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ENLIT Europe 2023: A Q&A with GE Vernova’s Claudia Blanco

Everywhere you go, you hear the term “energy transition”. It’s a topic of broad and current interest, particularly as the industry – and the world at large – face unprecedented change. In this recent interview from ENLIT Europe 2023, we caught up with GE Vernova’s Business Incubator Leader, Claudia Blanco, to get her thoughts on what’s happening in the power sector and what’s next for the future of energy as we strive to ensure energy security while also achieving the world’s decarbonization goals. 

What would you say are the top three challenges in navigating the energy transition? 

By 2040, global electricity demand is projected to grow by 50%. At the same time, a heightened focus on sustainability objectives demands that we integrate renewables into the energy mix at a faster rate. Around the world, aging grid infrastructure is ill-equipped to meet this growing demand and integrate renewables, requiring investment in grid modernization as well as a rethinking of the regulatory, industrial, and resource environment to enable hurried modernization. 

The integration of renewables into the grid introduces new variables that challenge reliability and stability. As an industry, we must look to new technologies to ensure uninterrupted, stable electricity when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing. We must create a digitized, bidirectional grid that can adapt to faults, changing loads, and multiple energy sources in microseconds. 

In the past five years, geopolitical events, the pandemic, and extreme weather have all challenged energy security and supply chain stability. The lesson learned is that we need to have secure, resilient, and sustainable technology, networks, and supply chains to ensure such variables (and beyond) do not disrupt the energy transition. 

What would you say is one single action that can drastically accelerate the deployment of more sustainable energy? 

It’s difficult to pick just one as there are so many critical factors necessary. But if I had to choose, I’d argue that long-term investment, backed by sound policy and regulation, is one of the most important action items. Governments and businesses must invest not only in clean energy generation, such as solar photovoltaics and wind turbines, but also in a modernized grid that has the capacity to accept and efficiently use renewable energy in a way that is affordable and reliable. The International Energy Agency estimates that the world will need to step up grid investment from approximately $700 billion currently to $1,200 billion per year by 2030 to reach net-zero by 2050. 

A lot must be done on a global scale for sure. In a regional sense, what excites you most about the European energy transition? 

We are at an inflection point. The decisions we make today pave the way for the future of energy. There have been some strong market signals from governments and policy makers to accelerate the clean energy transition in recent years. I am awed by the innovation of the past decade with the emergence of digital technologies, the arrival of increasingly affordable distributed power technologies, decarbonization through the maturation of renewable energy and energy efficiency options, and finally, the electrification of energy uses. How we deploy these new technologies will set the course for not only a decarbonized future but a world in which reliable, affordable energy is accessible to everyone.   

Do you think Europe is at risk of losing its first-mover status in the energy transition? 

I firmly believe that this is not a zero-sum game of winners and losers. The energy transition demands collaboration above all. We must come together to align policies, regulation, and standardization so we can meet electrification and decarbonization goals as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s imperative to work together to create a secure energy technology supply chain so that our work is uninterrupted. 

Thank you, Claudia. It’s evident that grid modernization is the key to meeting energy demands and net-zero goals as we work through the energy transition.  

There are challenges, of course, but there are also immense opportunities. I am so privileged to have participated in ENLIT Europe because it’s truly remarkable to see the industry come together. I can’t wait to see what’s next! 

About the Author

Claudia Blanco is the Innovation & Partnerships General Manager of GE Vernova’s Grid Solutions business, delivering innovative, scalable solutions through customer partnerships and technology incubation. She focuses on testing new solutions (technology and business), opening new markets, and accelerating go-to-market and R&D by increasing available funding and proof-of-concepts by applying a collective convergence approach. Claudia has more than 30 years of experience in different industries and in key technical and leadership roles in the areas of manufacturing and operations, R&D, and product and business development. She joined the company in 2010 as the Global Director of Manufacturing Engineering & Industrial Development. She then led the advanced and additive manufacturing division and became a LEAN leader before managing engineering operations. In addition to her Industrial Engineering degree, Claudia holds a Computer Science degree, an Executive MBA and is working on her Master’s degree in Sustainability and Circular Economy at the University of Barcelona.

Profile Photo of Claudia Blanco