Energy is the catalyst of society: can energy companies also be the catalyst of change?

“You are all dinosaurs – this is Jurassic Park up here” exclaims the moderator in response to his panel’s reluctance to agree to a decarbonised future. This is the opening panel of POWER-GEN 2016 – the industry event for the Power sector in Europe. On stage are the leaders in the business – people with great influence and great experience. The moderator is a seasoned journalist who clearly knows how to provoke a discussion. No luck this time. The panel is unanimously convinced that a future without coal and gas is not possible in the foreseeable future: 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to energy today. Emerging markets want electricity for their people too, they want is soon, and they want it at affordable prices. Does this mean that the Paris Climate agreement is just a dream? No. These industry leaders are betting on making fossil energy cleaner and more efficient. Apparently this can be achieved with technology that is already available. Are these leaders trapped in their carbon cages? Was the combustion engine developed by the steam engine people? Would Edison have invented the light bulb if he came from the gas or candle industry? Will the power energy sector be able to transform themselves from within? There is reason to be optimistic. Most of the panellists recognize that digitisation is the most disruptive force for the industry. And the fact that consumer behaviour, the energy prosumer, needs to change is also on their radar. These concepts – far removed from making “big power plants talk” – have apparently reached the Boardroom. This is good news for a sector that is in their own words “the catalyst of society”. Can you imagine a world without energy? You probably cannot. So, good news indeed.

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