EuropeOn members met in Paris with their US counterparts

In early April, EuropeOn members finally met again face to face in Paris, after over two years of fully online meetings. Although the remote-working situation led us to explore new ways of collaborating and to develop new formats such as thematic roundtables, the need for face-to-face meetings was palpable.

A transatlantic discussion

Members from 10 European countries came to Paris. Our first stop was just a few steps away from the Eiffel Tower, to meet with our US counterparts and corresponding partners from Electri International / NECA.

This meeting was the occasion for electrical contractors from both sides of the Atlantic to exchange ideas and best practices on the many issues and opportunities we have in common, and to challenge each other with the different approaches we developed to address the latter.

Across Europe and the US, it is clear that there are tremendous opportunities for the electrical contracting sector to provide new services to customers that go beyond traditional -and still much needed- electrical installations. Against this positive backdrop, several bottlenecks are becoming increasingly worrying according to all participants: the shortages of raw materials, equipment and people. From the US perspective, it is expected that raw materials and equipment shortages are becoming a long-term issue, fueled by the Covid shock and now the Russian crisis. The workforce challenge is no smaller issue, as we are looking for more people and, importantly, with higher skills.

Our US colleagues were eager to learn about how European contractors forecast the impact of climate action on the future of the installation sector, and how we are working on anticipating customers’ needs in terms of renewables, energy efficiency, self-production of energy, data management, demand-side flexibility, circularity and zero waste. A deep-dive into these trends was provided by our Dutch member Techniek Nederland, who presented their recent prospective studies (publicly available in English here).

It was also very stimulating to explore prefabrication, a growing trend in the USA, even among smaller contracting companies, and to discuss how it can improve project scheduling, risk management and productivity.

After two years of limited contacts, this transatlantic meeting brought much “food for thought” and we hope to continue the dialogue in the months to come.

Reconnecting with European neighbours

EuropeOn members then had an internal meeting at our French member FFIE’s headquarters. From a formal point of view, a short general assembly gave us the opportunity to review our legal status so that we are up to date with our new ways to work, online and offline.

Many discussions revolved around the intense ongoing EU policy debates. Since 2020, the EU has initiated a thorough revision of its climate and energy legislation in order to support the ambitious target of reaching climate-neutrality across our 27 Member States by 2050. An intermediate target for 2030 is to cut our global greenhouse gas emissions by 55% (compared to 1990 levels). But some now consider the “Fit for 55 package” too timid, in light of the high energy prices crisis that we are facing, now worsened by the invasion of Ukraine and the need to untie Europe from its dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

Electrical contractors are at the crossroads of these challenges. They have the expertise to advise end-users on how to improve energy efficiency and to implement the needed changes. They deploy renewable electricity technologies everywhere in Europe and they electrify buildings and infrastructures.

As discussed internally and with our US counterparts, while demand is very high for the electrical contracting sector, with full order books, it is becoming increasingly challenging to find and train new professionals. In the context of the so-called “Fit for 55 package”, EuropeOn welcomes a series of amendments from the four main political groups of the European Parliament (EPP, S&D, Renew Europe, The Greens/ EFA) that put forward actions to better promote the technical education and careers that Europe desperately needs to implement the energy transition on the ground. We also expect further skills and workforce-related announcements in the “Repower EU” package that the Commission will present around the 18th of May to tackle the energy crisis. This package should, among other things, include a “Solar Strategy” (see other news).

Paris meetings were concluded by a visit of the “Lab by FFIE”, the new showroom displayed in our French members’ headquarters. The Lab aims to increase interest and awareness on the technological solutions that electrical contractors (or, as they are called in France, “integrators”) can provide to buildings so as to make them smarter, more energy efficient and increasingly comfortable.

EuropeOn members will gather again in a few weeks, as our Policy and Technical working group members will come to Helsinki.