Benayoun, the hard game of energy

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Milano, 29 January 2019.
If a feature of the leaders of the third millennium is their ability to manage complexity by harmonizing the interests, even conflicting ones, of the many stakeholders, Marc Benayoun – Edison’s CEO and Executive Vice President at the EDF Group – is in a position where he needs to call upon all of his leadership capabilities. Few sectors are as crucial for the future of the economy and the planet itself as the energy sector, and few sectors have to deal with such a wide range of needs, constraints, and expectations. During the meeting for SDA Bocconi’s MBA Leadership Series, Benayoun tried to simplify (and that’s saying something!) the strategic trade-off of energy calling it a “trilemma”: security, equity, and environmental sustainability are the three dimensions that this industry has to keep in mind today. In concrete terms, it means successfully moving between public and private needs, economic and social interests, environmental concerns and new individual behaviours.

With these coordinates Benayoun is leading Edison – a (135-year-)“old lady” who, at her birth, was synonymous with electricity in Italy – towards the challenges of the near future, the “3 Ds” of the energy transition: Decarbonisation, Digitization, Decentralization. A future – the horizon is 2030 – in which electricity will replace gas and oil in many consumption segments, and coal and oil will disappear from the power generation mix in Italy, as required by the National Energy Strategy (SEN). Edison and the EDF Group have been modelling their strategies on these objectives for some time now, extending low-carbon production to the emerging economies, consolidating it in Europe, and developing a new customer focus that goes beyond the logic of large projects and gives room for differentiation and for a greater number of smaller projects that are tailored to customer needs.

“Flexibility” is another keyword in this look at a future that also has to deal with “political risk”. But – as suggested by a question by Francesco Daveri, MBA director – when faced with the prospect of possible changes in European energy policies, following in the footsteps of Trump, Benayoun doesn’t seem to be worried: “Of course, in this market we need to understand political changes and regulatory constraints and to seize opportunities, where possible, for the services we offer. But a massive shift to fossil fuels seems very unlikely to me”. Optimism is a leaders’ virtue as well.

 

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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