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Energy management: a promising sector in the future

Schnei­der Elec­tric, a world leader in the field of ener­gy man­age­ment, offers numer­ous career oppor­tu­ni­ties for young qual­i­fied engi­neers. Philippe Vol­let, who has been the Group’s Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion Direc­tor for almost 30 years now, talks about his per­son­al track-record and describes the pro­fes­sion­al per­spec­tives open­ing up for today’s and tomorrow’s engineers. 

How and when did you join Schneider Electric?

“The elec­tric pow­er indus­tri­al sec­tor is very present in the Greno­bles area, notably with Mer­lin Gerin, acquired by the Schnei­der Elec­tric Group in 1992. Join­ing Schnei­der Elec­tric was fair­ly log­i­cal for me inas­much as I had just com­plet­ed my engi­neer­ing stud­ies, major­ing in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, at the Insti­tut poly­tech­nique de Greno­ble (IPG). In 1989, I was first recruit­ed as a reli­a­bil­i­ty engi­neer in their Low Volt­age Switch­boards Department. 

Apparently, you have held some very varied postings, haven’t you?

I didn’t want to do the same rou­tine job all my career. I start­ed with pure­ly tech­ni­cal, engi­neer­ing posi­tions, fol­lowed by a Master’s degree in cor­po­rate man­age­ment from IAE-Greno­bles in 1998 which allowed me grad­u­al­ly to open up the scope of my activ­i­ties learn­ing new skills close to mar­ket­ing func­tions. I then became head of Archi­tec­tures, Inno­va­tion and Exper­tise for the Low and Medi­um Volt­age Switch­boards, Pan­el­boards and Busways Depart­ment, where my job con­sist­ed in fore­see­ing and prepar­ing for com­ing mar­ket trends and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, with new archi­tec­tures for our offers and asso­ciate busi­ness plans. In 2009, I took the respon­si­bil­i­ty of Strate­gic Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor for the Final Dis­tri­b­u­tion Depart­ment and, in par­al­lel, I was a pio­neer of our Elec­tric Vehi­cle busi­ness. Final­ly I came to my present posi­tion as Group’s Stan­dard­i­s­a­tion Direc­tor, respon­si­ble for deploy­ing ‘influ­ence’ actions and stan­dards for the Build­ings Divi­sion – indeed I now find myself at the core of medi­um and long range pol­i­cy fram­ing for the Group as a whole. If you can prove curi­ous and open mind­ed, there are numer­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties open to you. We need high­ly skilled spe­cial­ists in cer­tain tech­ni­cal domains but also more ‘gen­er­al pur­pose’ engi­neers with the capac­i­ty to adapt to chang­ing, new sit­u­a­tions. This is a fea­ture I appre­ci­ate with UTC stu­dents; togeth­er with their will­ing­ness to get ‘dug in’ to work. If you want to enjoy a bright career, then you must also be mobile. For exam­ple, I only learned to work with the Chi­nese when I became an ‘expat’, in Chi­na. And my dozens of round trips to Chi­na only gave me a super­fi­cial under­stand­ing of that country.

How does one become a Standardization Director?

“The way I see things, when you wish to work in the field of inter­na­tion­al stan­dards, you need to have expe­ri­ence. You rep­re­sent your com­pa­ny, your indus­tri­al sec­tor at the stan­dards agen­cies, at pro­fes­sion­al trade orga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions (both nation­al and region­al as is the case for the Euro­pean Commission. When you defend your company’s inter­ests, you also need to have a sol­id tech­nol­o­gy-inten­sive base, to know your company’s prod­ucts well and to pos­sess an excel­lent knowl­edge of your strate­gies and mar­ket posi­tions. Most of my col­leagues are like myself – it takes about 15 years with the com­pa­ny to prop­er­ly acquire these skills and the knowl­edge base. On top of this, if I can add that the pay-off for our actions only becomes vis­i­ble some 5 to 10 years lat­er, then you can read­i­ly under­stand that a cer­tain degree of sta­bil­i­ty in need­ed in my position.”

What are the observable changes emerging today in the standards field?

“Sys­tem gaps are decreas­ing, even if cer­tain user par­tic­u­lar­i­ties still remain. In the elec­tric domain, it is the IEC stan­dards that are large­ly imple­ment­ed in Europe, North Amer­i­ca and Asia (Chi­na, Japan and South Korea). The rel­e­vant stan­dards here are drawn up by the best experts in the world. They con­tribute notably to defin­ing safe­ty lev­els, per­for­mance expec­ta­tions and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of elec­tric and elec­tron­ic tech­nolo­gies, and also they form the ref­er­ence base for equip­ment test­ing and sys­tem cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Over and above serv­ing to pro­tect con­sumers, these stan­dards facil­i­tate access to new mar­kets for our enterprises.” 

How did you personally contribute here?

“Well, I am a mem­ber of sev­er­al IEC (Inter­na­tion­al Elec­trotech­ni­cal Com­mis­sions) Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tees. In the IEC frame­work, I took part notably in the set­ting up of inter­na­tion­al stan­dards relat­ed to elec­tric vehi­cle recharge posts. (IEC TC69, IEC TC64, IEC SC23H, IEC SCX23E …). The aim here is to guar­an­tee a max­i­mum safe­ty lev­el for per­sons and goods and to ensure com­plete coheren­cy between vehi­cles (what­ev­er the brand), the recharge posts and the build­ing elec­tric instal­la­tion – the oth­er main aim is to seek total inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of the recharge sta­tions, what­ev­er the type of elec­tric vehi­cle (plug out­lets, with indus­tri­al plugs, sock­et-out­lets and couplers). I was also active in estab­lish­ing prod­uct relat­ed stan­dards for active ener­gy man­age­ment i build­ings (IEC SC23K, IEC TC64, CEN TC247,). This ref­er­ence frame­work allows you to have access to effi­cient elec­tric plant and ener­gy man­age­ment sys­tems as well as being able to man­age sources and elec­tric recharge facilities.”

What are the most promising sectors in the field of energy management?

“My com­pa­ny has always kept abreast with change. In the 19th Cen­tu­ry we were spe­cial­ized in cast iron prod­ucts, then in electro­mechan­i­cal devices in the 20th and today we have a glob­al rep­u­ta­tion as lead­ers of the ongo­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion of ener­gy man­age­ment and automa­tion, illus­trat­ed by our solu­tions to obtain­ing bet­ter ener­gy-relat­ed effi­cien­cy. Here we have a field that is devel­op­ing rapid­ly, faced as it is with com­ing ener­gy issues and car­bon reduc­tion. Cities today rep­re­sent 75% of total ener­gy con­sump­tion and 80% of the asso­ci­at­ed car­bon emis­sions. We expect the world’s pop­u­la­tion to dou­ble by hori­zon 2050. At the same time, today’s sys­tem of cen­tral­ized elec­tric pow­er pro­duc­tion will grad­u­al­ly evolve towards a mul­ti­tude of local producers/ stor­age facilities/consumers. Such ultra-rapid devel­op­ment requires that we secure and offer clean­er ener­gy, a « smarter » grid and espe­cial­ly a more effi­cient net­work, with a more active ener­gy man­age­ment scheme – tar­iff mod­u­la­tion, by the hour, as is already the case in cer­tain coun­tries. We shall no doubt see more recruit­ments in this field.”

Le magazine

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