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What’s Next for the Future of Energy

The world is facing unprecedented change at unprecedented rates. From climate change to growth in power demand to supply chain disruptions, the industry has undergone a massive shift in the last decade – and that shift is about to get a whole lot bigger. We sat down with GE Vernova’s Business Incubator Leader, Claudia Blanco for a discussion about what’s next for the future of energy. 

Last year, we faced numerous scenarios globally that brought energy security to the top of the agenda. What do you think the industry will face at the start of this year?  

I think there’s a sense of “cautious optimism”. Grid operators are increasingly looking into better system reliability amidst power supply shortages during peak hours. We’ve heard warnings about aging infrastructure and networks being almost exhausted in many areas, especially with the growing demand for solar panels, heat pumps, and charging stations for electric vehicles. 

With this, governments and utilities are working together on implementing preventative measures and to help meet demand. For example, the Netherlands announced proposing incentives for large companies to use less electricity at peak times.  

What are the key factors to making electrical grids more resilient?  
We have seen some disruptions in supply chain management, particularly during the recent pandemic. If we want to accelerate the energy transition, we need to ensure access to raw materials and key technologies. Steel is one such example, as a lot of critical infrastructure, such as wind turbines, are made from it. What do we need to do to ensure that energy producers have the steel they need to move forward without delay on these key projects?  

What about policies? Would regulations create resilience?
Policies are definitely a part of the equation. Ensuring energy security and achieving net-zero is both a technology and a policy challenge. One key piece of legislation in Europe is the EU Critical Raw Materials Act, which focuses on ensuring that Europe isn’t relying on other countries for 16 strategic raw materials that are essential for clean technology products as well as clean energy.  

We know that electricity demand will increase by 50% over the next two decades as more industries and the transportation sector decarbonize and electrify. What do we need to do to meet that challenge?
There are a few core things that are required to meet the challenges of decarbonization, including raw materials, increased manufacturing capacity, skilled engineers, digitized supply chain, and harmonized regulatory policies.   

Do you think clean hydrogen has a role to play?
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and we know how to create zero-carbon fuel by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. This element has a key role to play in the global energy transition by helping to diversify energy sources worldwide, as well as foster business and technological innovation. Its unique properties make it a powerful enabler for the energy transition, with benefits for both the energy system and end-use applications like chemicals, transport, and heat generation. 

You also mentioned the need for more engineers and people skilled in the STEM fields, where there is a bit of a gender gap. As an industrial engineer, what would you say to girls and young women who are considering STEM as a career? 
STEM careers are key to addressing the challenges that face our world today and into the future. To meet net-zero targets and the 2030 agenda, we need these careers. We compete with jobs that seem more attractive, like being an “influencer”, and the industrial field isn’t perhaps perceived as “attractive” or “fun”. But it’s a fulfilling career where you can make a massive impact. We must innovate in the way we attract diverse talent and make this industry appealing. We’re being innovative in our products and services, and there’s an excitement in that. I’ve met so many women in the field who I am so motivated by, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the industry. 

Thank you for your time, Claudia – we appreciate the valuable insight! 
Thank you! 

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