Thomas works on European energy policy, particularly in its dimensions related to innovation and climate change. He is also working on the Energy Union, which he discusses in this interview.
David Duque Lozano for the CommUnity Post (CUP)
Thomas Pellerin-Carlin (T)
CommUnity Post (CUP): Thomas, thank you for joining us in this interview. Thomas, a while ago gave a speech in the CommUnity Days by InnoEnergy. You talked about the future of European Union, Sum Energy. One of the most interesting topics you talked about was the European Union 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. What is this? Tell us about this.
Thomas (T): The European Union is the attempt European try to find a political organisation that preserves our sovereignty in the 21st century. The European Union 1.0 was actually the original version or, if you want, the prototype of the European Union that was created in the 1950s. Now, we are in a situation that we could call the European Union 2.0 where, for instance, [not only] we have a common currency, the euro, where we have an area where we can move freely without systematic control which is called the Sheningan Area but also, where we have where we have a genuine judicial system within Europe and junior democracy with the European Parliament that hundreds of millions of European elect every five years (...). The European Union 3.0 is the one that we can try to build for the future.
CUP: Do you think this is possible to be done in 2050. How do you see the European Union evolving, mainly in the Energy field. This is a topic we are interested in the CommUnity.
T: Well I think that by 2050 we will be thinking about Europe 4.0, actually. We can seize this opportunity of the energy transition not only to fight climate change which is absolutely something we must to do but also to improve the quality of life in Europe. Let me give you two examples. One is about industrial capacity. We in Europe have missed the Digital Revolution, we are a digital colony of the United States (US) if I can say so but we can lead the energy transition and revolution. Today, Vestas (the Danish company) but also other companies such as Siemens in Germany and Gamesa in Spain are the world leaders in wind turbines. We can continue to build on that but also in other sectors such as green batteries, green electric vehicles, a lot of services with new business models and new technologies being deployed. And that is something that would actually improve the role of Europe in the world and would also create a lot of jobs for Europeans today. A second thing that is linked to the energy transition is an opportunity that we have to democratise the energy system, how can we make sure that local communities, cities, villages, individual citizens can actually take back control of their energy production and consumption. And, in the meantime, we can improve social justice in Europe. Today we have 50 million families that are experiencing energy poverty, in short, it means they struggle to heat their homes in the Winter. We can use energy transition to improve their lives so we are a more socially fair society by 2050.
CUP: Okay, there has to be a big change in the economy system - new taxes in the energy system and changes in pricing mechanics What do you think about this change in the economy to have a more sustainable energy system by that year?
T: It is already called change, it is not much more radical than the changes we already did in Europe if you think of the 19th century we went from a mostly rural economy to a genuinely industry with the birth of the chemical industry or (...). The amount of changes we need to make the energy transition happen are massive but definitely feasible.
CUP: How did you get interested in this area of energy, politics and European Union?
T: I first got interested in the European Union because I believe that we Europeans are too small to afford to be divided in today’s world. When we have big powers like the US, Russia and China but also companies like Google, Facebook, Apple. I thought that the only way for us Europeans to remain sovereign and in control of our own future was to cooperate with one another and in a way that would make sure we can work together but also we would not lose what makes us unique as Europeans and nations. There are differences between the French and the Germans, Estonians and Portuguese. And it is fascinating to me how building on those differences we can create a better society. [...] One of the big topics I heard today is how we can integrate more renewables in the electricity mix, the famous element about the viability or the intermittency of renewables.
It is quite easy to do it in Europe because of our diversity. We have the diversity of landscape so when the wind blows in the Atlantic it does not necessarily blow in the North Sea, so for instance it is easy to balance. But also the moment in time where we consume energy is different in Europe. For instance, in countries like Spain the peak demand usually happens in the Summer while in countries like France and Germany happens in Winter. Also, during a single day, in France the peak tends to happen at 7:00 or 8.00 PM which is basically when the French tart cooking while in Spain happens at 10:00 PM. This diversity of culture and landscape makes the integration of Renewables far easier. I think it tells a lot about the project of the European Union. It is not to destroy diversity, it is to build unity from this diversity and I think that is the challenge for the Energy Transition.
CUP: You seem really passionate about these topics. What do you think is the biggest challenge in European Union to get a sustainable energy system in 2050.
T: To me the biggest challenge is the change of mindset, we need to understand this change is good for the society as a whole. I would even go that far to say even
Even without climate change this is something that we need to do because it improves life do Europeans, creates jobs and makes Europe relevant in a global stage. We need to understand that. There are a lot of people in older business with an old approach, some politicians with an old mindset that think that fighting climate change is a charity thing, something you put extra money on the side and you do out of duty. To me it is much more central than that, it is something we should do out of our interest. Not only to avoid climate chaos (...) but also because those actions such as getting rid of energy pollution, lifting people from energy poverty, creating new industries which export for forgeigner markets, creating new jobs, all those things are massive opportunities for European societies. Once we understand that we can go much further and faster.
CUP: And one of the things the European Union did as well was creating bodies and promoting programmes such as this one. We are now a CommUnity by InnoEnergy, foster sustainable energy and empower change to continue with the energy transition. What do you think about these kind of communities and events that try to diffuse this knowledge among different people and build communities to promote sustainable energy?
T: I think it is critical and that history is made of networks. The more diverse the network is, the more powerful it is as long as it remains cohesive. What the CommUnity brings, at least from my outsider view, is some kind of cohesiveness on how the future will look like and how we should go forward. The CommUnity is also a very good network, people try to understand one another, know one another and to know what is going on in different kinds of organisations. Then I think again it could go a step further and try to connect this network to other networks. For instance, this specific network is dominated by engineers but if we want to do the energy transition (...), the massive challenge is about policy, social norms, the way we organising any kind of organisation such as cities or state and business models. To tackle those problems, we need engineers of course, but we need much more than just those. We anthropologies, sociologists, philosophers, historians, psychologists… I think it would be great to build on this community and link it to other networks and then, we can make this change happen.