COP28: Energy expectations & takeaways from industry leaders

Executives from leading energy companies including EY, ESS and Schneider Electric share insight off the back of COP28

As COP28, the largest climate summit in history, comes to its end, there has been plenty of chatter about how world leaders will harness the power of collaboration and the pursuit of a shared goal to ensure positive steps are taken when it comes to climate change.

And just because COP draws to a close, that doesn’t mean conversations end. As well as instigating and igniting conversations with the aim of  bettering efficiency, lowering energy consumption and, as a consequence, lower operating costs, it often raises a wealth of unanswered questions and a need to be followed through to action meaningful change.

This is particularly true for this year’s iteration of the conference as talks are expected to extend long beyond the official summit’s end after ‘insufficient’ draft climate deal.

Here is what leaders at some of the world’s top energy companies have to say about COP’s benefits, the path to net zero and how it must be tackled in a growing digital world.

‘Climate change action can’t happen without data’

Olivier Blum, EVP Energy Management at Schneider Electric

Tasked with the role of creating disruption and bringing new innovation thanks to a large portfolio of world-leading technologies, software and services, Blum boasts a career at Schneider Electric spanning more than three decades, taking him away from his home country and over to Asia, where he has been based for 20 years.

“Corporate accountability on climate change action, which COP28 is advocating in its Net-Zero Transition Charter, can’t happen without data. If you can see it, you can track it. A credible net-zero transition plan for any company pledging decarbonisation requires three key stages: strategise, digitise, decarbonise. When we consider that 80% of global carbon emissions come from the production and consumption of energy, it’s clear that organisations must focus attention here, on both their energy supply and demand. This means understanding their baseline and ambition, using available technology to monitor energy — and carbon impact — in real time, whilst transitioning to renewable energy, electrifying operations and driving efficiency.

“The critical attention needed from governments is to work on common standards and benchmarks to track progress in reducing Scope 3 emissions, which account for around 70% of total emissions and are 11 times larger than Scope 1 for most companies. Less than half of companies are reporting on this today, due to the natural complexity of tracking Scope 3 emissions. Many suppliers are too small to have sustainability officers with knowledge of their carbon emission data. However, with the right tools and resources, we will see acceleration from a snowball effect: the decarbonisation of whole ecosystems of companies and suppliers.”

Sustainable technologies must be embraced

Jean-François Allard, Director EMEA Utilities & Communications at Hexagon’s Safety, Infrastructure & Geospatial division

Jean-François Allard has more than 20 years of experience in the delivery of GIS solutions for utilities and telecommunications and has gained expertise in several domains, including smart metering, fibre and utilities. He brings information about the market’s needs and trends, which leads to the implementation of new software.

“In light of intensifying concerns related to climate change, resource depletion, and environmental sustainability, it is imperative to recognise that utility companies must embrace sustainable technologies. While the electricity industry has shifted towards renewable energy sources, the integration of distributed energy resources (DERS) poses a considerable challenge to an ageing grid. To manage these additional demands, it is crucial that utility companies modernise their network planning and monitoring to incorporate advanced grid management systems, notably distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) as well as digital twin technology.

“Combining both software and hardware, DERMS facilitate real-time communication and control across all DERS. This implementation proves instrumental in enabling utilities to seamlessly integrate DERS, addressing demand fluctuations by storing or redirecting excess power back to the grid and, in turn, lessening dependence on centralised power plants. Digital twin technology navigates the influx of data from distributed resources, utilising artificial intelligence to provide utilities with a comprehensive overview of the network, enhancing decision-making capabilities in real time. By embracing DERMS alongside digital twin technology, utilities can strike a balance between supply and demand, thereby ensuring grid stability, and can start to achieve global sustainability goals outlined at COP28.”

Funding and incentives for EVs needed

Randy Miller, EY Global Mobility Leader

A senior partner at EY with more than 30 years of consulting and client service experience, in excess of two decades of which at EY, Miller is responsible for strategy, market growth, innovation and solution development for the automotive, transportation, aerospace & defence, chemicals and industrial products sector globally.

“From an automotive industry standpoint, COP28 is expected to further reinforce a push towards more stringent emissions regulations globally, nudging countries for greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, including those from vehicles. This would expectedly lead to increased government support and incentives for EV adoption, additional policies for effective decarbonisation and support for alternative fuels and technologies.

“To comply with the emissions regulations, the auto industry is likely to require increased investments in research and development of sustainable technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells and advanced battery technologies.

“Stricter emissions standards and increasing awareness of environmental issues will drive a gradual shift in consumer behaviour, leading to increased push for EVs and other eco-friendly technologies.

“Overall COP28 is expected to highlight the need for even more collaboration between automakers and governments to achieve climate goals with an increased push towards sustainable technologies, while also driving circularity within the auto sector. Continued progress on more EV models to give better consumer choice, charging infrastructure availability and improvements in range will remain key factors for automakers to enable more EV adoption.”

