Gérard Constantin, President of EuropeOn: “Despite Covid and lockdowns, electrical contractors can look back on 2020 with a positive attitude”

With our Annual General Meeting and Conference behind us, and the end of the year approaching, the time is right to look back at 2020, a year that won’t be forgotten for a long time. 

A new name and a new vision for our Association

For EuropeOn, 2020 will have been our first year under our new moniker. Indeed, almost exactly one year ago, we held the rebranding celebrations to present our new name and branding. We decided to update our 65 year-old name because our sector in changing, to respond to the twin digital and green transitions, ushering in a new era for the electrical installer: the era of the integrator

Our forefathers were truly installers, contracted to carry out more simple tasks of fitting systems and devices without too much involvement before or after the installation phase. Now, the same companies are increasingly proposing to perform more sophisticated work, from the design phase all the way to maintenance and decommissioning, meeting the demand for new clean energy installations that have to be integrated with the building or energy system. 

As this trend is poised to grow with increasingly stringent climate measures, our sector will be shifting towards a new type of work and it is EuropeOn’s responsibility, as the voice of electrical contractors in Brussels, to raise awareness and bring this change to the fore to accurately represent our members. 

With this renewed name and vision, we have successfully engaged more closely with policymakers and provided them with our perspective on some key EU files. This was, for instance, the case with our #Skills4Climate campaign, which led us to interact directly with two EU Commissioners.

Our Skills4Climate campaign

Fittingly, our first act as EuropeOn was to launch a campaign on the most pressing issue for electrical installers, and especially those looking to engage in the integrator revolution, namely skills and workforce shortages. With our #Skills4Climate campaign, we set out to highlight electrical contractors’ role in the twin transitions, and how this role is evolving to require newer and more advanced skills. The response from our surrounding stakeholders in the electricity and construction value chains was unanimous and we attracted many supporters, who all understand the need to skilled electrical professionals in sufficient numbers. 

In 2020, we have been able to take our skills recommendations further in the EU arena. Through the Pact for Skills, organised by the Commission as part of the EU Skills Agenda, EuropeOn representatives have had the opportunity to raise their concerns with Commissioners Thierry Breton (internal market) and Nicolas Schmit (jobs & social rights) in roundtables on the construction and automotive sectors. 

Looking at tomorrow’s world: digitalisation, e-mobility and energy renovations

Further illustrating the digitalisation of electrical installations, EuropeOn published a pioneering guidebook for Power over Ethernet installations. The latter allows for a single cable to carry both power and data, drastically reducing the number of cables needed for connected installations, such as smart houses and IoT devices. Led by EuropeOn French member FFIE, our Technical working group has ensured that EuropeOn member associations can provide their member companies with the latest instructions to install PoE.

Responding to this broadening of electrical installations, we started paying closer attention to the mobility sector. EuropeOn members have understood how the electrification of transport could be an interesting opportunity for electrical contractors and especially integrators. Indeed, electric vehicles are a rewarding component of prosumer systems as they integrate with and support electrical systems, both behind and in front of the meter, extremely well by either absorbing excess renewable energy or providing the latter in times of low supply. However, such a potential requires qualified electrical integrators, able to reap the benefits of such devices with an optimal integration into the energy system. 

Ahead of the renewed regulatory focus on mobility, EuropeOn released its first recommendations for the shift to e-mobility in 2020. We conveyed the feedback from the ground for the deployment of charging infrastructure to inform the design of upcoming landmark policies such as the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, which will set the tone for the e-mobility environment for the years to come. 

We also contributed to the discussion on the EU Renovation Wave, announced with the Green Deal and further bolstered as an economic recovery initiative. We highlighted the opportunities and the need for integrated renovations, including the modernization of electrical systems for the ageing buildings across the EU, to EU policymakers.

Our very first high-level annual conference

Renovation and e-mobility policies formed the basis for our Annual Conference’s two policy sessions. For the first time, EuropeOn held an online policy conference open to all and featuring diversified panels of speakers, from industry, associations, the EU Commission and including a Member of the European Parliament.

We were honoured that many EU policymakers from the Parliament and the Commission accepted our invitation to discuss, in the morning session, onthe European Renovation Wave and more specifically the skills needs behind it and, in our second afternoon session, on e-mobility to prepare for the upcoming policies in 2021.

Bouncing back in Covid times and getting ready for 2021

Last but certainly not least, we cannot forget that Covid did hit us all without any warning and as the main European forum for electrical contractors we hosted exchanges on national responses and best practices during lockdowns. As we shared our experiences of lockdowns across Europe, we saw that there was actually some potential for new business opportunities and ways for our sector to further contribute to a green recovery after Covid. This led us to start working on a report highlighting all these opportunities that can be found in the electrical contracting sector. We will release it in January, so stay tuned for this exciting announcement!

Looking ahead at 2021, it is gearing up to be an intense year for energy and climate stakeholders at EU level. The Commission has already announced the revision of the Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives, which will form the  backbone of the regulatory framework needed to meet the new 2030 climate targets, as far as electrical contractors are concerned. 

There are new opportunities arising for electrical contractors, with new business models and more electrified end-uses, and especially for those with digital and green skills. First movers acquiring these skills and engaging with the new business models, based on integration work and more services, could be reaping the full benefits of the energy transition.

EuropeOn is looking forward to keep on representing electrical contractors and integrators at EU level and ensuring that their voice is heard in the design of Europe’s climate and energy future.

 

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