Engie CEO: The revolution will not be centralised

Petrie: More value to utilities selling services than power
Petrie: More value to utilities selling services than power

Engie UK and Ireland CEO Wilfrid Petrie has called for further devolution of policy to regions and cities in order to serve an increasingly decentralised energy system.

Speaking at the ADE’s heat conference in London, Petrie added that the future for large utilities was in services, not generation. Half of the firm’s revenues, he said, now came from services.

“There is more value to us today in reducing the amount of commodity customers use – and that is clearly where we position ourselves,” said Petrie.

Market economics have forced the firm to take that approach. Engie, said Petrie, has written off €15bn of central generation assets, with the broader utilities industry dumping more than €100bn, some splitting off business units, others attempting to reinvent themselves. Petrie described it as “a landslide, a dramatic change for most energy companies”.

However, he pointed out that Engie’s revenues remained steady. “€15bn [our write downs] may have surprised some people,” said Petrie. “The good news is that we are the same organisation with the same net result. We just have to adapt and change.”

To enable that transition, said Petrie, “policy must allow these adjustment locally”.

Acknowledging that it was “a bit late for the Autumn Statement”, Petrie said his “biggest wish” was for “energy and energy efficiency policy to be developed locally”.

He also called for business rates that are “fair for heat networks compared to other utilities” over regulation of the heat network market.

“We do not have an opinion” on whether heat networks should be a regulated industry, said Petrie. “Good regulation may provide clarification [for investors],” he said, but more importantly, “I would like a fair footing with other utilities”.

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  1. Neither centralised nor disconnected. Modern energy suppliers should be allowed to take over or tap into local networks to integrate with CHP/CCHP. That would help drive the roll-out of heat networks and unblock the log-jam that seems to exist with ‘business as usual’. CHP should be guaranteed a price for power export – with generation based upon equivalent injection of bio-gas deemed ‘renewable’, whilst fossil/fracked fuel would not be deemed LZC and would have to pay for CO2 and NOx. All plant would have to be Euro 6 minimum or equivalent current standard. Standard utility terms of service would apply.
    If suppliers offered PV and solar thermal along with property fabric upgrades etc they should get ‘super ECAs’ to allow low-income, housing association, and other similar households to be offered affordable deals. Similar deals could be available on sale/purchase to finance improvements and incentivise homeowners without this being a subsidy to the relatively wealthy.Commercial property would have to upgrade or sell out as at present.


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