“European cities are the most advanced in terms of the transition to new energies”, Denis Simonneau, Head of International and European Relations at GDF SUEZ.
With a target of 20% less energy used by 2020, energy efficiency is a priority issue for Europe. A member of the Executive Committee overseeing GDF SUEZ’s international and European relations, Denis Simmoneau gives us his vision of cities making the transition to new energies at MIPIM, International Real Estate Show for Professionals, on 12 March 2014 in Cannes.
How is the transfer to new energies going in Europe today?
Denis Simonneau: According to the description often provided by Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of GDF SUEZ, Europe is faced with “4Ds”:
- Deregulation: the European Commission has promoted open gas and electricity markets since the early 1990s.
- Decentralization: the era of small, scattered production units is better for the development of renewable energy than for large power stations.
- Digitalization: as digital and energy technologies converge, we are able to manage our energy use with sensors and microprocessors. Welcome to the world of the smart grid and the “Smart Home”!
- Decreased demand: European energy demand has been falling since 2008, due to not only the financial crises but also to the efforts made in energy efficiency.
Are European cities setting a good example for the transfer to renewable energies?
Denis Simonneau: European cities are the most advanced in terms of the transition to new energies. The quality of the environment matters to the people who live there, as do social connections, and the cultural, educational, and mobility aspects. In each of these fields, GDF SUEZ boasts some real assets and has already an excellent track record. Examples include London, with the Olympic village and the Stratford heating and cooling network; Paris, with the Parisian Urban Heating Company (Compagnie Parisienne de Chauffage Urbain – CPCU), the first French urban heating network, and Climespace, the first European cooling network, both of which are GDF SUEZ subsidiaries. The Group also supplies gas and electricity to the Principality of Monaco, and is developing a cooling network that uses water from the Mediterranean. Then there is Barcelona, where GDF SUEZ is helping the city authorities to install a smart urban platform to centralize, analyze, and provide optimal use of the city’s data (energy, water, flows, security, etc.).
In your eyes, what will be the next major developments?
Denis Simonneau: In emerging nations, cities often lack structure which, in Asia, sometimes makes them unmanageable. In the USA, downtown areas are under threat in places like Detroit where the city centre is deserted. GDF SUEZ led an urban survey that produced four possible scenarios for the cities of the future. SELF CITY: a sustainable, independent, and inclusive city, PLANET CITY: a green city, online and perfect for cozy living, CASTLE CITY: a string, active, and appealing city, and PATCHWORK CITY: an individualistic, decentralized, and diverse city. European cities are making a big effort in terms of mobility, urban transport, and renovation, and benefit from an effective partnership between the public and private sectors that combines the planning power of local government with the dynamism and expertise of private enterprise.