Energy Efficiency to be the bedrock of Northern France’s “Third Industrial Revolution“

Nord Pas-de-Calais is an area that was the epitome of industrial decline but which has now taken to pioneering change. The third industrial revolution, theorized by Jeremy Rifkin, will focus on energy efficiency and information sharing, as experimented in the area. Following is an analysis of the “Master Plan“ for the energy performance of Nord Pas-de-Calais.

A “Master Plan“ for the Nord Pas-de-Calais region

On 25 October, international prospective expert Jeremy Rifkin revealed its “Master Plan“ to launch the Nord Pas-de-Calais region into the “third industrial revolution“ – that of a stronger, zero-carbon economy. Convinced that each industrial revolution stems from a change in energy sources, Jeremy Rifkin foresees the upcoming revolution as being that of renewables and energy efficiency, made possible by information and communication technology (ICT).

Unprecedented at a regional scale, the initiative put its participants to work for nearly one year. Jeremy Rifkin led a team of economists and researchers from prestigious institutions such as the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). But more importantly, it included many contributions from local players; the one’s who will be at the heart of the revolution to come. “This collaborative piece of work, led by a charismatic figure and remarkable collective intelligence, allowed hope to emerge and an optimistic perspective for the future.“ Explains Daniel Percheron, President of the Nord Pas-de-Calais Regional Council. Carried by strong political support at regional level, the initiative delivered an extremely ambitious plan.

The plan aims at setting up schemes to optimize energy consumption in the region through intelligent energy distribution networks and interconnected eco-neighborhoods. In this framework, Rexel offers innovative technology solutions; mobilizes experts on energy efficiency projects; sets up appropriate financing solutions; raises awareness with professionals and provides them with training for new solutions and technologies.

The five pillars of the energy transition according to Jeremy Rifkin

By 2050, Rifkin’s master plan sets for Nord Pas-de-Calais to reduce energy consumption by 60%, and to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4. Economists evaluate at €200 billion the necessary private and public investment to meet these goals. The cuts on the region’s energy bill will largely justify the investment (€7 billion in annual savings until 2050); an extra €10 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will also be generated each year in comparison to the business-as-usual scenario; and 165,000 net jobs will have been created by 2050.

To do so, the scenario applies the 5 pillars described by Jeremy Rifkin in The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan):

  • “Shifting to Renewable Energy;
  • Buildings as Power Plants: each building becomes a mini-power plant to collect locally available renewable energy;
  • Deploying Hydrogen and other storage technologies in each building and across the infrastructure to accumulate energy from intermittent energy sources;
  • Using Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an intelligent energy sharing distribution network that acts just like the Internet, allowing businesses and homeowners to produce their own energy and share it with each other;
  • Transitioning the transport fleet to electric, plug in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a smart continental energy Internet.“

The cornerstone of the next industrial revolution: energy efficiency

In 2050, Nord Pas-de-Calais will use 100% of energy from renewables. Meeting such an objective would simply be impossible for a few centuries at the current energy savings rate. So to reach its goals, the Master Plan recommends massive energy savings, in all sectors of the economy, that is a 60% cut in energy consumption by 2050.

John “Skip“ Laitner’s (ACEEE) “DEEPER“ economic model shows that the more important energy savings investments are initially, the better the return on the long run. Thus, the ambitious scenario presented in the Master Plan holds that an original investment that’s 7 times higher than under business as-usual cuts energy bills 3 times more, increases GDP 4 times more, and creates up to 4 times more jobs.

By presenting his Master Plan for a third industrial revolution in Nord Pas-de-Calais, Jeremy Rifkin and all the participants in the project aimed to convey a sense of optimism, the feeling of a unique opportunity to be seized; the main driver of which will be the ability to drastically improve energy efficiency in the region.

Read more:

Summary of the “Master Plan“ presented by Jeremy Rifkin on 25 October 2013 (in French)

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