An invisible future for energy

Speaking at this year’s Solace Summit, ENGIE UK CEO Wilfrid Petrie stated that in the (near) future decentralised solutions will be prevalent and energy will become ‘invisible’.

The three day summit provided a valuable platform for senior leaders in local government to explore difficult questions, share experiences and become better prepared to work across organisational and geographical boundaries in the changing and challenging times ahead.

Cities are the places where global challenges in demographics, natural resources, and climate play out: they represent 54% of the world’s population today – a proportion that will grow to 70% by 2050, account for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

And the fact is the world is changing faster than ever. The energy transition – a shift towards new, sustainable ways of producing, using, saving and paying for energy – is gaining momentum everywhere. This transition is itself part of a broader societal transformation that goes well beyond energy and has the power to help transform our cities and regions into sustainable, efficient and vibrant communities.

Many local authorities have started their own transition; strengthening their management over energy supply and land use and focusing on higher quality, customised services. There are three major factors driving the change: the ongoing decentralisation of decision-making processes, the growing willingness to “decarbonise” the economy and the emerging digitalisation of services and data.

As a public service focussed organisation delivering to over 50 local authorities, police forces, and health customers on a daily basis, we are passionate about supporting our customers to improve the lives of communities we serve. We have committed to a decentralised, decarbonised and digitised future however we recognise that the devolution of this agenda to local government is the only way it will happen. Collaborative leadership will be the key to unlocking a future where our energy is produced and consumed in the homes we live in, energy is free at the point of use and cities are net carbon reducers.

With the recent launch of the Clean Growth Strategy, national policy is finally catching up with locally led initiatives by forward thinking councils, such as North East Lincolnshire which is working in partnership with ENGIE to transform its communities through low carbon and renewable energy.

The strategy cited improving business and industry efficiency (25% of UK emissions), improving our homes (13%), low carbon transport (24%) and clean, smart, flexible power (21%) as key factors in leaving our natural environment in a better condition that we found it.

At the launch Claire Perry, the climate change minster, stated “By focusing on clean growth, we can cut the cost of energy, drive economic prosperity, create high value jobs and improve our quality of life.” However, she highlighted that there is no magic bullet, no one lever we can pull. “Instead we go through every major part of our economy and every part of government to set out ways to cut the emissions and drive innovation”.

The strategy was launched at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a Smart Sustainable District that showcases how energy can support sustainable development and growth. The Park’s low carbon district energy network was designed, financed and constructed by ENGIE to serve the venues during and after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The network saved an estimated 11,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually by 2015, compared to traditional heating and cooling plants.

ENGIE’s capability and experience in this revolution is unique. We are part of an international energy and services group,  with revenues of £90bn; a global business delivering locally in partnership with our local government customers and peers - generating savings, efficiencies and delivering social value for our customers.

Birmingham’s district energy scheme was celebrated recently for its innovation, low carbon and social and community benefits at the Association of District Energy Awards. The scheme boasts a mixture of tri-generation and co-generation energy centres, supplying council buildings, Aston University, Birmingham New Street Station and the Birmingham Children’s Hospital amongst other customers.  Users benefit from reliable supply with reduced carbon emissions in addition to lower energy costs. The scheme is an active partnership with Birmingham Council, and on a city wide scale, is already making a significant contribution to the council’s target of reducing carbon by 60% by 2027, and expansion plans will ensure this contribution grows.

Delegates from the Solace Summit had the opportunity to visit MediaCityUK; a bespoke 36 acre landlord / tenant mixed use estate designed specifically around the needs of the creative and digital industries. The estate is rated BREEAM ‘Excellent’. During construction phase, ENGIE installed a tri-generation system for owners Peel Group which saves 29% on heating and cooling equating to 20,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, utilising free cooling from the nearby canal. ENGIE has also provided a campaign of energy efficiency awareness and behavioural training to tenants and other contractors, including security guards. Energy savings of over 13% have been delivered across the estate despite the new build status and continuingly increasing occupancy levels.

Wilfrid called for devolution of energy policy to support sustainable local growth and set a call to action to local government to be collaborative, opportunistic and involve as many people as possible as they embrace the future, highlighting that the privilege of leadership is that it allows us to bring hope to people.

The theme of this year’s summit was ‘holding up the mirror’ and shining that light on local government leadership we see a present where collaborative local leadership and partnership with communities and the private sector will provide a supportive environment to deliver local growth, zero carbon places and better places to live and work as we work together to create tomorrow’s places.


If you would like to discuss how ENGIE can support you in creating more efficient, vibrant and sustainable communities, please get in touch at or on +44 (0)7976 428 663.