A miltant proponent of solar energy development for well over 40 years, André Joffre presides over the Tecsol solar energy technical design office, which he himself founded.
Innovation, research, operation - he assists and guides project instigators in their ventures while enjoying a privileged seat from which he can observe the surge in smart system requirements, with energy and digital uniting as one. Here's what he had to say.
Tell us a bit about Tecsol...
André Joffre : Tecsol is a business specializing in solar energy. We set up business in perpignan nearly 40 years ago and employ a staff of around forty here at home and in the overseas territories. Our mission is to devleop projects on behalf of a wide diversity of project instigators. All that is of course in the solar energy sector, be it direct thermal for hot water or photovoltaic for electricity.
How are today's needs changing ?
André Joffre : No one can deny change has been quite spectacular! In photovoltaics, the pivotal period was ten or so years ago, when prices began falling to what is now a tenth. And the same goes for batteries. With price no longer an issue, they have become commodities.
So now, instead of focusing on the cost of energy production, it's time to concentrate on how that production is used. An obvious example is replacing petrol and diesel cars by electric vehicles, whose energy can come from soalr panels. It's very important paradigm shift and the public are ready and willing. In the end, the house, the car, and energy production will all be a part of the same system.
"Soaring energy prices are changing the game and driving major innovation"
Where does digital come in with regard to these new uses ?
André Joffre : It's at the very core of them. Solar electricity generation these days is managed. Qualified companies know the ins-and-outs of its practical implementation. the last peice in the puzzle is the dovatailing of production with use, but that's another kettle of fish!
Digital solutions will enable this bridge to be built and new models to emerge. We could for instance stream electricity from solar generators through the Enedis national power grid alongside the output from major operators. We're already conducting experiments whereby an owner can charge their electric car with their own solar energy several kilometres out from home. That's one example of smarter use. the energy is more abundant and cheaper, so if we can synergize the variable output of a solar instalaltion with the storage capacity of a traction battery, miracles are on the cards since the average vehicle spends 80% of its time in the garage! As soon as it is connected to the grid, the car becomes a potential energy storage reservoir. And that's a real game changer.
What are some of the combined energy and digital projects you are working on ?
André Joffre : We have several under way in the scope of the DERBI competitiveness cluster. I'm thinking of the Flexitanie project, aimed at small vehicle fleets assuming the role of interaction with buldings ecosystems. At Tecsol itself we are developing the MOBELSOL project with national grid operator Enedis and a start-up, Sunchain, as well as a local energy management body. The idea is to allow an owner to connect their vehicle to a charging post, even far from their home, and receive their own solar energy produced tens of kilometres away. It's feasible technically but not yet administratively. our role is therefore to anticipate what happens in the near future.
"Smashing energy barriers to smithereens"
Have you identified any roadblocks in the development of energy digitalization ?
André Joffre : Solar has won its part of the game but outside constraints remain. Solar energy must be unchained! We have to allow it the freedom to shake the foundations so that we can imagine brand new schemes. We are convinced innovations will come flooding in as soon as conditions are convened whereby different scenarios can be explored. A big advantage of digital is that it doesn't require huge investment, just lots of imagination. We need freedom more than we need money. The energy worlds is comportmentalized, shackled. We have to smash those barriers to smithereens!
What are your expectations from Open Energies ?
André Joffre : Trade shows are where encounters are made, relations initiated, prospects generated. In the fields of energy and digital, ideas don't just arrive out of nowhere onto a sheet of paper! Human input is needed for imagining and sharing. A new world is emerging under our noses. We can't shy away from the shock effect of energy price hikes on the same scale as during the oil crisis of the late 1970s. This changes the game completely and kick-starts a major innovation drive, which is fantastic! There's genuine need for a trade show dedicated to the digitalization of energy!