Roger Léron Award 2019 Nominee
Illustration : Frauke Thies
Frauke has been advocating for the energy transition, and in particular also the engagement of energy users in this transition, throughout her working life. Her first big focus was on campaigning for an ambitious and binding target for renewable energy sources. Working for Greenpeace, she coordinated European campaign activities, while also engaging in building alliances with different stakeholders from industry, consumer groups as well as e.g. social housing organisations to raise awareness and promote this objective. Following the successful adoption of Europe’s 2020 targets, she was then very deeply involved in the legislative process for the preparation, adoption and implementation of the 2008 Renewable Energy Directive. In her roles as Energy Policy Director for Greenpeace and later as Policy Director for SolarPower Europe, she advocated in particular for support mechanisms that enabled also new and local players and technologies to participate and grow in the market.
Frauke then joined the Smart Energy Demand Coalition, a business association for Demand Response, which was later expanded in scope and rebranded into smartEn, Smart Energy Europe. Within this role, her focus has been on unlocking decentralised flexibility resources as a critical backbone to enable the renewable energy transition. Alongside the direct work with the European institutions, she engaged her organisation’s membership as well as partners in consumer groups and other business associations in advocating for an Energy Union with the energy user at its heart. Specifically, she successfully worked for the Clean Energy Package (adopted in spring 2019) to enable citizens as well as businesses to engage in demand response, the self-generation of renewable energy resources and energy storage and thus allow them to play an active and constructive role in the energy transition.
When Frauke joined the Smart Energy Demand Coalition SEDC in 2015, she realised that the association’s focus on Demand Response Aggregation was a very relevant aspect of the energy transition, but the energy transition did not depend on individual technologies anymore. Citizens, businesses and communities were increasingly engaging in renewable energy self-generation, storage and demand response combined and the solutions became a lot more powerful as a package.
This is why she proposed an overhaul of the association she was leading: moving away from the paradigm of technology specific associations, the SEDC became smartEn, Smart Energy Europe. The aim of the rebranded association is to offer an integrated perspective to decentralised, decarbonised and digital energy solutions to drive the energy transition forward in a sustainable and reliable manner. As such, smartEn represents a new model of business association, taking a horizontal approach that is looking at services and solutions, rather than technologies and sectors. Since the rebranding in December 2017, smartEn has doubled in size and substantially increased its political weight as central voice for consumer empowerment for the energy transition.
The rebranding of the association also helped anticipate the challenge of changing roles in the sector: when Frauke started as Executive Director at the SEDC, the association was identified primarily as the association for independent Demand Response Aggregators. However, the association could have become victim of its own success, as more and more Demand Response Aggregators have recently been acquired by large energy suppliers. While this could have been a threat for the SEDC in the past, it does not put into question the rebranded smartEn with its diverse membership for cutting edge solutions for the energy transition.
Through her work for renewable energy between 2005-2012, Frauke played an important role in securing Europe’s binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and the specific legislation at European and national level to secure its realisation, including in particular also decentralised solutions and new players like emerging local initiatives and businesses as well as individual citizens. This could be achieved through the definition of targeted support policies that made the energy transition accessible for everyone.
Since 2012, Frauke then engaged more specifically on the activation of decentralised flexibility resources to support the uptake and system integration of renewable energy. In particular, she played a leading role in influencing the European policy discussions to result in a number of very concrete aspects for decentralised solutions and energy user empowerment in the legislative Clean Energy Package for all Europeans that was adopted in spring 2019. The topics she shaped with her association and secured in this package were, among others
The finalisation of the legislative measures and their implementation can never be attributed to one person or organisation only. Also, their effects are not always easy to assess or relate back to one specific measure. However, the development of the European energy sector proves that significant progress has been made following the adoption of the legislation in general.
In her work for the energy transition, Frauke realised that the uptake of renewable energy sources would hit a limit – both technically because the resilience of the system could not be guaranteed without sufficient flexibility and an appropriate market design that supported this, and also in terms of social acceptance if citizens and energy users were excluded from participating in and benefitting from an inclusive, socially just and affordable energy transition. This motivated her change to the SEDC (later smartEn) in time before the challenges of renewable energy system integration became most prevalent. She then re-organised and positioned the association in time to make use of the political dynamics created by the Juncker Commission.
Before the Commission announced its Energy Union Strategy, Frauke had already worked with her association to fill the concept of the Energy Union with life and steer it in the direction of consumer empowerment. When the Commission then, as expected, went out with a message of consumer empowerment, the SEDC/smartEn was ready to explain what consumer empowerment should mean in the energy sector, and what the Commission could propose to realise it. In doing so, she combined the aim of creating an energy system that is ready to drive and integrate the further uptake of renewable energy sources, while enabling citizens and decentralised players to take an active part and allowing all energy users to benefit from the transition.
Frauke is passionate about the sustainable energy transition. Thanks to her strong commitment, authenticity and knowledge, she has become a well-known face in the European energy debate, engaging in numerous events and panel debates where she takes the voice for local empowerment through decentralised, decarbonised and digital solutions. It is also thanks to this drive that she managed to lead the SEDC through the rebranding to become smartEn. With an inspiring vision and the effective involvement of members and other stakeholders, she convinced the association’s membership of a fundamental change of structures and scope, resulting in an entirely new and successful type of association in the EU energy context.