We talked to Dirk Van Evercooren, founder of ODE, about sustainable energy programs, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dirk Van Evercooren: We are healthy, luckily, thanks to being very cautious to respect all the guidelines to combat the pandemic such as: avoid unnecessary travels, avoid multiple contacts, always wear face masks, work from home, etc.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded ODE.
Dirk Van Evercooren: Trained as an economist, I started my career in the world of social-economic discussions. This included taking part in advisory boards on topics like sustainability, energy, mobility, research, fiscal policy, innovation, and so on, to feed policy formulation with advice. A focus on energy brought me to join the electricity and gas regulator as Director Markets. This also allowed me to be active as Task Force chair in the Council of European Energy Regulators and as President in the European Association of Issuing Bodies, where energy certificate standardization is the goal. In November, I joined the Organisation for Sustainable Energy Flanders, the federation of companies and organizations active in renewable energy and sustainable energy use topics as Managing Director.
How does ODE innovate?
Dirk Van Evercooren: ODE is a federation of companies and other stakeholders in the field of renewable energy and sustainable energy use. We have over 270 members, including many research institutions, local authorities, and companies. We are not a start-up, though some of our members are. We support innovative use of technology in the energy and building sectors, such as smart metering, energy storage, smart energy management system including heat pumps, system integration, and sector coupling, smart charging of electric vehicles, etc.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dirk Van Evercooren: We are happy to see that the energy transition towards a climate-neutral society and economic system is such an important challenge that more and more companies, research institutions, public entities, and cooperatives join our federation. This ensures a stable financial situation that allows us to further develop the services we provide to our members.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Dirk Van Evercooren: We are very happy that we did not have to make such difficult decisions.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dirk Van Evercooren: The shift towards online meetings and online events has taken some adjustments and keeps bringing challenges. Online meetings can be efficient but lack human interaction outside of the strict agenda of the meeting. Online events are very informative but do not facilitate spontaneous networking. We introduced new virtual platforms for our members and stakeholders to interact and learn, but the online format does bring limitations.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dirk Van Evercooren: We did not receive any government grants in the context of the pandemic.
Your final thoughts?
Dirk Van Evercooren: The pandemic is a terrible situation for people, businesses, and organizations and is posing phenomenal challenges to governments. We can only hope that society can return to more human and social interactions as soon as possible in a safe way. But also, let’s make sure that this return does not bring about a return to inefficient physical meetings, that we keep on working remotely whenever possible to avoid commuting and business travel that is not absolutely needed, that we keep enjoying nature – which we have discovered through ‘corona-walks’ as a means to get out of the house in a safe way – and that the awareness about protecting nature, the environment and the climate remain high. In that way, this very difficult period will also yield some positive and hopefully lasting effects.
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