Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

VIEWPOINT 150 Digitalisation, electrification and upskilling or reskilling workers will be critical to driving energy efficiency and emissions reduction OLIVIER BLUM: SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC The first fuel to tackle the climate crisis The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) eighth Annual Global Conference in June was an opportunity to gather with many other business leaders, policymakers and energy market experts in Versailles, France, and shine a spotlight on a topic that doesn’t receive as much attention as it deserves: the critical role energy efficiency plays in tackling the climate and energy crises. Far too often decarbonisation efforts focus only on energy supply, for instance, by replacing gas-fired power stations with renewables like wind and solar. This, however, is only half of the story and according to the IEA’s net-zero scenario, the 33 per cent emissions reductions needed this decade must be achieved by consuming energy more efficiently. Discussions at the event outlined how a fair energy transition, underpinned by energy efficiency and enabled by digitalisation and electrification, can drive accelerated decarbonisation while also reducing costs and increasing security of supply. This concluded with the ‘Versailles 10X10 Actions’, a set of priorities for this journey. These are outlined below, together with my observations about each one. 1. Measure and diagnose Advanced energy management systems are widely available today and allow users to see and control the performance of every connected appliance within a home, office or industrial facility. This birds-eye view of energy consumption and efficiency provides the biggest potential to identify and eliminate waste. Software systems built on artificial intelligence algorithms help optimise how and when to consume, produce and store energy. In the absence of extensive grid upgrades, digital-enabled energy management systems are key for resiliency and efficiency. 2. Awareness and knowledge Many people want to take action, but they don’t always know where to start. Sharing practical applications and one-stop-shop advisories enable learning from best-in-class, real-life netzero homes, buildings and industries. 3. Skills To date, action and discussion has been focused on new constructions but the biggest impact will come from retrofitting existing buildings with more energy-efficient technology. It will be critical to upskill and reskill the workforce to install, operate and service these connected systems. For instance, electricians must become software and smart technology experts whilst plumbers need to understand electrical installations for heat pumps. Training people with the skills to drive the transition will also stimulate job creation and deliver wider social and economic benefits. 4. Design on total cost of ownership Designers, architects and decision-makers need to shift from thinking about cost of construction towards the total cost