SIEW 2017: 5Qs with Ditlev Engel, CEO, DNV GL – Energy

Ditlev Engel
By DNV GL – Energy | 22 October 2017

Ditlev Engel brings a wealth of knowledge of the global energy industry and international leadership competence. From 2005 – 2013 he had the position of Group President & CEO of global wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. Prior to Vestas, he has 20 years of experience at coatings manufacturer Hempel A/S, of which 10 years as executive leader moving from EVP Marketing and R&D to Group President & CEO. He has degrees in business administration, finance, accounting and general management from Copenhagen Business School and INSEAD.

Ditlev Engel has been a driving force behind many global green investment initiatives, pushing the energy transition to the next level. He has been a Member of the Energy Partner Network of the World Economic Forum, Advisor of the International Energy Agency, Chairman Green Growth Working Group at three consecutive G20 Summits, co-founder of the Green Growth Action Alliance and member of UN’s Sustainable Energy for All.

1. What are the latest developments in the energy landscape that are most likely to have a long-term impact on our energy future?

One very important development certainly is that the decarbonisation of the energy ecosystem is not ‘only’ a responsibility towards future generations anymore to prevent climate disruption – it has become a real business case. Electricity produced from renewables in many places at the world is now competitive to conventional generation - and that will substantially accelerate the deployment of renewable energy – as we already start seeing it. It has gone so far that in Europe we see even offshore wind developers not requiring any subsidies.

In the future, the majority of electricity will be produced from renewable sources – solar, onshore wind, hydro and offshore wind, in this order. At the same time, advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitalisation will allow us to integrate this high amount of renewable energy and to operate our electricity grids much more intelligently. The next few years will be the last in which grids in industrialised nations are organised and operated in the same way as they have been for recent decades. New owners, users, traders will spring up, and the electric vehicle (EV) revolution is just about to start. The electricity system, its culture and its personnel will dramatically change in the coming decades. Engineers, regulators, governments, business management and C-level executives will need to rise to this challenge.

2. What is DNV GL’s view on decarbonising the energy system, and how this can be achieved?

Decarbonisation of the energy system is an imperative and as mentioned a business case as well. In fact, any coal-related project is finding it very difficult to secure financing anymore.

The main contributors to decarbonisation are the uptake of renewables, the huge potential and improvements in energy efficiency, as well as the electrification of transport and heat. What politicians and the industry are now challenged with is how do we accelerate this transformation as we are still far from achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target.

Instruments such as carbon taxes could potentially help as well. Fortunately, we see that increasingly large corporates and multinationals are giving themselves ambitious targets to reduce their carbon footprint. We at DNV GL are striving to support this transformation towards a safe and sustainable future.

3. How will the development of renewables be impacted as gas is increasingly seen as more than a transition fuel?

Gas although not always seen as a friend of renewables, will support the reduction of coal in the future energy mix. The flexibility offered by gas offsets the variable, if predictable, nature of renewables. But of course these two energy sources can also be competitors. Renewables do, and will, compete with gas, just as cheap gas can impede the development of renewables. In the long term however, this will not stop renewable energy from becoming the dominant source of electricity.

4. What are the untapped opportunities in the energy industry with regards to digitalisation?

We are only just at the very beginning of the digitalisation of the energy industry and the untapped opportunities are vast. So, let me answer this a little broader. Digitalisation will empower us to finally optimise the efficiency of the energy ecosystem on an entire system level – by providing us with the necessary data as well as the algorithms to get the best possible insights and foresights, and allowing the connected assets to intelligently interact with each other based on this knowledge. This will become an increasingly automated process and – together with growing technologies such as demand response, storage and electrical vehicles – will allow the grid to be operated in a much more intelligent way than it is today. That of course also means that cyber security will be of significant importance.

5. What are your thoughts on the theme of SIEW 2017 “Rethinking Energy; Navigating Change”?

I think that theme is spot on and applies both to the change of the electricity ecosystem itself, and predominantly to the required mindset change of industry stakeholders. Everyone in this industry – including DNV GL – will have to adopt. As I said earlier, the electricity system, its culture and its personnel will dramatically change in the coming decades. Engineers, regulators, governments, business management and C-level executives will need to rise to this challenge.

The energy industry, more than any other, has the power and knowledge to manage the world’s carbon footprint in a smarter way. During this year’s SIEW Energy Insights session, I will present our newly released Energy Transition Outlook: Renewables, Power and Energy Use report; which provides

an independent forecast of the energy future looking at global energy demand and supply through to 2050 distributed over 10 regions, including Southeast Asia.


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