Schneider Electric: Smart buildings for a sustainable future

By William Smith

The venerable French multinational Schneider Electric can trace its history back to 1836. Prospering for almost 200 years has required continuous innovation, and the company has long since diversified its operations to become a leader in energy management and automation. Philippe Delorme is Executive Vice President, Energy Management at the business. “Our job is to bring efficiency and sustainability to our customers, and we primarily deliver technology around energy management and industrial automation,” he says. “I lead one of the two businesses, which is the energy management unit.”

Delorme offers a succinct description of what energy management entails: “Energy management is about ensuring energy flows from the point of production to the point of consumption. We don't do any power generation, but we connect places that generate energy with places that consume it. 50% of the world’s energy consumption goes into buildings, and our job is to ensure that the energy flows in the most efficient and safe way.”

With around half of all energy produced being consumed by buildings, Schneider can facilitate huge savings for its customers, to the benefit of the world at large. “We all realise, with the impact of global warming, that making the most of energy is absolutely central to our future and the future of our kids. More and more we are seeing customers – whether they’re real estate developers, data centres or big names in banking and food – putting in place ambitious, sustainable goals around their carbon footprint, optimising their energy use and employing more renewable forms of energy. That’s a trend that's growing very quickly. Those customers are showing a strong interest in having a solution in front of them that will help them become more sustainable.”


Part of that effort lies in opening up the sometimes opaque world of energy consumption to scrutiny. “A very important focus of ours is to drive better access management. We make sure that we utilise digital solutions that enable our customers to understand exactly what is going on with their power distribution and their energy management.” By instrumenting buildings, Schneider provides its customers with the knowledge to operate them in more efficient, sustainable and liveable ways. “We offer sensors to monitor carbon dioxide levels, determine humidity, measure noise levels and so on. Building owners can monitor in real time the condition of operation of buildings to guarantee maximum wellbeing for employees, which is becoming more and more important as younger generations are increasingly picking their employers based on the workplace.”

Providing those services requires advanced technology, which Schneider has put at the heart of its business. “We are a $30bn company, and 50% of our business is IoT-enabled, meaning products that are connected together and connected to software and services that take the data and create value for our customers. Our networks of sensors, for instance, connect with alarm systems and learning systems that can optimise the condition of the building. We also perform analysis around power quality, around optimising energy consumption, around preventative maintenance – there are so many different value propositions. The more we connect buildings, the more we can innovate with our customers by offering sets of analytics.”

The APAC market is of increasing importance to the company, Delorme explains. “Our growth in Asia really accelerated in the 1980s, where we targeted India, Southeast Asia and China. Today, Asia is our primary region of operation, with more than 30% of funding, and the global CEO is based in Hong Kong. China is our number one country of operation, followed by the US, with India coming up very quickly in third place. For us, Asia is a very important region, both in terms of customer base and also as a base for innovation.” The focus on technology held by the company has been a boon in the fast-changing Asian region. “One of the challenges is simply keeping up with the pace, because Asia is a place that is developing extremely quickly,” says Delorme. “We have a large R&D team in China that innovate for the region and the world, and the same is true of India. For us, it’s a very important part of our community.”

Delorme sees the global work of Schneider, in energy management and beyond, as being crucial to the wider sustainability movement. “Our overarching goal is to contribute to a more sustainable world. Thanks to our technology, we can help businesses adapt to a fast changing world with different parameters, and keep within the two degree threshold so that our kids can have the life that we enjoy.”


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