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Massive acceleration of decarbonisation required to meet emissions reduction targets

Sydney NSW, Australia


Australian companies must accelerate their decarbonisation pace tenfold to meet national targets for emission reductions, according to Gareth O’Reilly, Pacific Zone President of Schneider Electric, a world leader in energy management, digitisation and the energy transition. 

Addressing Schneider Electric’s annual Innovation Summit in Sydney today, Mr O’Reilly welcomed the federal government and many 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. 

“Leaders need to move fast – they need to invest in digitising energy management to firstly understand the scope of the challenge ahead and then identify the means to achieve sustainability targets. It’s ‘make or break’ time for businesses to address energy transition. 

“We are seeing some good progress, but we need to accelerate by almost 10 times what we've done in the last three years to achieve the targets the federal government has announced,” Mr O’Reilly said. “A 1.5-degree global pathway requires net zero carbon by 2050, and that means halving emissions by the end of this decade.” 

Mr O’Reilly urged industry leaders to fast-track decarbonisation plans by adopting green electricity and using energy more efficiently. 

“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.” 

Mr O’Reilly’s call was backed by Saul Griffith, a keynote speaker at the summit and author of “Rewiring Australia”, who advised Joe Biden on legislation to facilitate America’s energy transition. Mr Griffith’s urged all Australian households and businesses to electrify all their processes. 

“We need to go harder and faster on what we can do now,” he said. “That’s end use electrification and deploying renewables.” 

Government must align regulatory policies to enable this change, and subsidise the replacement of fossil fuel powered equipment, appliances and vehicles with electric alternatives, Mr Griffith said. 

“The ‘great electrification’ will cut your energy use by more than half while cutting energy bills” he said. Electrifying all appliances “would save the average Australian household $3000 a year on their energy costs”. 

Schneider Electric is a global leader in the digital transformation of energy management and automation. The 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. 

Mr O’Reilly said 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. 

Australia’s relatively poor performance in cutting emissions to date means there are significant opportunities for action now, said Mr 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 concluded. 

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