This year, three women from ENGIE took part in the 66 Miles programme, led by the open innovation consultancy firm Five by Five and the women’s incubator, Willa (formerly Paris Pionnières). After four months of intensive work, the year group from 2018 completed the programme on Tuesday 12 June with a big oral exam in front of an audience of ENGIE teams, personalities from outside the company, including Mounir Mahjoubi, Secretary of State for digital, and the press. Three women, each responsible for a very different project, inspirational and inspired, all of whom have adopted Isabelle Kocher’s motto, "the company is part of the solution... and not the problem".
For 82% of industrial companies, energy is an essential or major item of expenditure. However, they don’t necessarily have the means or the know-how to carry out the optimisation work that would allow them to reduce these expenses. Inspired by her three years at GRTgaz, Annelise Vasseur, now with ENGIE Cofely, has come up with an innovative project to provide support to industrials in their energy optimisation. Interview with the very determined youngest member of the ENGIE-66 Miles year group for 2018.
Tell us briefly about your project:
The objective of the project is to make industrial companies competitive again by offering to provide support to improve their energy performance. After interviewing potential customers with industrial profiles, I realised that they faced significant obstacles that prevented them from initiating an approach focused on industrial performance. The first is the lack of capacity for investment in more energy-efficient machines, which of course hinders progress in the energy transition. The second is related to lack of knowledge of the energy markets. To meet this need for performance and to lift the brakes on investment, I decided to develop an offer based on a model of energy analysis. Basically, this involves optimising the customer's energy bill and re-injecting those savings back into financing improvements to the customer’s energy performance. This is a completely new approach aimed at developing real expertise in terms of the customer's energy bill, then reinvesting the savings made to conduct work on energy optimisation and services associated with energy management.
How did your project come about?
During a nuclear internship after my DUT university diploma in technology specialising in marketing techniques, I became really interested in technology. Having specialised in marketing, I couldn’t go to an engineering school to do a Masters, so I decided to do bachelor's degree in a business school in Rouen, followed by a management school in Le Havre as part of a work-study contract with GRTgaz. I had access to technology because I was focusing on the development of innovative industrial projects (connecting industrial sites to the gas network, developing projects on biomethane and natural gas for vehicles...). In those three years I learned a lot about the technology of natural gas markets and how they work. I had the idea for my project about a year ago, but I couldn’t really develop it at GRTgaz, a transporter of natural gas in a state-regulated market. It was after I arrived at ENGIE Cofely in September that I was able to really test the value of the project, develop a business model, think about a model of analysis that would let me calculate how to conduct the optimisations for the customer and quickly assess the savings that could be achieved every year. This model was tested on two customers and the results proved convincing: we evaluated €30,000 per year of savings for the first and €115,000 for the second. If those savings are reinjected into conducting work on improving performance and customer support, we could come up with a really positive business model for the company, for the customer as well as for the environment. This test stage confirmed that there was a market.
How did you hear about 66 Miles?
The communications department, the department of innovation and networks sent out a joint call for projects. With the support of my managers, I applied, providing an explanation of my project, and was selected for an initial two-day session with Willa, previously known as Paris Pionnières. After two days of accelerated training, we all pitched our projects. In the end, three people were selected to do the four-month training course 66 Miles.
Entrepreneurship at ENGIE: a risk or a challenge?
Challenging, without any doubt! I’ve just arrived in the group, I’m 25 years old, I have to earn my credentials to develop this project and I still need to convince a lot of people about its worth. What’s more, entrepreneurship is all about stepping outside the box and reinventing models, whereas in a group like ENGIE it’s natural for everyone to be firmly rooted in their missions and activities. It takes a lot of persuading! On the other hand, I’m a project leader in charge of Lean Management, and I provide support to the teams for the ENGIE 2020 project. I accompany them as far as possible in managerial transformation. Ultimately, my work helps me to develop my project, because it constantly requires convincing people and getting them on board. I discover the same determination to convince people and to progress, to provide help and support, and this is linked to the project.
How do you handle both of your activities at the same time?
I asked my managers to give me time to develop this new business model in addition to my current position. I also work on this project in the evenings, on weekends; I take holiday time too in order to get ahead. When you like doing something, you don't count the hours you spend. Anyway, this project is very important to me because the issue faced by the customer is real: I want to help industrial companies to be more competitive and to take part in the energy transition.
How did the 66 Miles programme go?
It was very intense. I had already seen some things in school, but it’s also good to have things repeated and an overview of entrepreneurship. The programme lasts for 4 months, with 3 days every month or so. Between sprints, we are challenged and have regular contact with the team to find out how we’re progressing, if we’ve managed to interview potential customers, if we’ve managed to get things validated internally... This allowed the project to progress really quickly but also allowed me to continually challenge myself.
How did your relationships with the other programme participants go?
It was very constructive. There were women from other groups who brought us a much broader vision and a fresh perspective: they could have other ideas about how we operate, challenge our business model. Having an external perspective is very stimulating.
Did you have a sponsor at ENGIE?
Yes, Olivier Ghienne, HR Director at ENGIE Cofely, accompanied me extensively in-house to get me to meet people, to allow me to keep moving forward. We also had the support of Valérie Gaudart who helped and motivated us. It’s important to have internal sponsors, as well as to be challenged externally. The two are complementary.
And now? What’s your outlook?
I want to be able to continue developing my project. For this I need to convince the Executive Committee and the internal departments, who will be stakeholders in the project. Then I'll test the entire project on four initial customers (i.e. invoice audit, energy audit, technical recommendations to work on and replace machinery, and to work on and monitor energy performance).
In the future, I would like to propose a global offer, i.e. one that brings together all the subsidiaries and the ENGIE BUs, because this is what our customers are looking for. They want a model where they don’t need to take care of anything, while also saving energy to be more competitive. The goal of this project is to take on the financial and environmental issues of our customers while also creating value for them. Today, there are lots of different stakeholders in energy. Within the group we have many areas of expertise, but there is no clearly defined link that unites us over the same subject: energy. Having interviewed customers and potential customers, I know they struggle to understand the difference between ENGIE, EDF, electricity, gas... They want to be supported, but no one gives them that opportunity. Their solution is to call on other companies that have nothing to do with the Group (ADEME, consultants...), which complicates the model.
How can this project be developed within the group?
I really like a phrase from Isabelle Kocher saying that the company is part of the solution and not the problem. I designed Optigaz to bring solutions to the energy issues of our planet and our customers. We need to be able to bring clarity and transparency to the customer. It will also reinforce cohesion and exchange between ENGIE and its subsidiaries. This is why this project has full legitimacy within ENGIE. We’re able to have something very complete: audits of bills, energy audits with CRIGEN, recommendations with Cofely, work with Cofely and Axima, and even Blu.e which allows customers, when we install monitoring machines, to manage their own energy and thus be autonomous.
What makes you happy about getting up to go to work for ENGIE Cofely?
I decided to work in the field of energy when I was 18 years old, because I find this universe presents a number of issues and challenges. I am very happy to get up to go to work in the morning because I know I’ll be able to help industrial companies be more energy-efficient, and for me there’s no greater satisfaction. I’m really focused on the customer and on the energy transition, something I am passionate about. I wouldn’t have been able to work in any field other than energy.