Ann-Christin Gerach

“The energy sector is facing a deep transformation, and the pace of these changes is surely no longer the one we were used to in the past. Today’s business environment is very volatile and many paradigms have shifted,” says Ann-Christin Gerlach, Executive Assistant at Enel, Italy’s most important distributor of electricity. 

According to her, the most important move in this context is to embrace change and engage in an open dialogue with stakeholders. That’s why she decided to participate in the 4th edition of our Future Grid Managers programme which is currently approaching its closing seminar. With 13 participants from 11 distribution and transmission system operators (DSOs and TSOs) from all over Europe, the programme definitely fosters an open dialogue and allows for exchange of best practices and ideas on technological innovations, growth strategies and potential future business models. 

“I was particularly interested in the management of digital infrastructure, the integration of renewable energy sources, and the development of solutions for communities and cities that foster a new era of consumer choice. Through the network digitalisation, the network operator becomes the first choice to enable services for other sectors in a cost-efficient manner: electric mobility, data collection, smart urban services and so forth. An open and sustainable digital grid enforces actions of all actors (prosumers, aggregators, retailers, ESCOs, regulators, etc.), advising them about energy usage, fostering energy efficiency and market competition. 
This kind of smart convergence cannot be achieved by technological evolution alone, but by means of best practice sharing and an open dialogue across DSOs, TSOs and other stakeholders, in order to achieve outstanding performance in terms of quality of service to the final customer and innovation. In this respect, the Vlerick Future Grid Managers programme represents a unique learning and sharing platform.”

“In particular, with my project team I had the chance to work on a Digital Energy Platform model in which the electricity grid enables new customer centric services, leveraging on the Internet of Things and data management in a Big Data logic. The programme can thus be seen as an innovation hub, in which industry experts of various nations meet with the aim of supporting the design of the future energy sector.”

Now that the programme is coming to an end, Ann-Christin admits that she will truly miss the interaction with the other participants. However, the network she has built up with professors, executives, regulatory entities etc., will continue to stay alive as she returns to daily professional life. “It is very hard to concretely describe what you really set up during the programme and I don’t want to anticipate, but today I am very glad to know that I have colleagues at many others DSOs and TSOs that I can contact any time for brainstorming, benchmarking and a quick call on any topic.”

Yvonne Coughlan

Yvonne Coughlan, Eirgrid (Ireland)
Manager Planning Standards & Tariffs

It provides an interesting perspective on the future trends and uncertainties in the energy sector and the associated opportunities for innovation within our own companies. For me personally, I specifically gained key learnings on scenario planning and how it can be applied to define a strategy and identify various visions of the future energy system. Also interesting was the broader perspective on the European energy market and the business models of other utilities. As for the learning experience I really enjoyed the approach of combining excellent speakers with the use of  case studies to illustrate the theory, thus stimulating interesting discussions amongst the participants. Finally, I was able to network as well with colleagues from all across Europe.

Bram Reinders

Bram Reinders, Alliander (TSO)
Alliances manager

“Next to a strong curriculum of energy markets and its regulation, our team prepared a business plan for storage services in the B2B energy market. Energy storage is the key to integrating renewable energy into the grid, and essential to guaranteeing energy stability and reliability. It became clear to me that the role of the DSO will change more significant and quicker than current EU policy papers suggest if we want a well-functioning Internal Energy Market (IEM).”

Bart Bruyneel

Bart Bruyneel, Eandis (DSO), Belgium
Director Controlling

“The combination of a very strong focus on the content of energy markets and regulation, a well balanced management part based on the actual needs in energy companies, practical tools that can be easily used, and of course a lot of opportunities to network with other energy players worldwide, makes this programme a unique opportunity for me.”

Sophie Lafon

Sophie Lafon, RTE (TSO), France
Projects and Programs Piloting Department

“This programme is a great opportunity to leave my daily job and to meet other European colleagues coming from different countries, and to discuss the future of the energy market, and especially the future of our companies.”

Federico Caleno

Federico Caleno, Enel Distribuzione (DSO), Italy

“This programme is really interesting because it is the first time that TSOs and DSOs can cooperate to define something in common for the future. For me, coming from a DSO, it is very interesting to work with TSOs and to exchange views and experiences to improve the energy market in Europe.”

Marie Hayden

Marie Hayden, EirGrid (TSO), Ireland
Manager Connection Policy and Contracts

“The main strengths of the programme are: first of all, networking, I am getting to know very interesting people from different TSOs and DSOs from all over Europe; and also the speakers have been really great, both the external speakers and the speakers from Vlerick Business School.”

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