Climate Week NYC 2021: Interview with Catherine MacGregor, CEO of ENGIE

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At Climate Week NYC 2021, the CEO of ENGIE, Catherine MacGregor explains how ENGIE will actively participate in decarbonizing its emissions by 2030. Watch the interview hosted by Nisha Pillai, Former BBC World Anchor.

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Transcript has been edited for clarity.

Nisha: We're joined now by Catherine MacGregor, the CEO of ENGIE. Welcome Catherine, good to have you with us. Our event is all about the critical milestones that must be met in the decade ahead for us to a half emissions by 2030. So what will be ENGIE's contribution to this very important global mission?

Catherine: Thank you, it's nice to be here with you. There are two sides to that question. The first is what ENGIE is doing on its own ambition for carbon neutrality. The second is what ENGIE is doing for its customers and society. The first piece is really around setting ambitious goals on carbon neutrality, which we have decided to reach by 2045, covering scopes 1, 2 and 3. For a company that continues to sell natural gas to our customers, that carbon neutrality goal includes our sold products. This gives you a taste of what our stringent ambition is, and how transformational this journey is for us at ENGIE.

Nisha: People sometimes say, How can a natural gas company or a company with a large chunk of gas in its mix possibly achieve this goal of decarbonizing by 2045? Such a goal is just a dream. It's not possible. How do you respond?

Catherine: I respond by saying that, first of all, it's a journey that is going to take some time. We're going to have intermediate milestones such as decarbonizing our whole energy mix, substantially increasing our renewable generation and, on the gas side, switching our products and decarbonizing the gas. For gas decarbonization, two of our solutions are biomethane, which is a reality here in France and is a great substitution to natural gas, and hydrogen, which is very versatile with loads of potential.

Nisha: Let's look at those separately. So many experts say we should just turn our back on gas; it really does not have a place as a fuel of the future. What do you say to them? Why are you so committed to it still?

Catherine: I'm very committed to gas because it has very specific properties, including the ability to be stored at scale, stored for a long time, and offers flexibility to the energy system. That is extremely important because as you know, energy systems are getting transformed. You have the ramp-up of renewable energy, which we’re obviously welcoming and very active in. At the same time, that transformation brings instability to the energy system. Natural gas, because of its ability to be dispatched on very short notice, as well as stored and transported at high density is very important for renewable energies, at least for the short term.

Natural gas in the short-term and greener gas in the long-term, is extremely important to keep the energy system of the future robust, resilient and affordable.

It is extremely important to think about how we are going to transform this energy mix in an affordable manner, otherwise, we will hit a wall.

Nisha: Hydrogen has been getting a huge amount of attention over the last few years but it's a long way from being commercially viable. What do you think it's going to take in terms of investments, technology, and development to make it bankable and scalable?

Catherine: You're right, hydrogen is extremely exciting because it has versatility. It is also a gas, so it has a role to play in the construction of a new energy system.

Hydrogen is also a very important solution for decarbonizing some sectors where frankly, solutions are not obvious.

Now, what comes first when kickstarting a hydrogen economy? A lot needs to be aligned. You need technology and affordable renewable energies, especially when it comes to green hydrogen. Another aspect around policy includes, market design, incentives to kick-start pilot projects, and regulatory framework that gives private sectors the visibility that we need to invest for the long-term in projects like hydrogen. I'm personally very excited about it. I believe that there is a lot of excitement, and concrete actions are happening.

Nisha: And what about ENGIE itself? You started our conversation by saying you have committed to decarbonize by 2045. You yourself, have to make sure that you strip out the emissions within your own business. What are you doing right now? Not in 2045. But right now, this year, next year, the year after to make sure that you're steadily making progress on those commitments?

Catherine: We're investing massively in renewable energy. We are developing a renewable electricity capacity. We have a very strong ambition.

Today we are operating roughly 32 gigawatts of renewable energy, we're going to be operating 50 gigawatts by 2025, and then 80 gigawatts by 2030.

Just to give you an idea of the scale, we also have ambition in terms of green hydrogen production. By 2030, we want to have around four gigawatts of green hydrogen being produced.

We also have ambition because of our large infrastructure that we want to make sure we can reuse. We feel that we can adapt this infrastructure for hydrogen, whether it's storage or transportation. We have also set goals in terms of hydrogen storage and hydrogen transportation by 2030.

Nisha: Catherine MacGregor, thank you so much for joining us to share out your plans on Climate Week NYC.

Catherine: Very nice to talk with you. Thank you very much.

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