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Luc Goossens,
Laborelec’s new
General Manager

Most of us know him from his previous position, as head of ENGIE Research & Innovation’s research programmes. But with a 30-year career in the energy sector, at Tractebel, Electrabel, and ENGIE, Luc Goossens also has a wealth of experience in the design, development and management of energy projects, and in investment planning, on renewable energy resources as well as nuclear energy, grids, and thermal power plants.

In his spare time, Luc enjoys sports, culture, and lots of music:

My tastes are very varied, but one thing’s constant: they can be a bit quirky!

Hello Luc, this Friday 1 March you become Laborelec’s new CEO, a professional challenge where you’ll have an impact on the daily lives of almost 400 colleagues. So let me cut to the chase: what are your thoughts about the challenge?

Without a doubt, it’s my dream job! I’ve known Laborelec for a long time and I’ve often worked with the experts in previous jobs. My new role now gives me the chance to experience the company from the inside and actively contribute to its development. This perspective inspires me a lot, especially given the crucial period we’re going through.

Is this really such a special time? Doesn’t every period in history bring its share of change?

Certainly, if we look at the last few centuries, for instance, we see that technical revolutions have been the driving force behind society’s evolution towards greater prosperity and higher life expectancy. Think of the steam engine, electricity, computers, and so on. Every technological advance comes with challenges for which solutions had to be found. With energy at the heart of these evolutions, our challenge now is to assure the future of our planet. We’ll do this with a fundamental energy transition. For an expertise and research centre like Laborelec, this is a phenomenal opportunity to make a tangible contribution, because energy technologies are our core business! Not everyone gets an opportunity like this, and the challenge we face is unprecedented.

You’ve been in the industry for 30 years. Are there any trends that stand out? I can’t imagine that your experience is that the electricity sector is all smooth sailing?

Whereas energy used to come from a limited number of sources — wood, coal, gas, and such — we can add a lot of new resources in the last 50 years: nuclear, solar, wind, etc. Energy flows and applications have also changed enormously. In short, the complexity of the whole system has increased exponentially in a very short time. But again, it’s an extraordinary opportunity for Laborelec: the greater the complexity, the more grey cells are needed. And we’ve got that exceptional expertise in-house.

We talked about the energy sector and Laborelec. Can we perhaps move on to you personally?

Go ahead! 😊

You already touched upon your professional activities before leading ENGIE’s research programmes. Can you tell us a bit about that period of your career?

I started out in a very hands-on role, at Tractebel, in a department full of… land surveyors. In 1993, we were taking measurements and drawing up plans. The equipment we used had names that hardly anyone knows now, like “Rotring” and “drawing board”. But digitization was already in the air. And that’s exactly what gave me the opportunity to take a leap into renewable energy.

Aha, how did that come about?

At the time, Tractebel was starting to take an interest in wind energy. Before long we were needing to map out the most suitable sites in Belgium. In the Topography department, we had a lot of data on that. With a bit of creativity, we could start digitizing everything, and it was at that point in my career I was delighted to develop Belgium’s first wind atlas.

What was the next step?

With renewable energy emerging, our ties with Electrabel in wind energy intensified rapidly. I jumped at the chance of working on developing wind energy for the Group, which was then called GDF-Suez. I ended up spending six years on that. So I became a kind of “renewables evangelist” (laughs). I preached the good word and, with my team, I tried to get projects going in the various countries where the Group operated.

Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you then went into the nuclear world. After several years in renewables, that was a pretty radical career switch, wasn’t it?

Indeed, yes. At Tractebel, the then management wanted to revitalize the nuclear business, reduce costs, and put the customer back at the centre of things. I accepted that challenge. Very soon after that, in March 2011, the Fukushima incident happened. Nuclear operators around the world were suddenly faced with a lot of technical challenges. Tractebel’s nuclear department was soon inundated with requests.

To top it all, we had another complex issue to deal with right after it — “indications” in the Tihange 2 and Doel 3 reactor vessels (editor’s note: the infamous “hydrogen flakes”). The whole team worked hard to carry out the investigations at breakneck speed, because Electrabel obviously didn’t have a moment to lose. It was a fascinating time, one of intense collaboration with Laborelec’s laboratories. I was teased a bit back then, because during my time at the head of Tractebel’s nuclear engineering department, Electrabel went from seven operational units in 2011 … to just two when I left at the end of 2014. But I don’t know if there’s any connection with me personally.


Anyway, I’m super proud and happy to see that nuclear’s place in the energy transition is getting greater recognition again!

At the end of the nuclear chapter, in 2015, you went back to renewable energy, this time at ENGIE’s Centralized Generation Métier, in charge of developing wind, hydro, and geothermal projects. Would that be right?

Yes. At Métier, my team and I helped ENGIE Group Business Units in several countries implement the Group’s strategy for renewable energy generation projects. The team’s experts provided the BUs with vision, knowledge, and global solutions for all the onshore and offshore wind, hydro, marine, and geothermal power generation projects.

This included initiating the Business Case Guidelines which, using a ‘comply or explain’ approach, set out the technical and cost parameters for investment in renewable energy.

And then came the Calista reorganization plan, which allowed you to switch to ENGIE Research.

That’s true. A lot of Laborelec colleagues know me from that job, I think. I was responsible for research and technology coordination, management and strategy. A huge programme… But you already know that chapter.

We’ve already talked a lot about the professional aspects, but maybe you’d also like to tell us a bit more about Luc Goossens outside the office?

Of course. I’m married and the father of three children. We live in the Leuven area … but we also visit Ostend regularly; I love the raw side of that city. In my spare time, I listen to music a lot. I like different genres but I always like a bit of quirkiness”. My family and I love travelling, and I have a soft spot for Japan, a country with a beautiful culture, where individuals are less important than community, and there’s enormous respect for people and the environment.

Lastly, sport is a source of relaxation and balance for me, especially running and padel. My wife and I raise money every year, running in the Brussels 20 km, in aid of the association fighting cystic fibrosis. It’s an association helping patients and their families improve their daily lives. Privately, this is an issue particularly close to my heart and to my family.

One final thought: I’ve been allowed to address you as “Luc” right from the start, just as we called our previous directors “Paul“, “Bart” and “Michael“. Is that a good tradition?

Definitely, call me “Luc”. I am also a big believer in the open door policy. My door is open to everybody, whether it’s to express concerns about the company or to come up with constructive ideas.

Interview: Joël Girboux – Translation: Andrew Wilson


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