Technology Record - Issue 28: Spring 2023

46 VIEWPOINT The transformative potential of optimising how we use energy remains largely overlooked in our path to net zero OLIVIER BLUM: SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC Tackling the energy and climate crises Citizens of Helsinki, Finland, can now enjoy a new shopping centre which opened in a prosperous metropolitan area in 2022. It forms part of the 117,000-square-metre Lippulaiva complex, which also houses a library, fitness centre, nursery, offices, apartments, a metro station and bus terminal. A geothermal facility meets almost all the heating and cooling needs of the complex. By using a smart energy management system, demand for energy can be optimised, so Lippulaiva isn’t using more than it needs. For example, when electricity consumption is at its peak, air conditioning usage can be temporarily reduced. This development illustrates how technology can be deployed to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise energy efficiency and resilience. As we navigate the double whammy of energy and climate crises, we need to deploy all the tools available to us to optimise both energy supply and demand. Policymakers in Europe, the USA, Japan, China, India and elsewhere have significantly intensified climate commitments. To date, the focus has been overwhelmingly on the supply of energy, promoting and facilitating the generation of locally produced, clean energy from the sun, wind, sea and other natural sources. These efforts have accelerated the growth of renewables in recent years to the point where they are undercutting fossil fuels as the cheapest option for electricity generation in many parts of the world. However, efforts to step-up clean energy and curb the use of fossil fuels take time. Coal and gas remain the predominant sources of power globally right now. Tackling how energy is generated is simply not enough. We need to increase our attention to the demand side of the energy equation too. This accounts for 55 per cent of the solution to deliver net-zero energy by 2050, according to our Back to 2050 report. In simple terms, this is about energy efficiency and electrification which together define the next energy revolution: Electricity 4.0. Energy demand and efficiency has historically been less popular among policymakers than energy generation and supply. An independent survey of over 500 C-suite executives, which we commissioned in 2022, found that while sustainability considerations have risen to the top of the corporate agenda, only around half of them are fixing the basics, and most are not considering the full mix of decarbonisation tools available today. That’s understandable. After all, digitally optimised air conditioning and electric heating simply aren’t as visually inspiring as “Our advice is to get acquainted with the range of digital technologies that allow you to reduce costs and carbon emissions”