“The digital age is here and it’s time to use its full potential”. This is how our conversation for CorD began with Ksenija Karić, Country General Manager at Schneider Electric Serbia and Montenegro, which was declared the world’s most sustainable company by Corporate Knights, in competition against more than 8,000 other companies.
Schneider Electric has saved 120 million tons of CO2 emissions over the past 15 years, while providing approximately 30 million people worldwide with access to energy. And the company doesn’t plan to stop there, because its operations, as Karić explains, “are dependent on the decision to become carbon neutral by 2025, to stop emitting carbon dioxide by 2030, and to reach a net-zero supply chain by 2050”.
She emphasises that “sustainability is an imperative of today’s business,” pointing out the need to embrace new technologies that are fully aligned with this goal. They enable plants and processes to be optimised for efficiency and savings, utilising predictive technology and easy-to-understand analytics to make smart decisions that add value in real time. “These are actually ‘smart factories’ that represent the industry of the future. One such factory is ours in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, where 65% of processes are automated and which has implemented systems for facility management and maintenance using the technology of augmented reality,” explains Karić.
The pandemic has massively accelerated automation processes that bring significant savings, but awareness of the use of renewable energy sources has not yet reached the level required to have an impact on climate change and reduce the carbon footprint. Electricity accounts for 20 per cent of energy consumed, and that trend will double over the next 20 years.
“The potential of solar panels or wind farms in the production of electricity is, unfortunately, not exploited sufficiently,” says Karić, explaining that instability exists in providing sufficient amounts of energy, in terms of a lack of wind to power turbines, but that it is possible to control and optimise consumption with the help of smart devices. “The goal is to increase production from renewable sources, but also to make savings and become more energy efficient by digitalising operations. These savings in consumption are not theoretical – they are very measurable, the implementation of one of our EcoStruxure solution is paying off after just a few years”.
Ksenija Karić emphasises that “sustainability is an imperative of today’s business,” pointing out the need to embrace new technologies that are fully aligned with this goal
Karić sees the first step towards the desired transition in the electrification of buildings and the decarbonisation of cities. Cities today contribute almost 70% of global CO₂ emissions and consume 78% of the planet’s energy, while the combining of efficient, fully electrified and digitalised distribution networks, distributed generation, energy storage and electro-mobility will help improve the system’s overall efficiency.
Digital retrofitting is the process of connecting all energy-consuming devices in one building, enabling them to communicate with each other. This means that they can be controlled automatically or with the help of artificial intelligence, for example by turning off heating, air conditioning or lights when a space is not in use, monitoring temperatures in a building and alerting maintenance services when adjustments or repairs are required. Such a system can exist at the level of a single apartment or a large complex of buildings, and today it can also use wireless technology. “Once this is done”, notes Karić, “the user generates savings”.
We cannot solve climate change without transforming our cities and buildings. This is a challenge, but at the same time it is a promising area for innovation, explains Karić, before concluding: “If we really want to behave responsibly, we cannot limit our activities to their current effect and the current moment. We must consider what kind of environment we are leaving behind for future generations.”