Isabelle Kocher interview for Le Monde (extracts)


Isabelle Kocher

Le Monde. You take over as ENGIE CEO at a time when the world of energy is working its way through an unprecedented crisis. How do you see this environment?

Isabelle Kocher. Climate change is changing everything. It is leading us into a world very different from the one we have known; a world in which – this time round – no one can say “it’s not my problem.” We are all involved, because this step change encourages everyone to reevaluate their personal lifestyle. The 21st century will mark the end of fossil fuels, which will gradually be replaced by energy from decarbonized renewable resources, such as solar power. This will bring about a profound change in the way we behave. Alongside large-scale plants that generate energy for entire regions, we will see the emergence of a multiplicity of decentralized local generating facilities. And digitalization is simply accelerating that movement.


So what precisely are these transformational changes?

This revolution is more about attitudes than technology. We are witnessing the emergence of a world in which energy is no longer synonymous with fear, as it currently is thanks to pollution of every kind and the risks surrounding geostrategic conflict. Renewables in general, and solar power in particular, are radically changing that. The majority of energy consumers will also be energy generators. That’s already a reality in California, where most homes have solar panels on their roofs. Another major change is that countries with no source of supply of their own – like Chile – could cease to be dependent on their neighbors. Chile has a very impressive level of potential for renewables. The same will be true of Africa, where digital technology will facilitate access to electricity. The last industrial revolution excluded billions of people, but this one looks like being fairer. [...]


This step change is changing the Group profoundly…

Decarbonized energy and digital technology are the lifeblood of ENGIE going forward. That conviction is interpreted and implemented through our three business sectors of infrastructures, power generation and energy efficiency services. Achieving this transformational change involves a three-year €15 billion disinvestment program focusing essentially on our withdrawal from oil and coal, and a €15 billion program of investment in development. [...]


The unions fear the loss of 1,500 jobs as a result of the €1 billion program of cost saving measures…

Inevitably, jobs will be lost in some facilities, but jobs will be created in other locations. So to prepare the way for that, we have agreed a set of rules with the unions. On April 8, we signed an employability agreement with all our European trade union organizations. Training is central to that commitment, and we will be devoting €100 million per year to encouraging mobility within the Group. In terms of jobs lost, we have given our commitment to identify at least three employment opportunities for every person affected, and make at least one firm proposal of appointment. [...]


Your plan is spread over three years, so against what measure will you be judged?

I will be judged on the quality of management within the Group and on my own ability to deliver change in three key areas: developing our business portfolio, innovation and internal change. I’ll be preparing an assessment every six months to measure the progress we are making. ENGIE is in the process of demonstrating that it can be dynamic. One of the benefits of this change is that it allows us to attract talented young people. And we know that the 20-25 generation prefers small businesses and startups to major corporates. Attracting a new generation of talented people to rise to the challenges posed by the energy revolution will be indicative evidence of our success. [...].