Climate Action recently caught up with Dr. Roland Busch, Chief Technology Officer and member of the Managing Board at Siemens, a Platinum Sponsor at the 8th Sustainable Innovation Forum.
1. Since everyone knows who Siemens is, do you want to make a small introduction to how Siemen’s portfolio has evolved in the wake of sustainability efforts?
Focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization, Siemens offers technologies for power generation, power transmission, infrastructure systems, as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry. Our portfolio has evolved in response to our customer needs. We focus on developing innovative solutions to help them overcome their challenges. In addition to staying competitive, our customers are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption, to use resources more efficiently and to lower carbon emissions. Therefore we have been advancing energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies for many years now. Our environmental portfolio helped customers and partners reduce their CO2 emissions by 521 million metric tons. That’s around ten times New York’s annual carbon-dioxide output. In addition to helping customers boost competitiveness and lower costs, it generated revenues of €36 billion in 2016.
2. Renewable technologies were once considered niche technologies. During the past decade, they changed the energy regime, and they are expected to determine the future. What are your thoughts about this journey?
Amid all the bad news stories about climate change, the rise of renewables is one of the good news stories. Last year was a record year with a 10% increase in renewable energy capacity coupled with a 23% reduction in investment costs over 2015. Earlier this year the European Environment Agency reported a 10% reduction in Europe’s fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 due to an increase in renewable energy generation. And the good news keeps coming with several automotive companies announcing production targets for hybrid and electric vehicles. This demonstrates the growing acceptance and market demand for greener solutions.
However we need to accelerate the growth of renewables and the reduction of carbon intensive fuels to keep global warming within 2°C as outlined by the Paris Agreement. Switching to electricity as an energy source for heating, industry, transport and increasing energy efficiency can significantly reduce carbon emissions. Of course increasing demand for electricity, coupled with the intermittent nature of renewables will pose some challenges. Gas power plants can provide a flexible, low carbon source of backup power, until such time when bulk storage solutions like power to gas are economically viable. Digital technologies can help us overcome some of the challenges of transitioning to a cleaner energy system, by providing technologies for grid integration, grid stability, demand management and storage.
3. Siemens has announced its plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 and halve its carbon footprint by 2020. How do you plan on doing so?
We believe that companies can play a pioneering role in the fight against climate change, by both offering climate-friendly solutions and by taking action to reduce their carbon footprint. So on one hand our environmental portfolio is helping customers reduce their emissions, while on the other we are undertaking measures to green our footprint. Firstly we are investing some €100 million in innovative technologies that increase energy efficiency at our buildings and production facilities. In addition to cutting our carbon emissions annually by 80,000 metric tons, we expect annual energy savings of €20 million. Secondly we aim to secure 10% of our power supply from distributed energy systems at our sites, using technologies for wind, solar and combined heat and power generation. Thirdly we are reducing the emissions of our global vehicle fleet. Finally we will purchase electricity from renewable energy sources.
4. What do you think is the future of distributed energy systems? What role will IoT technologies play?
Distributed energy systems (DES), which comprise an array of generation, storage, energy monitoring and control solutions, will play a big role in meeting our energy needs and climate goals. DES can increase use of locally available resources like wind, solar and other low carbon sources. As technology advances make DES more affordable, a wide variety of energy users from manufacturers to residential districts will increasingly rely on DES for their electricity needs. Thanks to IoT technologies, DES will disrupt the traditional centralized, linear power generation model, giving way to a complex and dynamic system with multiple players and energy sources. Open IoT operating systems like MindSphere can provide the means to quickly, economically and securely connect various elements of a DES, as well as the requisite analytics and services to manage, control and optimize operation.
The benefits of DES go beyond lower costs and emissions. Around 1.1 billion people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, still have no or very limited access to electricity. DES can help speed up universal access to electricity, as it can be implemented faster and cheaper than major infrastructure projects.
5. Siemens AG is sponsoring this year’s Sustainable Innovation Forum. Why did you decide to get involved?
Innovation has been at the heart of our success and we believe that innovative technologies can help us address challenges like climate change and sustainable development. But the scale and nature of these issues requires dialogue, collaboration and participation from all parts of society, from business and industry, to policy makers, regulators and NGOs. Therefore we welcome the opportunity to be involved in the Sustainable Innovation Forum to exchange ideas with other stakeholders, to learn more about their challenges and to show how technology innovations can enable the transition to a low carbon economy.
Dr. Roland Busch will deliver a Keynote Speech on “Mapping the journey to a carbon-free future” on the second day of the 8th Sustainable Innovation Forum, taking place alongside COP23, on 13-14 November, in Bonn, Germany.