Wilfrid Petrie features in The Times
During a recent interview with The Times, CEO Wilfrid Petrie has been discussing his vision for how ENGIE’s energy, services and regeneration operations will help to address the future trends in the business' key sectors.
In doing so, he predicted that the future of energy is in services, citing several examples. These included an observation that nobody wants to buy a certain number of kilowatt-hours of energy, they want to buy an outcome, such as having their building heated to a certain temperature.
Wilfrid also predicted that the strategy of building large, centralised power plants has had its day, and that “energy will become increasingly embedded in buildings and places”. He emphasised the need for renewable and flexible energy at local and national level, with increased use of connected devices making things more data-driven. To illustrate these points, Wilfrid described where ENGIE is working with a hospital and local council to develop a new style of retirement village. ENGIE will supply energy and put sensors into houses so that authorities can monitor the health of the residents from a distance.
He also referenced the Holbeck Estate and two other estates which were regenerated by Keepmoat Regeneration (now part of ENGIE UK) between 2013 and 2017. “This is where we are different to everyone else. We believe the future of energy is in being able to reshape places,” he suggested. In these projects, old tower blocks were knocked down and smart terraced houses built in their place, buildings were clad with insulation and solar panels installed on rooftops. ENGIE has a 20-year contract to maintain and manage these 1,800 properties, including the gardening.
ENGIE’s differences – in terms of the mix of services offered - were a key part of the interview, with Wilfrid noting: “We have competitors from the energy sector, competitors from the services sector and from the construction side of the business. I don’t think there is any one which has the same set of capabilities as we do.”
One of the key benefits of this mix is that it distinguishes ENGIE from its rivals, Wilfrid suggested, remarking that between 2015 and 2016 central government work was “more price-driven than quality-driven” – making it difficult to compete with companies such as Interserve and Carillion.
He also welcomed the government’s shift of focus back to quality as well as price, following the demise of Carillion. “We want to show our customers we obviously have a much stronger balance sheet and are part of a large organisation, and the other specifics that were criticised in Carillion — how did they pay suppliers, how did they finance their pension funds — are being addressed.” He has set up a new independent scrutiny board to be launched in September to oversee such issues and said that “the key lesson for me is that of transparency”.
ENGIE’s relatively new household energy supply business was also discussed. He noted that the objective is to develop synergies with other aspects of the business. For example, household energy supply is a vehicle for deepening partnerships with councils and offering energy-linked services to domestic customers in the same way that ENGIE does for businesses; from managing electric vehicle charging, smart thermostats and other home sensors.
This is a highly competitive area but Wilfrid is confident that ENGIE’s unique offering sets it apart. “This is about us trying to keep one step ahead of everyone else. There is no one else like us, he concluded.”
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