China Daily (Hong Kong) - - Q & A WITH CEO -

Is­abelle Kocher has five chil­dren, is the first fe­male CEO of an energy com­pany in France and has a pas­sion for all things green.

To many in the in­dus­try, she is a real life Won­der Woman, although she would prob­a­bly dis­agree with that de­scrip­tion.

“Energy is the ba­sis for ev­ery­thing — ed­u­ca­tion, health pro­tec­tion, and eco­nomic and so­cial progress,” said Kocher, CEO of Engie Group, which spe­cial­izes in natural gas, renewable energy, dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and elec­tric­ity de­vel­op­ment.

Energy is her pas­sion along with her fam­ily. She drives a hy­dro­gen-fu­eled car and runs a non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, the Ter­rawatt Ini­tia­tive, to help com­mu­ni­ties in re­mote vil­lages across the world ac­cess clean elec­tric­ity.

Oh, and she also loves play­ing the pi­ano. “When I’m at home, I prac­tice with my chil­dren,” she said.

But vis­its to China have put those ses­sions on hold as Engie ex­plores busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties here. The global energy ser­vices group op­er­ates in 70 coun­tries on five con­ti­nents and has more than 150,000 em­ploy­ees.

Last year, Engie re­ported world­wide rev­enues of 66.6 bil­lion euros ($76.7 bil­lion).

“China is be­com­ing more im­por­tant to Engie,” Kocher said dur­ing a visit to Bei­jing. “We are very am­bi­tious about what we can do with lo­cal stake­hold­ers.”

In a far-reach­ing in­ter­view with China Daily, she talked about the Euro­pean group’s vi­sion and strat­egy in China, as well as her busi­ness phi­los­o­phy and her in­ter­est in sculp­ture.

How does China fit into your global busi­ness strat­egy?

We are very ex­cited about the Chinese mar­ket and we are work­ing on a lot of projects here. Engie has de­cided to fo­cus all its resources, in­vest­ment, skills and time mainly on three sec­tors: renewable energy, the natural gas in­dus­try chain and energy ef­fi­ciency ser­vices.

Our vi­sion could be de­scribed as 3D — de­car­bonized, de­cen­tral­ized and dig­i­tal. De­car­bonized means the use of renewable energy com­bined with gas. We be­lieve the fu­ture will be based on gas plus renewable energy.

De­cen­tral­ized means that in the fu­ture a lot more energy will be pro­duced at the site where it is con­sumed. Dig­i­tal means that all the man­age­ment and oper­a­tions systems in the fu­ture will be based on dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy.

This strat­egy has been positive for Engie’s ac­tiv­i­ties in China, as it is in line with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s energy vi­sion to build a clean, low car­bon, safe and ef­fi­cient mod­ern sys­tem.

To re­al­ize our 3D strat­egy, we are in­vest­ing about 22 bil­lion euros in these sec­tors world­wide be­tween 2016 and 2018. We are also sell­ing about 20 per­cent of Engie’s as­sets, which are not in line with the 3D vi­sion, in­clud­ing coal and oil busi­nesses.

Will Engie in­crease its in­vest­ment and ex­pand its pres­ence in China?

We aim to in­vest about 1 bil­lion euros in China in the fu­ture. We have al­ready identified four key sec­tors for in­vest­ment and ex­pan­sion.

They are renewable energy, green mo­bil­ity, dis­trict heat­ing and cool­ing in cities, and bio­gas. I be­lieve the fu­ture is bright for Engie and China.

We have skills and so­lu­tions that have been im­ple­mented in many other coun­tries, and we can bring that ex­pe­ri­ence to China.

For ex­am­ple, the coun­try is pur­su­ing green trans­port. We have built more than 50,000 charg­ing sta­tions for elec­tric cars in the world.

We hope to pro­vide smart charg­ing and man­age­ment systems of green ve­hi­cles here. China is also the largest mar­ket for so­lar energy.

In April, Engie ac­quired a 30 per­cent stake in Unisun (Energy Group), a Chinese so­lar pho­to­voltaic (PV) de­vel­oper.

We are also as­sess­ing sev­eral more op­por­tu­ni­ties and will con­tinue to in­crease in­vest­ment in the Chinese mar­ket. We will fo­cus on clean, renewable energy and dig­i­tal so­lu­tions with our lo­cal part­ners.

We have a lot of op­tions and work with a great deal of Chinese com­pa­nies. Now, the key thing is to find good part­ners and de­velop a work­ing re­la­tion­ship on a large scale.

What kind of role do you think China should play in deal­ing with global cli­mate change?

A few weeks ago, 19 of the G20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the Euro­pean Union na­tions and China, reaf­firmed their strong com­mit­ment to the “ir­re­versible” Paris cli­mate agree­ment.

In­deed, China is al­ready a world leader in deal­ing with global cli­mate change. The coun­try has made its plans known with its de­clared goal of peak­ing car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by around 2030 or ear­lier.

It also aims to in­crease its share of non-fos­sil sources in its pri­mary energy con­sump­tion to 20 per­cent, while re­duc­ing car­bon in­ten­sity by be­tween 60 per­cent to 65 per­cent from 2005 lev­els. China has the chance to em­brace a sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth model, which will ben­e­fit its peo­ple, and be­come a shin­ing ex­am­ple for other coun­tries to fol­low.

What busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties might arise through China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive?

We have a lot of part­ner­ships out­side China with do­mes­tic com­pa­nies. For ex­am­ple, we work in Brazil with Chinese play­ers in ma­jor projects. The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive can be seen as a way to ad­vance glob­al­iza­tion and open up trade.

As an energy com­pany with strong world­wide foot­prints, we are fol­low­ing the Ini­tia­tive with in­ter­est. And we would love to ex­plore po­ten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tion projects with Chinese com­pa­nies not only here but in third-party mar­kets, which are part of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Since you work in renewable energy, do you have a “green” life­style?

Yes, I drive a hy­dro­gen­fu­eled car in France and I be­lieve green tech­nol­ogy is the fu­ture.

From an ef­fi­ciency point of view, di­ver­sity is key to the in­ter­nal sys­tem of the com­pany. The in­ter­nal com­mu­nity of Engie has to re­flect the com­mu­nity of our clients, that is, to be a mir­ror of so­ci­ety.

So, gender di­ver­sity is es­sen­tial, as is gen­er­a­tional di­ver­sity and cul­tural di­ver­sity. Again, we should be a mir­ror im­age of our clients in China. Right now, one out of ev­ery three se­nior man­agers ap­pointed by Engie is fe­male.

Age: 50



2016 on­wards: Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Engie, pre­vi­ously GDF Suez

2014-16: Deputy CEO and Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, GDF Suez

2011: Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer, GDF Suez

2009: Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Ly­on­naise des Eaux, sub­sidiary

1997-99: Di­rec­tor of the Postal and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Bud­gets.


1987: Grad­u­ated from Ecole Nor­male Su­perieure

1991: Grad­u­ated from Mines Paris­tech en­gi­neer­ing school

Mas­ter De­gree in Quan­tum Op­tics. Post­grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate in Physics.

How do you spend your time when you are not work­ing? Do you have hob­bies?

Mostly I am with my fam­ily and chil­dren. I also have quite a lot of hob­bies. I like sport and I used to swim a lot. I also love play­ing the pi­ano. In fact, I prac­tice with my chil­dren when­ever I get the chance. An­other ma­jor in­ter­est is sculp­ture. I try to go to ex­hi­bi­tions and mu­se­ums . . . I am fas­ci­nated by sculp­ture.



Is­abelle Kocher, CEO of French en­gery com­pany Engie Group.

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