Young energy professionals keynote speech

'Good evening.

I am delighted to be here with all of you from the Young Energy Professionals Forum. It is an excellent initiative.I have come across the Forum on a number of occasions since its launch. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting with EDF Energy’s candidates, and subsequent award-winners, in the Young Energy Professionals Awards. Some of them are here tonight.It gave me the opportunity to see firsthand the people who benefit from the YEP Forum.

All of the candidates agreed – unanimously – that it is valuable to have this Forum as a place where they can learn, debate and collaborate with their peers. In this digital age, that face-to-face contact is still vital. We were also pleased that EDF Energy hosted the first ever YEP Forum site visit, to our Dungeness B nuclear plant. We look forward to hosting a second visit next year. I want to thank and congratulate Energy UK for their efforts on the YEP Forum.

I also want to thank EY for their ongoing partnership of the Forum. EDF Energy is honoured to be a part of it. It is only through engaging the brightest young minds that we will be able to address some of the most important challenges facing the UK and the world in the decades to come. And I am here today to talk, primarily, about the biggest of those issues. Climate change.

Energy and climate change; As the Chief Executive of EDF Energy, I grapple every day with an equation. That is how to deliver energy to millions of people in a way that is reliable, affordable and sustainable. This equation might sound simple, but in fact it is very complex. I am not the only one who is trying to solve it. Standing here, addressing the future leaders of our industry, I hope that it is at the forefront of your minds too. The first consideration is reliability: how do we take the opportunity to make sure the UK has the reliable energy it needs, innovating to ensure that we keep the lights on, homes heated, factories working, research facilities open? It is a current issue. Just last week the Secretary of State made clear that energy security is the Government’s number one priority. The second factor is affordability: how do we invest for the future in a way that supports our customers and their priorities now? And thirdly, sustainability: how do we do this in a way which supports the delicate balance of our global ecosystem, restricts harmful emissions and ultimately limits the impact of climate change?

COP21 – the global and political challenges: In just a couple of days’ time, we have an historic opportunity to tackle these challenges on a global scale when the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, will take place in Paris.The stakes are high. We know that current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions – to reduce global emissions by 18% below 1990 levels – reach their end in 2020. The world’s governments are expected to reach an agreement covering at least the following ten years. And the choices they make will determine the world’s future for decades to come. The ultimate ambition is to put the world on a path limiting the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2˚C. Past this threshold, scientists warn us of the potentially irreversible consequences of global warming.

So the need to contain climate change is ever more pressing. The right to access modern, clean and reliable energy has been recognised as a key goal by the United Nations. This is the challenge. I want to pause at this moment to reflect on the terrible events that unfolded recently in Paris. Our thoughts go out to France - my country and the one of many friends and colleagues working in EDF Energy and our parent company, EDF Group. I was heartened to see the President, Francois Hollande’s comments today about why it’s right that the climate change talks still go ahead. He argued that man can be its own enemy. Not only should we leave to our children a world free from terrorism, we should also protect the planet from the impact of the mistakes we are making today. We need to mobilise now to protect ourselves, and also act to build hope for the future. So we must unite in the battle against climate change. The conference in Paris has been long-awaited. And I believe there is reason for hope. This conference has seen great progress in bringing together all the countries, as well as other parties including businesses, NGOs, local authorities and others.

The bottom-up approach is working. We see a shared approach on action against climate change, learning the lessons from previous negotiations. As of today over 160 countries have produced their action plans and commitments. That includes many countries which did not pledge at Copenhagen. But more needs to be done. All of the pledges made, taken together, are not enough to stop temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees. But Paris must be judged not only on the pledges made now. COP21 leaves the way open for the world to go beyond what will be agreed in Paris. To monitor the agreement’s impact every five years and to be prepared to tighten it if needed. That is the crucial complement to the bottom up approach.

