While many business leaders recognise we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution, we are also undergoing a fourth energy revolution.

That’s the view of Gareth O’Reilly, Zone President and Managing Director, Pacific at Schneider Electric.

O’Reilly told Which-50 this energy revolution involves digitisation and increased visibility across a very complex democratised energy system, combined with a large amount of distributed energy. Three forces are driving this, he said.

“We’re seeing an increasingly decentralised energy system. We are seeing a momentous push from society and enterprises for decarbonised energy.

“And the only way to manage the shift from a simple way of distributing energy to what is a very democratised and complex distribution is to have full digital visibility over how that all works.”

O’Reilly took the view that the proportion of electricity produced from sustainable sources presently needs to grow because energy needs are inevitably going to grow.

“Of the carbon footprint we generate today, 40 per cent is in buildings, 40 per cent in the industry, and 20 per cent is in mobility and transport,” he said.

The challenge, however, is that currently of the electricity used in buildings and energy, only seven per cent is sustainable energy.

“But that can grow, and will grow, to at least 50 per cent of the market in Australia by between 2040 and 2050.”

Data Centres

Companies like Schneider expect to see the proportion of the world’s energy demands driven by data centres grow dramatically in the years ahead.

According to O’Reilly, “Increasingly we could see data centres occupying ten per cent of global energy demand — up from today where they occupy two to three percent. We see data usage increasing exponentially, but we see the use of energy in data increasing as well. It is growing faster than any other market — so we could see this dramatic rise in energy consumption in data.”

The need to get on top of this through the application of sustainable practices is driving transformation, he says.

Gareth O’Reilly Zone President and Managing Director, Pacific at Schneider Electric

“The large providers and managers of data, these are very large companies globally. They have strong mandates on being carbon-neutral — and in fact, carbon-negative — in their operations.

“That means complex operations like data centres have to find a way to be carbon-neutral and the energy that they consume has to be carbon-neutral.”

He said another big driver is the way in which energy gets to those end markets. 

“Energy efficiency brings the added bonus that you need to generate less to do the same.”

There are still big gains to be made on that front, he argued, suggesting that as much as  50 per cent of energy today simply evaporates — “It’s wasted.”

As such the digital transformation of operational technology management will deliver that next layer of optimisation in those segments, according to O’Reilly.

Schneider’s role

“Schneider is about providing energy and automation for a digital and connected world, which is underpinned by a sustainable one.”

He said, “Scheider believes that life is on when energy is on — whether it’s in industry, whether it’s buildings, or whether it’s in homes.”

And, he said, digital transformation is critical to all of this.

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