Next month’s POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe in Milan promises to be one of the most significant stagings of the event in its 24-year history, writes Nigel Blackaby

 

The Summer Solstice seems as good a time as any to be in the city of Milan and to be thinking about energy.

Midsummer’s day – 21 June – affords around 17 hours of daylight, with the sun not due to set until 9:53 pm. Power industry professionals can therefore look forward to long, warm evenings in which to unwind and reflect on the information they have obtained and the technology they have encountered at Europe’s largest electricity sector conference and exhibition – POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe.

However, it may not be an entirely relaxing prospect, since attendees are going to discover, if they don’t already know, that change has become the norm in the power sector. In Europe, the goal of producing ever-cleaner power will continue in the wake of a rebooted COP 21-inspired environmental agenda. New developments in technology are placing renewable energy in the mainstream, while at the same time opening up the market to new participants. The integration of the digital world with physical assets is opening up huge efficiency and optimization opportunities as well as the prospect of new services.

They will learn that technology is creating the potential for a future energy system where electricity dominates through a complex system connected through an energy cloud which features electric vehicles, energy storage, decentralized generation, microgrids, flexible capacity, demand side management, prosumers and two-way connectivity. All this may seem a bit daunting, but it does offers the prospect of business opportunities for visionary developers of infrastructure and their technology and service providers.

With such a comprehensive and varied conference programme in prospect, set against a background of significant change and opportunity within the industry, it promises to be one of the most significant stagings of the event in its 24-year history.

The joint POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe event returns to Italy after a gap of five years, and will be held in the MiCo Milano exhibition and congress centre (formerly known as FieraMilano City) on 21-23 June. Over the years, Milan has staged some of the largest and busiest power sector gatherings. The city is located in the epicentre of Italy’s industrial and manufacturing region, in which the power industry has played such a big part and where so much industrial innovation has taken place over the years. So, as well as being one of Europe’s most attractive and vibrant cities, it is also a most suitable place for Europe’s power industry professionals to convene.

As alluded to earlier, the power industry looks very different today to five years ago and, as a result, so does this year’s conference programme, which is entirely concentrated into the second and third days of the show. This new format means that the first day of the event, 21 June, is reserved for two grand set-piece features of the show, which are open to all attendees. These are, firstly, the Opening Keynote Session in the morning and, secondly, the Plenary Panel Discussion in the afternoon. The keynote promises to be an upbeat celebration of an industry which, across Europe, has led the charge in decarbonization of power production and is keen to seize the opportunities that will arise from this ongoing transition.

The event in Milan has had the official Patronage of Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development conferred upon it, in recognition of its importance to the electricity supply industry and towards energy efficiency. A new Minister, Dr Carlo Calenda (the former vice-Minister), was inaugurated in May, and among his in-tray items is a letter of invitation to deliver a Keynote address at POWER-GEN Europe. Other Keynote presentations will come from Enel’s Head of Global Generation, Enrico Viale, and the Chairman of WEC Romania, Dr Iulian Iancu.

For the big TV-style debate, our regular moderator from the BBC’s Hardtalk programme, Stephen Sackur, is back to tease out and challenge opinions, as our panel are invited to describe how effectively the industry is moving from ‘Survival to Success’. With a panel featuring top-level representatives from Sorgenia, Ansaldo Energia, Siemens, GE Energy and the association of Mediterranean Energy Regulators (MEDREG), it promises to reveal much about the future direction of the industry.

The BBC’s Stephen Sackur will once again chair the Plenary Panel discussion

The opening day of the show will also be an opportunity to visit the exhibit floor before the conference kicks off the following day. The 400 exhibits will be open all day from 09:30 until 18:00 and will feature the cream of the world’s power equipment and services companies. The scale of the exhibition, across halls 3 and 4 at the MiCo Milano, never ceases to amaze visitors – and with so much state-of -the -art engineering technology on show, it seems somehow fitting that the event is staged in a former Alfa Romeo factory. Many exhibitors have offerings suited to distributed and decentralized generation, reflecting the growth of this approach to meeting electricity demand. A dedicated decentralized power pavilion in Hall 3 will be a feature of the exhibition floor. This is the first POWER-GEN Europe since the division of Alstom’s power businesses between GE and Ansaldo Energia, and it will be interesting to see this reflected in their booths in Milan.

