Q&A with Schneider Electric’s EVP of Energy Management

With a core belief that access to energy is essential, Schneider Electric empowers people to make the most of it. Olivier Blum shares his insights

Recent months have seen some of the world’s largest climate events take place, such as COP 28 in Dubai at the tail end of 2023 and, more recently, Davos — the annual meeting of The World Economic Forum. At these events, discussions and agreements with world leaders and company executives alike have been made, as well as commitments by countries and organisations. But how will they come to fruition in the coming months and beyond? And how can entities be held accountable when it comes to the important steps needed to reduce our climate impact? 

Enter Olivier Blum, Schneider Electric’s EVP of Energy Management. Leading Schneider Electric’s Energy Management business, he is responsible for the company’s global energy management portfolio of leading technologies, software and services, championing Electricity 4.0 as the fastest route to a net zero world that is more electric and more digital.

Below, Blum shares his key takeaways from both COP28 and Davos, sharing how those in power can blaze a clear path to a more energy efficient future, as well as the importance of reducing emissions across the entirety of the value chain.

Q. Talk to me about your division of Schneider Electric, what you do and the services you provide.

Schneider Electric’s energy management business focuses on empowering businesses and consumers to adopt digital energy management tools which can help manage and reduce their energy usage. 

As a sustainable consultancy, we also offer advisory services to businesses of all sizes to help them digitise and decarbonise their operations. Last year we launched Zeigo Activate, a solution for mid-market companies that allows a ‘do it yourself’ approach to emissions measurement and provides users with a customised decarbonisation roadmap. 

Q. What are your key takeaways following COP28 and Davos? 

After taking stock of the panels and discussions at these events with organisations like Bain & Company, EDF and CCI France UAE, one thing is clear to me. Decision-makers now know we have to reduce energy demand to advance faster towards our increasingly urgent climate goals. The question they need answered is ‘how?’ These events have taught us about how to take action this year.

Q. Are decision-makers focussing on the right solutions to meet key climate goals? 

Leaders are increasingly acknowledging the importance of reducing energy demand, which has been historically underappreciated. While almost 200 countries at COP28 agreed to begin reducing their consumption of fossil fuels, a positive step for decarbonising the supply side of energy, I also noticed a surge of interest in the need to reduce energy demand. This traction on both sides of energy supply and demand is exactly what the world now needs to decarbonise fully, at speed.

The Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, which seeks to double the global average rate of energy efficiency improvements from 2% to 4% per year until 2030, was a great idea that came from COP28. But executing it is what matters, through electrifying processes such as transport and heating and reducing energy consumption, through processes like introducing circularity and reducing Scope 3 emissions. 

Q. How can organisations reduce their Scope 3 emissions? 

Delivery of COP28’s Scope 3 pledges is not possible without digital technologies that make data visible — after all, if you can see it, you can track it. Even the smallest suppliers or customers — who may not have their own sustainability officers — can use technology to measure emissions, build a decarbonisation roadmap and access solution providers. Arming our top 1,000 suppliers, big and small, with digital solutions has been central to Schneider Electric’s Zero Carbon Project, designed to halve their operational carbon emissions by 2025. Any company can do the same with the right guidance.

At Davos, there was recognition of the impact that reducing Scope 3 can make, not least because regulation is on the horizon. From 2025, companies in Europe will be required to report on their Scope 3 emissions. But the positive impact of Scope 3 emissions reduction is more than the sum of its parts — as suppliers and customers improve, whole ecosystems of connected companies can decarbonise together, offering exponential improvement for a company’s costs, reputation and supply chain resilience.

Q. Why is circularity so important? 

Circularity is increasingly being recognised as a crucial aspect of mitigating climate change, as evidenced by its prominence in discussions at COP28 and Davos. Despite more attention turned to this topic, the global circularity rate has seen a decline from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2023, underscoring the need for organisations to act now.

In my panel sessions with Bain & Company and Kearney at Davos, we discussed how circularity can be embedded in entire product lifecycles, right from the design phase. We must rethink our relationship with energy, through a new culture of recycling and refurbishment. I’ve seen the results first-hand: from Arcelor Mittal’s recycled and renewably-produced steel that goes into our products and takes 70% less CO₂ to produce to sensors in systems we design that anticipate wear and tear, prompting the replacement of modules that ultimately keep machines alive for longer.

Companies need to view circularity as an entire ecosystem in order to build a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy. This means engaging customers and partners to use better, use longer and use again. 

If done well, circular models can open new value streams via refurbished programs like our Circular Certified scheme, maintenance services to support the lifecycle of sold equipment and energy cost savings across the board as we use less energy.  After all, investing in energy efficiency is investing in a saving.

Q. What else does the energy sector need to focus on going forward?

To combat climate change, it’s crucial to dramatically reduce the carbon emissions associated with energy production and usage. While COP28 and Davos delegates have provided the world with a strong blueprint, decision-makers must now take urgent action to decarbonise both energy supply and energy demand, together. The technology to address this challenge already exists. The solution lies in collectively deploying Electricity 4.0 at scale and with urgency.

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