EDF's head of smart customers, Rebecca Rosling, explains the value of simple communication, sourcing new ideas from different sources, and why it’s such an exciting time to be in energy.

What was your first job in the utilities sector?

I joined EDF on their graduate training scheme, back when EDF was a supplier (London Electricity) and beginning to think about generation. I worked in different wholesale and market facing roles before moving to R&D a couple of years ago.

What has been your career highlight thus far?

It may be a cliché but definitely my current role where I lead a talented and diverse team with a broad remit to support decarbonisation of energy systems and end-use applications, supporting EDF’s purpose to help Britain achieve Net Zero.

I find it very motivational to be genuinely supporting the net zero drive in lots of different ways and I love that I can be talking about producing hydrogen from nuclear energy one minute and working with a heat pump innovator five minutes later.

I also get to work a lot with my colleagues in France and across Europe and it’s always great to see where we can learn from each other.

How would you describe your creative process in three words?

Different skills collaborating

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Never be afraid to ask a stupid question – the chances are somebody else is just as confused as you.

Did you learn anything new about collaborating or innovating as a team or business during the pandemic?

Like many I was blown away by how brilliantly my team continued to operate when we went fully remote with very little notice. But I think we’ve all noticed that over the longer term we missed those corridor connections and informal networking, which was particularly hard for people who were new to the industry or the company.

So I think what we’re still learning is how best to let those interactions happen without forcing a commute five days a week – and how to include people who can’t travel on any given day.

What excites you most about the next 10 years in the utilities sector – any trends, tech or specific innovations?

The renewed focus on net zero makes it such an exciting time to be in energy, there are innovations springing up all over the value chain so it’s impossible to pick one! It’s great to be there right at the beginning of the green hydrogen market – seeing the market design, innovations and business models all feeding off each other.

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What do you think will be the defining factor in the UK hitting its net zero targets?

Public appetite and political commitment – there will be plenty of bumps along the way as we address difficult sectors like domestic heating and without the public understanding the benefits, we won’t succeed.

What is the change you’d most like to see within the utilities industry?

As chair of EDF’s women’s network I think I have to say true inclusion within the industry. We have a long way to go on representation of women and ethnic minorities, but I’d also broaden it to inclusion of different ways of thinking and welcoming different viewpoints.

How do you feel utilities companies can collaborate more – or more effectively?

We need to learn to speak each other’s language! All industries have their jargon, but within energy I find that each sub-sector has their own ways of speaking, their own preoccupations and we need to learn how to simplify the message to get new ideas from different sources.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the utilities sector at present?

The sheer amount of change that we need to deliver in the next ten years – in infrastructure, system operation and changes to behaviour. On the electricity generation side alone, we need to build much more capacity each year than we’ve ever managed in any single year.

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