Australian companies must accelerate their decarbonisation pace tenfold to meet our targets for emission reductions, according to Gareth O’Reilly, Pacific Zone President of Schneider Electric, a global leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation.
Addressing Schneider Electric’s annual Innovation Summit in Sydney last week, Mr O’Reilly will welcome the federal government and businesses embracing net zero goals, while stating a fundamental rethink of industrial processes, construction, energy efficiency, and energy generation is required to achieve these goals.
Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit brings together industry leaders, visionaries, and technical experts to discuss how companies can accelerate digitalisation and electrification to innovate for sustainability and achieve net zero while boosting profitability.
Key guest speakers will include, Saul Griffith, author of ‘Rewiring Australia’, the scientist and innovator who advocates “electrify everything” and Professor Veena Sahajwalla, the inventor revolutionising recycling science, including the invention of green steel. They will be joined by Schneider Electric’s Executive Vice President International Operations Manish Pant, who leads the organisation’s operations across the Pacific, India, Middle East Africa and South America, and Mr O’Reilly.
Mr O’Reilly will urge industry leaders to fast-track decarbonisation plans by adopting green electricity and using energy more efficiently. Introducing digital technology and replacing fossil fuels with electricity was the key to achieving the energy transition, he says.
“The climate challenge is really an energy challenge, 80% of global carbon emissions come from the production and consumption of energy.”
“The debate over decarbonisation has shifted fundamentally in Australia over the past year,” Mr O’Reilly said. “It’s no longer about if we reduce emissions, but how to achieve net zero and how quickly.
“We are seeing some good progress. But we need to accelerate by almost 10 times what we’ve done in the last three to achieve the targets the federal government has announced.
“A 1.5-degree global pathway requires net zero carbon by 2050, and that means halving emissions by the end of this decade.”
“The first step must be reforming and reframing how we use electricity and how we create it. Renewables should replace fossil fuels as, aside from the emissions, creating electricity from thermal generation loses two thirds of the primary energy produced.”
Australia’s relatively poor performance in cutting emissions to date means there are significant opportunities for action now, said O’Reilly.
“Australian housing is the least efficient in the world of OECD countries and Australian industry, in terms of dollar of output per energy input, ranks among the lowest.
“By doing some simple things better around energy efficiency and the built environment we can reduce energy demand, by reducing usage, by 30 to 40 per cent.”
Although attention is focused on replacing fossil fuels with clean energy sources, it is only half the solution, he says. “The other half comes from tackling the demand side, electrifying processes such as transport and heating, and also by reducing energy consumption – using digital technology to eliminate the vast amount of energy waste that exists today.
“Digital means efficiency. It allows us to make energy more visible, to understand and automate processes that deliver smarter, optimised consumption. And electric can make energy green, it is the most efficient energy and it’s the best vector for decarbonisation.
“Combining digitisation with electrification creates what we call Electricity 4.0, a new era of smart, green electric energy,” Mr O’Reilly concludes.
Australian Government Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. (2021). Energy in Australia 2021. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
Clean Energy Council. (2021). Solar Power in Australia. Retrieved from
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, “Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry Final Report.” (2020).
Australian PV Institute. (2021). Australian PV Institute Solar Report. Retrieved from https://www.apvi.org.au/solar-report/
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