From challenge to opportunity: acting together for a successful energy transition

By ENGIE - 11 April 2024 - 10:12

What do European citizens think about the energy transition? Climate skepticism, climate relativism, are these voices rising in recent months against the transition reflective of the reality on the ground? As the European elections approach, ENGIE has partnered with the Fondation Jean- Jaurès, a French think tank, to shed light on the subject and share its convictions and recommendations with European decision-makers on how to implement an energy transition that is both affordable and desirable for everyone.  


Titled “From Challenge to Opportunity: Acting Together for a Successful Energy Transition,” ENGIE’s position paper, published under the auspices of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, is based on a survey conducted by the CSA Institute which gathered information from 10,000 citizens from 10 European countries* on their perception of the energy transition. It paints a picture of a Europe largely convinced of the merits of the transition but reveals reservations about its feasibility and its impact on purchasing power.


Watch the video interview with Catherine MacGregor, CEO of ENGIE and Gilles Finchelstein, Secretary General of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès:

Engaged European Citizens

The CSA survey reveals some highly encouraging attitudes: 9 out of 10 European citizens want the transition to progress. This is reflected in their actions: 64% claim to have already acted, individually, in favor of the transition (reducing consumption, renovating housing, etc.).

The transition is underway, but the movement remains fragile. In fact, 45% of those surveyed recommend proceeding cautiously, and one in two youths believe the transition can be stopped. Furthermore, the study reveals significant disparities between countries. While Southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain, or Italy want to further pursue the transition, those in Northern Europe, notably Belgium and the Netherlands, express more reservations. In Germany, there are as many as 15% of citizens who wish go back.

Europeans also doubt the ability of Europe to achieve its carbon neutrality goal by 2050. Nearly half of those surveyed consider this ambition unrealistic, rising to 68% in Germany. The main concern, for 47% of Europeans, is the cost of investments required to implement the transition. And while it is generally perceived as an opportunity for the planet, innovation, and health, a third of respondents see it as a threat to their purchasing power, with even stronger reservations in countries like France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

"We must listen to and respond to these doubts, because making the energy transition a success requires the mobilization of everyone. And that is where we have a key role to play. In the eyes of Europe’s citizens, after governments, it is the major industrial groups specializing in energy that are the most legitimate players in driving the energy transition forward. ENGIE is up to the task. Our 97,300 employees, including 78,000 in Europe, are mobilized on a daily basis to develop a low-carbon energy system and make it affordable–in particular renewable energies (electricity and gas), as well as energy efficiency and sobriety solutions. With the support of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès, we are keen to counter skepticism with our knowledge of the reality on the ground," explains Catherine MacGregor, ENGIE CEO, in the introduction of the advocacy piece published under the auspices of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès.


Energy transition is within our grasp and brings opportunities

ENGIE holds a positive vision of the energy transition. We know it is within reach because we know the levers to implement it: massive deployment of renewable electricity and gas energies, development of flexibility solutions and infrastructures necessary for a decarbonized system, and not to mention efforts towards energy sobriety and efficiency.

Implementation comes with a cost, of course, but it also brings opportunities for job creation, energy cost reduction, and improvement of quality of life. The cost of inaction would be incomparable. For example, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global economy could lose 14% of GDP in the case of a 2.6°C temperature increase.

"The survey carried out by CSA for Engie is a valuable guide to action. It shows that, for those who want to drive forward the energy transition in France, the stakes have shifted. Yesterday, it was all about convictions and knowledge. Today, we must show that the transition can take place, that it is a possible future, that its effects can be positive. We must show, in one word, that it is a desirable future. In other words, we need to design the world of the future and mark out the path that leads to it," says Gilles Finchelstein, Secretary General of the Fondation Jean-Jaurès.


Armed with these convictions and as 77% of European citizens indicate that the energy transition will be an important criterion for their vote, ENGIE compiled a series of five recommendations for Europe. The objective: accelerate what works, improve what needs to be improved, and correct what slows us down.


These recommendations are built on five major ideas:  

  • 1. Integrating cost optimization into European energy strategy
    The price of energy is a decisive factor for the competitiveness of business and the purchasing power of European households. For the transition to be accepted, it must be cost-effective. Considering the impact of European public policies on the overall price of energy must be a reflex action in Europe.
  • 2. Filling the blind spots of tomorrow's energy system
    In addition to the investment needed for the widespread development of renewable electricity and gas, investment of several tens of billions of euros will be required each year to deploy the electrical grids and flexibility solutions that are essential to a carbon-free system.
  • 3. Making the energy transition a lever for Europe's reindustrialization and competitiveness
    The European Union faces many challenges: stepping up its decarbonization and strengthening its energy sovereignty while ensuring that its economy remains globally competitive. To this end, a balance will have to be struck between the overall cost of the transition and continued use of European subcontractors, without slowing down decarbonization. 
  • 4. Building a coherent, simple, pragmatic regulatory framework
    This framework must provide a realistic outlook for Europe, and enable the development of informed public policy, while ensuring that all the players concerned, particularly industry players, are consulted in advance. 
  • 5. Better targeting transition supportive financing
    Whether in the form of European subsidies or national grants, public funding is scarce. It should be used to accelerate the development and scaling-up of less mature technologies and support changes in the habits and behaviour of European citizens, while leaving no one behind.

(*) France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, Poland, Netherlands, Belgium, and Romania.