ENGIE: Energy for all
One of the most notable French business success stories, ENGIE – known as GDF Suez until April 2015 – is a giant in the energy industry. As a multinational electric utility business, ENGIE utilises natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy to create and distribute electricity, all controlled from the company’s Courbevoie headquarters.
ENGIE is well known for having developed the first pressurised water reactor, built in Belgium, which cemented its status as a pioneer and an innovator. Also, the business is an expert in both upstream and downstream activities, making it stand out yet further from competitors, and highlighting the high levels of expertise it encapsulates. The new name of ‘ENGIE’ was itself crafted to draw focus towards a fresh, friendlier, and admirable image.
ENGIE now pours effort into making positive world changes, and with the discovery that 20 percent of the world’s population has no access to electricity, as well as over 25 percent of people facing fuel poverty in Europe, a new project – ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies – was born.
The initiative (the title of which translates to ‘Gatherers of Energy’ in English) has been working on improving this global situation since 2011. Laure Vinçotte, Managing Director of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, tells us more about what the scheme is for and what is has achieved.
“As the world’s leading utility and energy services provider, ENGIE is committed to providing sustainable and reliable energy for all clients,” she explains. “ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies’s mission is to develop energy access for impoverished population groups in the less developed countries and to combat fuel poverty in developed countries. Globally, more than 1.2 billion people have no access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion people have no access to clean cooking solutions. Access to energy – an essential service – is at the heart of the fight against poverty and the driver for sustainable economic growth, and also impacts education, healthcare, and livelihoods.”
How does ENGIE achieve this?
“ENGIE’s contribution to sustainable energy access for all is organised on three levels: investments, donations and technical assistance,” says Vinçotte. “Donations are coordinated through the ENGIE corporate foundation and technical assistance is provided by employee NGOs under the ENGIE Volunteer Program. Through the Rassembleurs d’Energies Corporate Impact Investment Fund, ENGIE invests in local entrepreneurs to scale up innovative business models and adapted solutions which provide clean energy access to impoverished communities.”
The Rassembleurs d’Energies initiative was a dream long before it became a reality. It took five years to increase the funding from 10 million euros to 50 million euros, and it now spans a portfolio of 18 enterprises offering their products and services towards the goal of bringing sustainable energy to all. This expansion of the initiative has led to it providing 1.2 million people with clean electricity solutions, which is just the tip of the iceberg for ENGIE.
The projects Rassembleurs d’Energies has undertaken recently are indicative of its enormous and ever-increasing impact on the world; Vinçotte tells us about a few of these key focus points and how they are improving the world’s energy issues.
“Some of the key investments that Rassembleurs d’Energies has led in Asia specifically include replacing fossil fuels with smart solar powered devices in India – in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh – through three innovative enterprises in which the fund invested: Mera Gao Power, Simpa Network, Rural Spark and Green Village Ventures,” she explains. “Mera Gao Power builds, owns, and operates the world’s most affordable micro-grids, and meets the essential energy needs of off-grid communities at a competitive cost. MGP’s customers mostly live in isolated rural hamlets with less than 100 homes, where income is around $50-$80 per family and there is no main grid connection. The MGP business model is easily reproducible and with the support of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, this promising company is able to scale up.
“MGP is now serving over 130,000 people in over 1,700 villages with clean reliable power. It has delivered results that are in line with its projections and has been successful enough to attract new investors to support its growth.”
Having partners like MGP is vital to ENGIE’s operations, Vinçotte says. “One of the beauties of impact investing activities is that people combine and coordinate their efforts to promote enterprises rather than compete against each other. Having partners is important so as to mitigate the risks and optimise the efficiency in closing deals. ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies will make the most of its experience gained in the energy access industry and will leverage the technical expertise and local knowledge of the ENGIE Group, while other partners are co-investors or Development Finance Institutions that will contribute through their knowledge of the sector and of the markets.”
While economies worldwide are steadily growing, people are living longer, and living conditions have improved everywhere, this does not necessarily translate to all people receiving their basic requirements. However, thanks to a combination of an increase in technological breakthroughs and the advanced levels of innovation in finance, clean energies such as solar are plummeting in cost and becoming ever more accessible even to those in the most difficult environments.
“Among the solutions that are now available, pay-as-you-go solar home systems and renewable micro grids are very promising solutions,” says Vinçotte. “Not only do they provide reliable clean energy but they can also provide credit services and mobile banking that enable users to afford these solutions. After seed investors, impact investors such as Rassembleurs d’Energies have been acting as catalysts to unleash capital either on their own or with DFIs. Additionally, on top of existing programs that are deployed locally to provide reliable and affordable energy solutions, governments can spur private initiatives and enterprises in complementing their action by providing a conducive environment for investing and doing business.”
For Rassembleurs d’Energies, after building a solid portfolio last year, the focus is on “managing that portfolio efficiently by accompanying the enterprises in their growth as they expand in new geographies – such as Southeast Asia – and in specific technologies such as renewable micro grids and clean cooking solutions,” Vinçotte concludes. ENGIE’s dedication to the world’s energy requirements is one that will only increase in size and impact, until the dream of sustainable energy for all becomes reality.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.