So even if Paris does not achieve two degrees, the road to success is through Paris. And I am optimistic because there are positive signs of support to put in place both the commitments now, and the monitoring and tightening process for the future.It includes the agreement between the French and Chinese Presidents to work together to tackle climate change. The declaration represents a strong political statement by China. What it says about transparency and monitoring goes beyond what China has said before. Another example is the importance of an effective carbon price. I believe that a carbon price that responds to the climate emergency and provides true long-term visibility can be decisive.It is not the whole solution. But there is no solution without a price which is realistic and which decisively supports the right investment.

This is why, in this intense international negotiation, where so many economic and political priorities are at stake, Europe, and particularly the UK, can today lead by example. The role of business and while our governments negotiate and decide on action, business has its own role to play. As an Official Partner of COP21, EDF Group is committed to the 2°C target. Our responsibility is to produce low-carbon electricity and help customers tackle climate change by managing their energy consumption. We are not alone. I know your companies take this responsibility very seriously too.

For EDF Energy, the battle on CO2 did not start today. It is a battle we have fought for many years. In 2008, our Sustainability Commitments set out our vision. Since then, we have achieved significant carbon savings through energy efficiency and through focused stewardship of our nuclear stations. And throughout this time we have not just thought about our existing assets but also the future assets we will need. Our commitment to the UK’s low carbon future has been cemented in recent weeks by the announcement that we reached agreement with CGN for the construction and operation of the proposed new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C. Because only new nuclear can provide the UK with the low-carbon, affordable and secure electricity that the country needs in the long-term. We are also seeking to innovate to meet the UK and the world’s energy challenges. One of the most exciting areas in our industry at the moment is technological change that will lie behind smart meters and digitally connected homes. EDF Energy’s dedicated innovation platform – Blue Lab – will deliver new products, services and truly smart energy into our customers’ homes and businesses.

It will do so in a way that also engages them fully in responding to the challenges that our planet faces. In a moment, our panel will discuss their understanding of what is needed in the long-term to respond to these challenges.I know it will be a lively and stimulating debate. In fact some of our distinguished panel speakers joined us at an event earlier this month, so I can say with confidence that they will provide excellent insights.

Conclusion; It is only through debating these issues that we will be able to find genuine, workable solutions. One of the strengths of the YEP Forum is that it brings together people from a diverse range of backgrounds to have this discussion. At EDF Energy, we have a deep commitment to inclusion and diversity – particularly gender diversity. Earlier this month I had the pleasure of welcoming the Energy Minister to our Cannington Court training facility in Somerset. At Cannington we have taken a Grade I listed building and respectfully turned it into a state of the art training, learning and development facility. Cannington Court is a place for all our people. It is where I want our apprentices to work with our executive team; our graduates to be in sessions with our senior managers. And I see this ambition reflected in the YEP Forum. The Forum invites young professionals to listen to the experiences of those who have worked in the industry for many years, which they then use to create their own ideas. This mixing will remind us that we are a link between the past and the future. The people who lead and run our companies today with safety as their first priority are the stewards of what was built by our predecessors. People who took visionary decisions in the past to invest in the infrastructure that powers Britain today.

We are merely today’s custodians of our companies and our industry. In turn we will pass the baton to the next generation. They are the ones who will create and use the future technologies which will enable this low carbon transition. We need their ideas, their creativity and their enthusiasm. Above all, we need them to be environmentally aware. With this in mind, together with Exeter University and the Met Office we have launched an information site called ‘Climate and Us’ aiming to make climate science accessible to the greater public. I hope you will take a moment to go and see it at our stand this evening. We have also recently launched a new campaign aimed at encouraging teenage girls to take up careers in science and engineering. I know a lot of you in the room aren’t necessarily the target audience! But I’m sure you would agree that there is some way to go to encourage more women into the kinds of jobs we are talking about. Our own research reveals less than a third of girls know a woman that works in a science or engineering-based job. And one in three girls doesn’t think they are smart enough to become a scientist. So I’d like to finish by showing you a short film we’ve developed to launch the campaign.' 

Vincent de Raviz

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