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The energetic world of tomorrow - Interview of Paul Bonan

While the war in Ukraine is entering its tenth month and shows so far no sign of ending,

Europe, as everyone knows, is facing an energy crisis that is placing households and industry

under severe financial pressure.

What could be the environmental consequences?

How might nuclear power play a role in France?

What are the possible consequences for businesses?

To answer these questions, we asked Paul Bonan, one of Carbonapp's collaborators, founder

of Demio, our sister company, a reference and a knowledgeable source in the sector.

Paul, can you tell us about your career?

I first started working in the industrial world, in the food industry, then I joined the

energy world at EDF towards the end of the 1990s. One of my missions was to

calculate the production costs of every asset. At the time, prices were set by the

State. It was therefore necessary to propose transparent methods for calculating the

price of energy or to complete those that already existed.

After EDF, you joined GDF?

In the 2000s, I joined GDF in the transport department. The project was to develop

methods to render the calculation of the gross calorific value (GCV) non-

impeachable. The problem was that this calculation was very theoretical, because the

measuring devices were too expensive, and not homogeneous throughout the

country. Tools were put in place to determine the GCV for the entire French network,

without using any measuring equipment, and to make the results indisputable.

Afterwards, I created a company on energy efficiency with some colleagues, because

France was falling behind... We started to carry out energy audits at industrial plants

in order to try to make them aware of the importance of saving energy. It wasn't easy

because electricity and gas were not expensive at the time and there was no

indication that their price would increase. We worked mainly in the food industry. In

2017 I started Demio with Gaultier Bernard, and in 2020 Nicolas Ferrière joined us.

If you had to present your opinion on the energy crisis, what would be your point of


As far as the situation in France is concerned, I think a dynamic is being created. I

admit that it creates some complexity in the short term, but in the longer term, it

does force us to think about phasing out fossil fuels. Until now, we said we had to do

it, but we did it slowly. In my opinion, the high price of energy is a trigger, although it

has not yet led to any global reflection on energy management in the next 10, 20 and

30 years.

And what do you think about France's strategy and its dependency on nuclear


For the next 30 years I am in favour of nuclear power, even though rebuilding a

nuclear industry in France strikes me as a difficult challenge. We are already 8 billion

people and we are not building solar or wind power plants fast enough to meet all

our needs. Nuclear power is an energy that involves risks, like any technology. It has a low level of acceptability, but it is capable of producing mass energy while giving renewable energies time to develop. The problem is that we are proceeding too slowly. A wind project already takes 5 to 10 years to be developed, and the levels of acceptability are constantly eroding.

What do you think is the reason? Why this lack of popularity?

Always the same attitude: OK at others but not at my home. We all want renewable

energies, but many wind farm projects are rejected because local protection

associations file appeals. Surely for good reasons, but we will have to make some

choices at some point. The situation is becoming complex...

The government is currently pushing companies and others to reduce their energy

consumption. Do you think this is a step in the right direction?

I think we should leave the industrial sector alone for a while, and tackle mobility and

the housing sectors first. The industry has been making efforts for several years

already, and we are reaching the end of what we can do without changing the

technology. There are certainly still some potential energy savings niches, but only a

technological leap, requiring major investments by companies to review their

industrial processes, would enable us to go beyond some residual and marginal

savings. I don't think this can happen. What might happen is that they won't reinvest

in France but rather build their factories elsewhere, because one of the choices of

industrialists when there are too many constraints is to go somewhere else.

And the effect of the energy crisis on manufacturers, what do you think it will be?

Today, manufacturers are subjected to three constraints: first, the price constraint,

then the regulatory constraint and finally the climate constraint. For the first two, we

are governed by the energy code, which includes the Nome law that affects our

current market mechanisms and therefore prices. This law expires in 2025. The

government that will be in place will have to choose either to maintain or develop

these market rules, or to change and return to a regulated system. There is very little

visibility, which is worrying. The third constraint, once again, is the climate risk.

Globally, we know that the climate will change, but will it get colder locally? Will

there be less accessible water? Depending on the region, the situation will not be the

same. For example, many food-related activities require an abundance of water and

surface area to operate: how will these adapt? There are too many unknowns over a

10-year horizon to make a rational decision. As a result, we often reason in the short

term according to regulatory and price constraints.

Should we focus on resilience then?

This is another falsely simple argument. Everyone wants resilience without knowing

precisely and concretely what it is. Should I move away from my workplace, or should

I move closer to it? Should I go local for local's sake, i.e. dismantle my centralized

operations and replace them with several smaller units? It's hard to define resilience.

What are the jobs of the future and which ones will disappear? The concept is

understood but the concrete applications are still very unclear. It will take a few

more years of explanation, maturation, and evolution, with no doubt the

implementation of restrictive measures given that spontaneous changes in behavior

are rare.

Are you afraid that this energy crisis, and the resulting food crisis, will make us

regress from an environmental point of view?

Yes, certainly. Currently, our two priorities are water, then food, in that order.

Deforestation and land artificialization are going to be used to feed human and

animal populations, even if it means eliminating biodiversity: most people are not

ready to voluntarily change their behavior and the impact on their daily lives to

protect species. We don't want to talk about degrowth, we don't want to talk about

non-growth, so we are obliged to maintain or increase our energy consumption:

every day, we still prefer to degrade water surfaces and agricultural land rather than

restrict ourselves to applications based on abundant energy. Will there be a

technological revolution? A human one? I honestly don't know. The energy crisis is

impacting our standard of living.... Although we are doing well in France, it is the

poorest people, individually or collectively, who are suffering and will suffer the most

Article written by Axelle Rimpot


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