In this Q&A Rohan Kelkar, executive vice-president of Power Products global business, Schneider Electric looks at how the company is investing in a sustainable future.

What’s the best way to cut CO2 emissions by 50% in the next 9 years, to be on track for net zero by 2050?

The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050. While this is ambitious, it is a target that is achievable if everyone plays their part. However, so far, only a quarter of Fortune 500 companies have made public commitments to achieving net zero. The challenge is more often than not with the 3rd party emissions the business cannot directly control – up and down their supply chain. This is where digital technologies and partnerships can help make progress faster through increased traceability and circularity.

Electricity is the most efficient energy and the best vector for decarbonization, that’s because it’s virtually 100% efficient at end-use with current uses today. By 2040, the share of electricity in everything we do will double, reaching at least 40% of final energy consumption and six times more electricity will be generated from solar and wind. Consequently, it is inevitable that the energy system largely switches to electrification over the coming decades to power our infrastructure, buildings, homes, industry and mobility.

How does Schneider help its customers to decarbonize its buildings? Are public-private partnerships and AC/DC hybrid microgrids the way forward?

At Schneider, we have developed innovative ways to help customers decarbonize their buildings. In terms of lowering carbon emissions, there’s lots that can be done when it comes to upgrading the lighting in buildings. For example, Direct current (DC)-based lighting (LED) is as much as 75% more efficient than incandescent lighting. We believe that the DC standard is here to stay as it is rapidly emerging as a disruptive technology that has the potential to stimulate economic growth, inspire innovation like hybrid AC/DC microgrids, and create jobs while protecting the environment.

Another way to decarbonize buildings is through the use of IoT, which can be used throughout buildings to gather data about how efficient the systems and infrastructure is functioning so that changes can be made to make them more efficient. This is where retrofitting is useful to give new life to legacy equipment or machines in a factory or industrial setting.

What are the key considerations when working on the digital transformation of a building? What are the main things to get right? And where would the building owner start?

Digitization is reinventing the way we produce, distribute and use energy, particularly when it comes to buildings. Digital and electric solutions are particularly powerful in the fight against energy waste in industrial environments, offices and homes – all helping us drive meaningful sustainable change in the environments we can’t directly control.

To successfully decarbonize a building, it all starts with gathering the right data and analyzing it to identify ways in which it can be better optimised. At Schneider, we help empower our partners to drive efficiency and business growth by gathering and leveraging digital intelligence, allowing them to realize the full potential of digitalization through the design-build-operate process and resilient operations.

The EV revolution will turn our offices as well as shopping malls into charging stations. What does that mean for the electrical safety of buildings, old and new?

Both the automotive industry and society as a whole are finding themselves at an important transportation tipping point. In a world where over 1 billion fossil fuel-powered motor vehicles circulate across tens of millions of kilometers of roads, the infrastructure that powers these vehicles is about to radically change. According to McKinsey, over 140 million electric vehicles (EVs) could be on the road in China, the European Union, and the United States by 2030. It is also estimated that there will be 40 million charging points by 2030.

To make EVs a success, we’ll have to work in partnerships with housing associations, grid and infrastructure operators, local authorities. The mass adoption of EVs will have a significant impact on building and facility managers who will have to create a robust charging infrastructure in their car parks. It is essential that the EVs can be charged safely and reliably, and that they are installed according to the latest industry and government standards both in new and old buildings. IoT can then be used to monitor the performance of charging stations to track their efficiency, energy consumption and to monitor any potential failures in the system.

With the industry pioneering some of the cutting-edge smart building and smart energy solutions, how do we ensure today’s engineers and home builders are fully up-to-speed on all the sustainable technology available to them?

Schneider Electric offers training courses at over 90 training centers across the globe and online for electricians to improve safety. These courses are also designed to inform industry professionals about innovations and trends in the industry the latest products.

To support customers and partners wherever they are in the world, we have created Exchange – where they can find partners with the right values, create, collaborate and test their products. Being able to co-create leads to the use and development of open-source vendor- agnostic solutions that are connected, cyber secure, and create efficiencies on an unprecedented scale.

When retrofitting a building, how can we be sure that new technologies are future-proof and compatible with any smart energy and smart building innovations of the future?

When retrofitting a building, it’s important to think about the longevity of any technology which is installed. That’s where the concept of a circular economy comes in, it is about closing all the loops of the linear economy to optimise resources. It is about prolonging product lifespan by making it smart and natively connected, by refurbishing, repairing, and remanufacturing products to extend their functionality as long as possible, and it is about reusing parts and components in new manufacturing processes. So even if certain components or parts in a building are replaced, they are recycled. So along with the environmental challenge, going circular is not just about future-proofing a building, it’s about becoming less dependent on fossil fuels to generate our energy and plastics and less dependent on new metals for our products. Open, simple solutions developed in partnerships are key to future-proofing and decarbonizing our buildings at pace.