ENGIE has been a world leader in providing energy and is ramping up its efforts to help companies around the world understand how to clean up the environmental footprint of their fleets and to save money at the same time. CleanTechnica spoke with Ovarith Troeung, ENGIE’s Director of Green Mobility, about the transition to the new energy economy and why it has become such a core focus for ENGIE.
“At ENGIE, we are very committed to the energy transition,” Troeung said. That pillar of company culture makes them a logical partner for companies looking to continue down a long road of sustainability or to carve out a completely new road to a more sustainable corporate future. “Today, we are committed to helping our customers to go with a green agenda and it’s a main focus of many of our customers.”
The motivation for upgrading to more sustainable business operations run the gamut, as you would expect. Troeung noted how some customers just want to maintain legal compliance in the face of a rapidly evolving regulatory landscape while others are faced with near-term implications of climate change that mandate a rapid response.
A Smart Solution For Smarter Cities
ENGIE’s experience is such that it is able to work with large customers in the commercial and industrial space as well as directly with cities to craft bottom-up plans for improving the sustainability of the systems that constitute the foundations of city infrastructure. Whoever the customer is and whatever it is that they are looking to accomplish, ENGIE is well-positioned to add value. “We want to provide to the customers a one stop shop to make it easier for customers to go with electric mobility,” Troeung said.
ENGIE has developed a completely new product called Livin’ OS for cities that aims to bring order to the otherwise complex world that is the infrastructure of a city. Livin’ aggregates data and information from a variety of city infrastructure management solutions including cameras, traffic lights, points of public illumination, or sensors. Livin’ then wraps all of that data into its proprietary dashboard to ‘break operating silos’ that traditionally hinder interdepartmental collaboration, giving city officials the information they need to respond quickly to crisis in the city.
ENGIE has developed the Livin’ OS for cities to bring order to an otherwise complex world. “We are building on this and we are proposing [Livin’ OS] in different places,” Troeung said. “We are connecting the different verticals which you can find in the cities.” Solutions for cameras, traffic lights, parking, EV charging, and the like are typically developed in isolation and Livin’ brings them all together under one roof. ENGIE piloted the solution in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and also has it up and running in a small city in France. Beyond that, “we are currently working on some major cities in some other countries,” Troeung said.
The barrier to adoption is not typically money, but the willingness to embrace change. “Not every city is ready to go smart,” Troeung said. “If they are ready to go smart, they need people like us to advise on how to move.” As you might expect, Livin’ takes some work to get it fully integrated into the cities’ infrastructure.
Cities Leading The Charge
Transforming the infrastructure of cities is no small task, but it is possible. Troeung cited Copenhagen as one of the cities that is taking an active role in not only defining the future it wants for itself, but in building the plan to take it there. “Copenhagen is very committed to its green agenda because they want to be carbon neutral by 2025 and they have a roadmap for this,” he said. “It’s a holistic approach that they are implementing, that they need,” to achieve their emission reduction targets.
He estimates that about half of the people in the city use bikes to get to work. That’s absurdly impressive, considering that temperatures in Copenhagen fluctuate from 0 to 25 degrees C | 32 to 77 degrees F. This feat was the result of years of intentional planning and effort. Troeung told me that, “when you come to Copenhagen, they managed to change much of the traffic flows to encourage people to adopt cycling.” Redesigning the city around the preferred forms of transportation translated directly to more people using healthier, often faster bikes to get to where they’re going. “They come by bike whatever the weather,” he said.
The solution to the city-wide challenge of reducing transportation emissions required all hands on deck and Troeung told me that, “they are taking all the steps to implement it.” In addition to building a bike-friendly city, “they have EV charging on the street, but they are also experimenting with electric buses.” The all avenues assault on transportation emissions has transformed the very culture of Copenhagen.
“They are trying to have everyone contributing as part of an ecosystem and to make sure that everyone plays a role in fulfilling the agenda,” Troeung said. “It involves many different players to provide the different solutions,” including, perhaps surprisingly, corporations. Copenhagen is asking its corporate citizens to not just comply with regulations, but to take the lead in developing new, innovative solutions to reducing transportation emissions and to green the city.
EV Charging Network Expansion
Copenhagen has its bikes, but for most cities around the world, electric vehicles are a key part of the solution to reducing transportation emissions. Troeung believes that the flood of next generation electric vehicles will translate to higher adoption of EVs for one simple reason, “it’s mainly the transition to fully electric vehicles that will have the driving range.”
On the city side of the equation, one of the key building blocks that cities need to figure out how to put in place is a robust landscape of EV chargers. It’s not a simple matter of having the right number. EV chargers must be installed at the right locations, with the right speed, and in the right numbers to meet the needs of drivers.
ENGIE increased its capability in the EV charging space with its acquisition of EVBox just over 2 years ago. Up to that point, ENGIE was mainly just installing charging stations, and has sold 60,000 up to the point that it acquired ENGIE. Looking at 2019, ENGIE has installed that many just this year. That’s a game changer and signals a rapid change in public sentiment towards electric vehicles.
Integrating EVBox into ENGIE not only adds the capability to build its own EV charging hardware, but it adds valuable in-house capability on the intelligent charging front. Because EV charging represents such a large draw on the electrical grid, the capability to know when charging sessions start, stop, and how much power is being pulled at any given time is extremely valuable. Stacking on that, the ability to go one step further and throttle EV charging power draws up and down as part of a demand response scheme is a powerful lever that can be used to balance the grid throughout the day. ENGIE realizes this capability and is working to maximize the benefits across the board. “We are building on this and can now provide this whole [EV charging] package to customers,” Troeung said.
ENGIE’s Livin’ OS solution for cities gives city managers the ability to manage their own EV charging networks as needed. It also has the potential to add value for drivers as they gain the ability to see where charging stations are available and goes another level deeper to show when the cars currently charging should be done.
A key challenge in approaching a city with these next generation infrastructure management tools is to clearly communicate the benefits to city managers, he told me. EV charging touches and has a major impact on the entire grid, which puts ENGIE in an advantageous position to talk about not just EV charging, but the entire suite of electrical infrastructure opportunities that complement it like grid-tied stationary storage, rooftop solar, vehicle to grid, and more. It’s a holistic conversation that ENGIE is uniquely equipped to come alongside cities and large corporations as a partner in not simply adding EV chargers, but to solve the unique challenges that come with them. “We are very well and perhaps one of the best positioned to answer these questions,” Troeung said.
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