The Advisory Boards of POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe have worked to ensure that topics relevant to today’s industry in transition are at the forefront of the programme and that traditional topics are approached in a fresh and relevant way. POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe is the industry event which continues to embrace the entire spectrum of power generation sources from both strategic and technical viewpoints. It does not shy away from addressing issues around nuclear and clean coal-fired power generation alongside wind, solar and hydropower, because these all form part of the energy mix across Europe and their integration is a high priority for the sector.

The conference programme offers delegates 12 main themes to choose from, allowing the opportunity to examine the industry’s disparate elements either individually or in the context of a fast-integrating power system, and to make sense of the changes occurring. This year the programme includes an entire day devoted to Energy Storage, exploring European policy, regulation, case studies and research. Other new feature themes include those covering finance, hydropower and a guide to electrical generators. Another new feature and highlight within the conference will be the Utility Leaders Roundtable – a moderated panel discussion featuring several Italian utilities and municipalities who will outline views on the remodelling of traditional utilities, and the potential for new services and new market entrants.

Back on the exhibition floor there is a programme of presentation, panels and roundtables, open to all attendees, taking place in the Presentation Theatre. This is a new feature of the event and is conveniently located next to a refreshments concession where attendees can take in some educational presentations over lunch or a coffee. The Diplomatic Quarter is back again, with an expanded number of countries, represented by trade officials who are able to discuss international business opportunities in the energy sector.

The printed show newspaper is being replaced this year by a video show daily, delivering news, opinions and excerpts from the event straight to participants’ email inboxes. Its editor and videographer will be roaming around the show, reporting on interesting news stories and product releases.

Another video camera crew will be based at the PennWell Hub studio booth, reporting on POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe with filmed interviews and features which will be broadcast on the PennWell Hub power news web portal. They will be filming all the conference sessions and making them available to all registered conference delegates to stream via the internet after the event.

POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe this month launched its second annual market-wide survey, the POWER-GEN Europe Confidence Index. Attendees at the show will be invited to register their opinions on a range of issues confronting the sector, which will culminate in the publication of study later in the year. This year’s Index results will allow the industry to begin tracking trends in industry confidence, and to compare changes year-on-year. The POWER-GEN Europe Confidence Index is unique because it voices the collective opinions of power industry professionals themselves, above those of independent analysts and forecasters. This makes it truly grounded and a valuable guide to the future of our industry. For those unable to be there in person, the survey can be completed online by visiting www.powergeneurope.com.

Those planning to attend the show would be well advised to download the POWER-GEN Europe & Renewable Energy World Europe smartphone app, which will act as a pocket guide to all that is happening at the MiCo Milano on 21-23 June. It is a convenient and lightweight alternative to the printed Show Guide, which will still be available on-site.

The opportunity to escape the office or plant environment for a few days can be enormously valuable in refreshing industry knowledge, gaining new insights and building valuable business networks. The combination between the extensive multi-track conference and large exhibition provides ample scope to collect new information and connect to the trends and changes in the industry. In this respect, POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe represent a unique meeting place for power industry professionals.

The world’s leading technology providers and thought leaders will be attending, bringing with them solutions that are addressing the needs of an increasingly complex and interconnected energy system. Attendees at POWER-GEN Europe and Renewable Energy World Europe will leave Milan with much inspiration about how electricity can play an ever greater role in driving Europe’s economies and modern lifestyles, and how they can contribute to this noble cause.

Nigel Blackaby is Director of Conferences, PennWell Global Power Group.