In an ever-evolving energy industry, with companies placing increasing emphasis on sustainability, resource scarcity and renewable energy sources, Schneider Electric is continually looking at ways to support customers and business partners to reduce carbon emissions and address a large number of global concerns.
The company’s Energy & Sustainability Services (ESS) business helps companies and public entities across the world navigate these challenges — at both a local and international level. Services range from designing and delivering sustainable solutions within energy, water, and oil and gas, as well as providing cloud-based software to aggregate and analyse data. Sectors served include defence, education, utilities, finance, food, healthcare, hospitality, mining and transport.
Responsible for sales, consulting and delivery teams within that business across Europe, Vice President of International Solutions Andy Dewis has been behind the company’s strive towards supporting businesses’ alignment of their energy and sustainability strategies.
“In previous years, with low energy commodity prices organisations have been quite focused on managing a lot of the additional taxation and regulation that sits around commodities and trying to secure and invest in their businesses to build longer term commodity positions,” Dewis says. With rises in commodity prices, organisations have had to readdress their current strategies and mitigate what could be a doubling their costs in a number of areas, ranging from raw materials through to energy.
Influential industry organisations such as the RE100 and changes to the greenhouse gas (GHG) rules has seen a shift to low-carbon operations, at which the company has seen a significant response. “What we’ve seen is a number of large corporate organisations who are starting to grasp how their company strategies align with these global agreements on climate,” reflects Dewis, which has now created a new global business community surrounding these topics.
He adds: “Companies are beginning to redefine their strategies through as far as 2050 in terms of climate change and focus for the business,” working effectively with governments in terms of setting up essential goals in order to revert climate change and global warming. Schneider Electric sees this as the transition to a low carbon energy network really starting to bite at a corporate level with an increase in organisations starting to plan what the potential cost of the energy transition might be and how they can manage their financial and climate related strategies.
Enter Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric supports organisations, from large global retailers to technology giants, in areas relating to energy, sustainability and company global assets. Whilst the focus for renewable energy sources has been inherent in order for Schneider Electric to develop its own sustainable initiatives, an increased number of organisations are now embedding sustainable business practices into their operations due to a number of factors. Dewis explains: “We’ve seen lots of organisations historically stating that they will set targets for 2020 and 2030. Now those targets are coming a lot closer, and they are needing to find real concrete ways to act and drive change to meet the obligations they’ve set out, which is helping to drive and embed sustainability within business practice.”
To support these business operations, Schneider Electric continually places a focus on how information is captured, understood and turned into something meaningful, enabling companies to make vital improvements. This also incorporates the use of mobile devices, physical and mobile technology, such as IoT. Dewis explains: “IoT has become a hot topic on business agendas – how do you join up all of the million bits of data within these different assets and leverage them in a way that can help meet those goals or benefit those business and organisations?”
Furthermore, with the rise of digitisation, there is an increased capability for businesses to understand how energy can flow between different generation assets, linking with how end users consume energy. Dewis explains that this has resulted in an increased need for flexibility to be built between energy providers, such as EON, all the way through to organisations that are holding these assets, such as IKEA, which place a large emphasis on sustainable, energy saving initiatives. He comments: “Companies like IKEA have a ‘going-all-in’ strategy, where they’re building huge solar energy farms and resources to supply that to the grid, so they can be part of that energy supply chain.”
With climate change driving organisations to set new initiatives at a macro level, they will need to deploy a number of strategies to meet the goals set in an ever-changing energy landscape. With predictive energy management, alongside current demand and supply challenges, Schneider Electric sees a number of areas which align with these changes, such as the decentralisation of energy, and move towards increased renewables and onsite energy sources. Power plants will power organisations, but this energy will come from different sources, such as wind turbines, solar farms and renewable sources users have on their properties, in addition to dedicated energy supplies. This decentralisation of energy and change in the way energy is consumed has therefore led to the need for companies to become more proactive in terms of energy consumption.
Schneider Electric is also beginning to look at predictive energy usage with a number of customers, supporting them in responding to changes in energy demand and enabling consumers to acquire solar assets. Companies may want to sell energy to the grid, but there could be times when they may not generate enough energy to consume themselves, so they can buy energy through the grid. Dewis explains: “With predictive analytics we are able to help companies and consumers understand how these changes might happen and, as they arrive, how they can optimise all of these different energy assets and energy supply elements that they have. So there is a balance between the physical generation through renewables, buying from an energy provider, and then selling back energy to other providers or back to the grid.”
This has enabled the company to support organisations to navigate these challenges effectively and drive the largest financial return. It also helps companies transition to an increased renewable outcome.
Investing in innovation
To ensure the company remains at the forefront of the industry, Schneider Electric is investing €10 billion in sustainability-focused research and development over the next 10 years, firmly believing technology to be a critical factor to their success and leadership, at which Dewis states that innovation is truly embedded in the company’s business operations.
Schneider Electric’s Strategy and Innovation Initiative impacts every employee in order to drive innovation, enabling the company to listen to customers’ stories and help develop new ideas into real-life initiatives. Dewis comments: “We recognise that we need to spend a lot of money in research and development in order to stay ahead of the curve from a technology perspective, but we also realise that we need to innovate and work with our clients to try and anticipate their future needs.” This has led to the company adopting a dual strategy, which is both customer and employee led.
In addition, this commitment to research, innovation and development has enabled Schneider Electric to reach fourth place in the Corporate Knights’ Carbon Clean 200 List. This continued focus on providing leadership in a number of different areas has allowed the company to use this as an internal benchmark.
Schneider Electric’s strive to become one of the most innovative energy companies in the industry has also led to the company’s recent acquisition of Renewable Choice Energy, a market leader in renewable energy strategy, green power and carbon offset markets. This integration will enable the extension of Schneider Electric’s current work in the global renewable energy space and support the company’s New Energy Opportunities (NEO) Network, a global network consisting of renewable technology developers and providers, financing companies and end users, which was launched in 2016 to help companies meet renewable energy and carbon goals.
Dewis explains that this move will, “complement and bring more skills to Schneider Electric’s global operations.”
The company has carried out several other acquisitions and integrations, such as M&C Energy Group, Summit Energy and Feller, with the vision to create a solutions-focused business, supporting organisations and consumers across various segments. Such work has been undertaken on a global scale, which Dewis states, “is unparalleled within the industry.” Furthermore, the company has also completed landmark studies with large corporations such as Hilton and GSK, helping to define goals and strategies, setting a precedent for things to come. However, Dewis is only too aware that there is still progress to be made as the topic of sustainability becomes increasingly understood and engrained within business functions, at which the company will see strategy and execution become more closely aligned.
With increased integration of energy specialties — from buying energy to using energy to operating more sustainably — Schneider Electric will continue to bring new developments and expertise around decentralised energy, decarbonisation and digitisation for its customers. This year, the company will continue to focus on supporting clients to address these challenges, all the while providing its own world-class sustainable initiatives.