Progress in long-duration energy storage

Eric Dresselhuys, CEO of ESS

Energy storage executive Dresselhuys is a passionate leader with broad knowledge across a range of product and corporate development, go-to-market strategy, regulatory affairs and team building. He has more than 25 years of experience working on technologies to further sustainability within the energy and utilities space. 

“Following a year of record heat and drought, this year's UN climate summit will focus on accelerating the global transition to clean, renewable energy. Countries will consider a proposal made by the UAE's COP28 presidency, echoed by statements from US and European leaders, to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030. 

“Ambitious climate commitments are vital for limiting the worst impacts of climate change, however, achieving these goals will require action at every level and commitment to innovative new technologies that will play a critical role in global decarbonisation. New technologies, such as long-duration energy storage (LDES), will need to be rapidly scaled and deployed to successfully transition our current, primarily fossil-fired, grid to one capable of powering a fully electrified economy with clean, though intermittent, wind and solar energy.

“Since last year’s gathering in Egypt, there has been significant progress in LDES deployment. Major energy storage projects have been announced worldwide, potentially delivering gigawatt hours of storage in coming years. These projects, such as ESS’ partnership with LEAG for a clean energy hub in Germany, provide a blueprint for how LDES can strengthen energy security and enable a clean energy system. There are big challenges ahead, but also great opportunities to build a cleaner and more secure global energy economy. I look forward to engaging with leaders in government, business, and civil society to accelerate the global clean energy transition.”

Combining sustainability and economic growth

Ashley Tate, Managing Director Allstar Chargepass, part of FLEETCOR

Founder of Split the Bills and EV enthusiast set on accelerating people’s transition to electric vehicles through simple charging payment solutions, Tate wants to see targets placed on greener fuels and energy use in a variety of sectors in order to make a real difference.

“COP28 is naturally a great global forum to help raise the challenges and barriers we currently face in reducing carbon emissions. However, in my opinion, there is a lot more that could come from these summits to make them even more poignant.  

“We’ve heard in many previous COPs, the hundreds of promises made and then diluted further down the line – usually for growth or economic reasons. I would argue that both these sustainability pledges and economic growth can co-exist, in fact, I’m certain they can. We could absolutely reduce carbon and still provide value for economies going forward. 

“With this in mind, naturally, I want to see a greater investment in EVs and overall EV charging infrastructure across the globe, but I also want to see targets placed on greener fuels and energy use in other sectors such as aviation and maritime transportation. We’ve seen that this is possible from the 100% sustainable fuel Virgin Atlantic flight earlier in November so the number of excuses countries have for not working towards a similar ICE 2035 target, are getting smaller and smaller.  

“If COPs continue to come and go without any sign of promises being fulfilled, people will naturally lose hope. Businesses such as Allstar with solutions like Allstar Chargepass have demonstrated their ability to help navigate obstructions and could help businesses transition from fuel to EV fleets, with one payment solution. What the world needs now is a clear commitment from its leaders on the route to net zero, without the potential for u-turns, to make significantly reduced carbon consumption a reality for the transport industry in the near future.” 

Technology: Crucial in impactful sustainability strategy

Janina Bauer, Global Head of Sustainability at Celonis

As Global Head of Sustainability at software company Celonis, Bauer is responsible for driving the company's sustainability agenda, managing strategic programmes — including net-zero journey, ESG reporting, employee engagement, product development and co-innovation with customers and partners — to embed Celonis' core value ‘earth is our future’ into the company's operations and strategy.

“COP28 is a time for politicians, business leaders and decision makers to take meaningful action to combat the climate crisis. Technology and innovation is and will be an important method of effectively making strides when it comes to sustainability — especially to decarbonise industries and supply chains. However, there are some key barriers which are holding businesses back and slowing down meaningful change.

“If businesses are serious about making a positive impact on climate, then sustainability must be central to their business objectives and decisions. Too often, sustainability — and decarbonisation in particular — remains secondary, or is perceived as expensive and overly complex for organisations to focus on. Harnessing sustainability data is a challenge, as it is often scattered and stuck in unconnected systems.

“The data required for a real-time view of a company’s carbon footprint — including Scope 3 where most of the emissions occur — is already there. However, it’s often buried in transactional data in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and Excel spreadsheets or siloed tools. For leaders, the first step is to extract this data across sources using process mining technology, then supplement it with internal and third-party sustainability data, such as emission factors or supplier performance, and use process intelligence and AI to gain insights on where emissions reductions can be made.

“Many leaders have the right intention when it comes to sustainability, but will need to back up their pledges at COP28 with tangible outcomes, harnessing technologies that can turn words into actions. On its own, process mining cannot fully tackle climate change, but the technology shouldn’t be underestimated as a way for organisations to find hidden value opportunities and make great advancements in sustainability without scrutinising business performance.”

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