants: they need to focus on the ultimate goal and on all the components of the project. The changes we are talking about in the energy sector are systemic: they concern the company, its strategy, its activities and its relation to all the players in its environment: cities, customers, partners, competitors.

EDF, for example, has an equation that is particularly difficult to solve by cumulating the need to manage its own transition while simultaneously solving the nuclear equation, made even more thorny by a few years of indecision, by a slow decrease of international markets and by the poorly controlled drift of the EPR.

I frequently meet with utilities who are focused, concerning their transition, on some visible projects. The result of their work is seen quickly and, since their cathedral is not finalized, its balance and its longevity are not yet major objectives. But you will admit that there is an indisputable difference between a completed cathedral and the few sections of the walls proposed by these utilities.

I observe, among the utilities, a good consciousness of the need to rebuild their energy systems and a rather pertinent diagnosis of the needs. This requires an analytical work accessible to all. Beyond this stage, the lack of real ownership of the stakes, of empathy with the environment, of courage and overall vision, in most cases leads the executives of utilities to underestimate the changes to be made within their company.

Dear utilities! Let us realize that we are facing the energy project of the century. It is up to us to give him, for a long time, all our energy to succeed!

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