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Kelly Becker

Zone President UK&I, Schneider Electric

The climate timebomb is ticking. To meet the challenge, our cities must become carbon neutral by the end of the decade.

The UK Government has put in place ambitious sustainability targets which require immediate action in order to meet the deadline. Cities across the UK are playing their part. London and Glasgow, as part of their membership of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, are aiming to achieve carbon neutrality within the next 10-20 years and Nottingham has pledged to complete by 2028.

Why the focus on cities?

Cities only cover around 3% of the Earth’s land, but they produce around 72% of its total greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, cities are rapidly growing and will continue to be major centres of emissions despite the impact of COVID-19. Consequently, decarbonising large population centres delivers impact at scale. In the fight against climate change, our biggest battles must be fought in cities.

The impact of the pandemic and the unfolding climate emergency present us with a unique opportunity for change. Policymakers and urban dwellers can play a leading role in rethinking urban planning, to build back our cities more sustainably. We need a circular approach to our energy and utilities, alongside solutions for clean electrification, smart digital technology, efficient buildings and infrastructure.

Kas Mohammed

Vice President of Digital Energy UK and Ireland, Schneider Electric

Beginning with buildings

Buildings are a core component of our cities. They have a range of purposes, from dining, shopping and sleeping to learning, working and recovering.

The buildings we enjoy and rely on have one thing in common – they all use energy. In fact, buildings consume around 30% of the world’s energy via their construction and operations and account for almost 40% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

The construction of new buildings is extremely carbon intensive, yet 80% of the buildings standing in 2050 will have already been built today, the future retrofitting and adaption of our existing buildings has the greatest scope for decarbonising the UK building stock.

Buildings encompass a variety of systems that work behind the scenes, from the general electricity we use to the heating, ventilation and cooling of our rooms.

Yet, in many buildings, energy is still wasted on actions like lighting, cooling or heating unoccupied areas. Fortunately, we can target this wasted energy without impacting the function of the building or the satisfaction of its occupants.

Reducing inefficiencies in buildings

We can connect, collect and monitor data from our buildings and their system components remotely. In doing so, we can use smart analytics to identify inefficiencies or issues with their operations. Not only can this insight help to reduce our carbon emissions, but also to increase the building resiliency by protecting their critical assets and avoid operational losses through unplanned downtime.

Furthermore, occupancy and environmental sensors can inform the way we use spaces. We can analyse usage patterns, which can lead to the improved use of a building with safer and more efficient layouts. Meanwhile, they can ensure comfortable and healthy conditions, and that buildings are well ventilated. 

With the right approach, digital technologies can meet the needs of the planet and people. Intelligent digital systems in buildings do both.

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