Twice a year, Schneider Electric Energy and Sustainability Services brings together experts from hundreds of companies across the globe, from a variety of industries, to discuss challenges and opportunities, and share ideas on developing successful energy management strategies.
Here are the key takeaways from this year’s Energy and Sustainability Perspectives client conference in Europe, hosted in Budapest, Hungary.
1. Don’t just pay energy bills, develop a strategic advantage
While more than 80% of conference attendees stated that their organization currently views energy as a cost center, perceptions and actions are changing. Leading organizations shared how energy efficiency and strategic energy procurement drive financial benefits that are a competitive advantage.
“Were moving from energy as an expense to energy as an asset” said Eric Bogne, International Corporate Energy Manager for Auchan.
2. Think sustainability to build a viable, resilient business
Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Schneider Electric CSO, shared his views on why every company, regardless of industry or position in a supply chain, needs to integrate sustainability into its business strategy to ensure continuity. “More and more businesses that have not chosen a proactive, sustainable approach are being affected financially – they risk losing talent, shareholders, and customers” Lagarrigue said.
Complying with sustainability regulations is top of mind in Europe – in particular, 56% attendees said the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) would have a big impact on their business, and 32% voted EU ETS.
3. Make your targets science-based
Over 400 companies are taking science-based climate action and 113 companies have approved science-based targets. “15 organizations commit to science-based targets every month,” said Alberto Carrillo Pineda from CDP when discussing the momentum of the movement. According to Vallourec, ambitious sustainability targets are a business imperative to keep position as a market leader in the energy and industry sector.
4. Motivate humans to use technology to drive change
Though some companies are still using spreadsheets to manage their energy and sustainability data, a common theme of discussion was that humans, not lack of data or technology, are often the reason why initiatives don’t succeed.
Thomas Tolan from TIER REIT said, “Technology is changing every 90 days. It’s clearly not the systems that resist the change, but the people. To motivate them will determine success”.
One third of attendees revealed their biggest barrier to benefiting from data was employees not analyzing the information and taking action. Robert Hinrichs and Denise Scholz from Verizon agreed: “Some groups have the initiative to act and just need tools; other groups need to understand the importance of the initiative.”
Ann-Katrine Storgaard Friis from Nilfisk observed, “Internal focus before external focus is key to harness the employee engagement needed to drive a sustainable strategy”.
5. Find opportunities in the new energy landscape
As energy decentralizes, decarbonizes, and digitizes, new opportunities to save money and create a competitive advantage are created. Michael Wilshire from Bloomberg New Energy Finance discussed these new technologies including how AI can help optimize energy systems and efficiency and how digital technologies are making demand response requests more seamless.
Also discussed was that solar technology prices are low, and going to keep dropping. Renewable energy power purchase agreements are also becoming more financially attractive, with Spain and the U.S. being particularly of interest to those with a global footprint.