EDP: Leading the way to a global energy transition

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Matthew Taylor
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We sat down with EDP, a leading global company in the renewable energy sector, to learn about its plans for Web Summit Rio. 

With more than 13,000 employees from 60-plus nationalities, EDP supplies energy to more than nine million people, ensuring that 85 percent of the energy it produces is renewable. 

Recognized as a leader in the global energy transition, the company aims to be all-green by 2030 and net-zero by 2040.

To learn more about EDP’s strategic plans for the renewable energy sector, as well as its plans for Web Summit Rio, we sat down with Carlos Andrade, vice president of client-focused solutions and innovation at EDP Brazil.

How ‘global’ is the global energy transition? How can multiple, separate actors work together in such a complex way?

The global energy transition represents a multifaceted challenge requiring a concerted, worldwide effort. Collaboration across various stakeholders is paramount, and governments, enterprises, and international institutions are steadily progressing toward this common goal, engaging in mutually beneficial projects and initiatives for the energy transition. 

These endeavors encompass technological advancements, incentive policies, and capacity-building programs. EDP has endeavored to play a central role in this paradigm, reinforcing investments in renewable sources and innovation to lead this transition actively.

What is the role of companies such as EDP in the global energy transition?

Companies like EDP wield a fundamental role. With a longstanding global footprint, we have invested in renewable sources over the last two decades, transitioning from nearly 80 percent thermal generation to over 85 percent renewable generation presently. 

This is supported by the principle of a just transition, promoting collaboration with governments, local entities, and communities. Today, EDP’s global emissions are 48 percent lower than in 2015, and the expectation is to reduce absolute emissions by 90 percent in all areas by 2040.

In this sense, it is worth highlighting the group’s investment plan of €25 million between 2023 and 2026, with around 85 percent (€21 million) in the renewable segment.

What does society need to have in place to accelerate the transition?

A joint effort to expand renewable sources is essential, investing in technology – and this includes new sources, such as green hydrogen, for example – and making them more accessible.

The modernization and expansion of distribution and transmission networks to support the growth of renewable sources is also essential. Innovation emerges as an axis in the energy transition journey, demanding vigilance and adaptability to the evolution of global and sectoral trends through investments in technology.

What are the challenges and bottlenecks to the global energy transition?

The integration of renewable sources into transmission and distribution networks requires substantial investments, which is why EDP is investing €3.2 billion until 2026 to strengthen the digitalization, intelligence, resilience and efficiency of electricity infrastructure in the three areas where we operate in this segment – Portugal, Spain and Brazil.

The transition is taking place within a mere 30-year timeline, amidst a burgeoning population, and demands adherence to pivotal sustainability, energy security, and economic viability objectives. This includes accelerating and enlarging renewable energy usage by 2030, tripling annual investments by 2050, and addressing supply and shortage concerns along with a scarcity of specialized workforce.

Innovation is a cornerstone for advancing solutions that leverage new technologies and business models, critical for propelling an effective and sustainable energy transition into the future.

How can digital technology and the tech sector accelerate the energy transition? Will AI play a role in this transformation?

EDP recognizes digital technology – notably AI – as a linchpin. We’re firmly committed to this transformative shift. With a €3 billion investment in digitalization and innovation, EDP is leveraging these resources to forge new pathways. 

[Our] key focus areas include big data, IoT, virtual reality, machine learning and AI. A prominent illustration of this investment’s impact is the operational optimization of EDP’s electrical grids through AI, reflecting a concerted effort to increase efficiency and sustainability. 

Ventures like the recent US$2 million investment in the Chilean startup Splight, underscore EDP’s pursuit of collaborative innovation, spotlighting technologies that amplify efficiency in renewable energy generation.

Are there any examples of the role digital technology is playing in the energy transition?

Digital technology, spearheaded by AI and machine learning, plays a pivotal role in refining operational decision-making and bolstering asset management efficiency within the energy sector. 

This synergy is exemplified by EDP’s investment in the startup Splight. By harnessing diverse data sources and deploying sophisticated AI algorithms, Splight’s platform is engineered to optimize real-time operational decisions, thereby enhancing the harnessing and utilization of renewable energy sources.

What is the importance of innovation to companies operating in the energy sector? Is there enough emphasis on innovating?

The vitality of innovation within the energy sector cannot be overstated. Innovation sprawls across various domains, from expanding renewable sources and cultivating nascent energy avenues to modernizing and expanding distribution and transmission networks, along with fortifying operational efficiency concerning energy assets. 

EDP is staunchly resolved to expedite this transformative journey by capitalizing on breakthrough technologies, injecting over €2 billion into innovation and digitalization by 2026. EDP Ventures is amplifying this through investments in global growth-stage startups to maximize innovation.

What are some examples of innovation in the energy sector at the moment?

EDP is focused on seven core domains, ranging from renewables to decarbonization, broadening its impact through internal incubation, collaborative innovation ecosystems, and external investments. 

EDP’s innovative initiatives reverberate globally, with groundbreaking ventures such as South America’s first green hydrogen molecule spearheaded by EDP in Brazil. This involved an investment of BR$42 million, giving rise to new initiatives, such as partnerships to assess the technical and economic viability of using green hydrogen in the production and operation of other sectors.

In Europe, innovations include WindFloat Atlantic – Europe’s premier operational floating wind farm – and Alqueva, Europe’s largest floating solar park perched within a dam reservoir, spotlighting EDP’s pioneering strides toward sustainable and innovative energy solutions.

What are some of EDP’s plans for Web Summit Rio?

EDP is running an immersive showcase spotlighting innovative projects and solutions intricately aligned with the company’s drive toward fostering an equitable energy transition. 

With a blend of interactive displays, audiovisual resources and informative presentations, EDP seeks to exemplify its commitment to spearheading a just energy transition. 

Notable initiatives set to take center stage include the green hydrogen project, instrumental in producing Latin America’s inaugural H2V molecule through a pilot plant nestled within Ceará. 

We’re also unveiling the Solar Digital solution, forged through strategic partnerships within the innovation ecosystem and underpinned by a robust BR$2.3 billion investment. Tailored for residential and small to medium enterprises, it democratically expands access to renewable energy resources by offering solar-power subscription services without necessitating upfront solar panel investments or installations.

For more information on EDP, visit the company website

Main image of a woman holding up an EDP-branded tote bag: Sportsfile/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

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