Electrical contractors are building the future of Europe's electricity system - an exclusive interview with Giorgia Concas, the new General Secretary of the European Association for Electrical Contractors (AIE)
Last month, SolarPower Europe announced its new cooperation with the European Association for Electrical Contractors (AIE) to power Europe's energy future. We sat down with Giorgia Concas, the new General Secretary of AIE and former Senior Policy Advisor at SolarPower Europe, to discuss the role of electrical contractors in the energy sector and what she sees in the future for the association.
SolarPower Europe: AIE is the voice of electrical contractors in Europe - what role do electrical contractors play in the EU's energy sector?
From connecting power plants, to building transport and distribution grids, to providing electricity services on the residential, commercial and industrial scale - electrical contractors are really at the core of the energy system, bringing electricity to all of us. Europe needs well-trained and qualified electrical contractors to be able to install and integrate complex systems to power our lives safely and efficiently.
As electrical contractors are typically small to mid-size companies that are based within the local communities, they are in a unique position to give first-hand expert advice to their customers, developing a level of trust and locally-rooted knowledge that is simply not possible with larger companies. This is not only important to build a better energy system in Europe, but electrical contractors are an important source of local development and job opportunities for Europeans.
AIE represents over 1.2 million jobs and 137 billion euros in turnover all from 125,500 local electrical contracting companies. This is a significant part of Europe's electricity value chain, and the regulatory environment should be built accordingly to provide electrical contractors with all the tools they need to provide modern and safe electrical solutions to Europeans.
SolarPower Europe: How are electrical contractors linked to the solar industry and helping to move forward the energy transition in Europe?
New and innovative technologies in the solar sector and other renewables are great, but in order for them to reach their full potential they must be installed, operated and updated by properly trained experts - this is where electrical contractors come into the picture.
Electrical contractors can ensure that anything from rooftop solar on a family home to utility scale solar farms to grid construction are being installed in the safest and most efficient way possible and that they interact appropriately with other energy system components in the community. However, to make sure we can fulfill this objective, greater cooperation between the solar industry and electrical contractors is needed in order construct up-to-date and comprehensive training and qualification to install and maintain solar technologies at the highest standard.
This is crucial to ensure a safe and efficient energy transition in Europe as well as to help boost the reputation of the PV sector, as if these systems are installed safely by experts, there will be no risk of fires or other dangerous malfunctions, which are often used as an excuse to slow the development of solar.
Not only this, but it will provide thousands of new clean and local jobs, as the majority of the jobs available in the European solar sector are downstream with installation and maintenance. Having properly trained electrical contractors will therefore keep Europe's solar fleet safe and healthy to drive the energy transition.
SolarPower Europe: What does AIE foresee as being the key trends that will characterise the electricity sector in the future?
Electrical contractors do so much more than simply sticking wires together - they are modern solution providers for Europeans. This sector is constantly evolving, staying on the cutting-edge of the newest trends and technologies to better serve their customers. With the current electrification of our society, electrical contractors will play an ever-increasing role to power the Europe of the future.
The digital revolution is also transforming the electricity sector, and electrical contractors will be active in implementing these new digital solutions. As Europe increases its uptake of renewables and to make its energy system more efficient, smart meters will be a key technology to manage electricity consumption. We are currently part of an EU project called SMARTEL, which is creating comprehensive training modules for electrical contractors across Europe to install smart meters optimally for their customers.
Other digital technologies that integrate multiple sectors, such as Building Information Modeling or BIM, will become the new standard for constructing new and renovating old buildings to become more energy efficient. More and more, electrical contractors will also become integral to the transport sector with the uptake of e-mobility. Electrical contractors will therefore be important links between multiple sectors as our society becomes more digital and electrified, providing integrated solutions to make sure that your home electrical supply works with your smart meter to power your electric vehicle and increase efficiency of the grid.
With all these significant transformations, it is essential that the proper regulation and training is in place to support electrical contractors. This is especially important to educate the next generation of electrical contractors who will be building the electricity system of the future.