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Decarbonising the electric grid

Gary Lawrence, segment president, power and grid at Schneider Electric. (Image source: Schneider Electric)

Technical Review Middle East caught up with Schneider Electrics segment president for power and grid, Gary Lawrence, at the World Utilities Congress held on 8-10 May this year

Lawrence spoke on public-private partnerships, how the company is looking to manufacture locally, and the future outlook for the company. Read on: 

Technical Review Middle East (TRME): How does Schneider Electric see its growth in the Middle East? 

Gary Lawrence (GL): Firstly, I would say it's imperative that we have that link with private and public partnerships. I think it's imperative not only for company growth, but also to speed up infrastructure, engagements, and employment. So we're very supportive of private public partnerships, particularly in the UAE. Last year, we signed an agreement with both ADNOC and the ministry of infrastructure and technology. We are also focusing heavily on manufacturing locally, such as electrical equipment. 

TRME: How is Schneider helping clients with sustainability? 

GL: We're first and foremost a technology company. What does that mean for our clients? Of course, we talk a lot about decarbonisation and sustainability. We support that with digitisation, our software, and the suite of services that we have, that help our clients to do their business here in the UAE. Watching them lead the way in sustainability with the various private and public sectors is very satisfying for us. 

There's a number of factors apart from decarbonisation, such as resilience, reliability, efficiency, and flexibility that we need to adapt in order to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. One of them is the creation of a digital twin when it comes to asset management. I think many people talk about digital twins. I'm not sure exactly if many people know physically what it is.

When you're talking about design and planning, the lifecycle of building infrastructure, simulations, the physical operations, and serviceability, it can be quite tedious and arduous. The digital twin can support the integration of all those physical assets into a digital format. That actually helps in the energy transition because it helps us do more with less, not just in terms of cost, but also in terms of resources and physical activities. So having a tool and asset like a digital twin, really enables us to speed up this transition.

Read more: Schneider Electric and H2-Enterprises to develop hydrogen technology

At the World Utilities Congress, we are also showcasing our technologies and how they can benefit our clients. One of them is the Grids of the Future portfolio, which features products to strengthen the efficiency and sustainability of utilities firms. We’re also presenting green alternatives to traditional systems, including intelligent software for energy management and tools for improving grid performance. We’re exhibiting the EcoStruxure platform as well, which is the foundational technology backbone on which Schneider Electric’s solutions are built and delivered.

By incorporating Schneider Electric's products, services and software, our partners and customers can optimise their operations and reduce their carbon footprint. 

TRME: What are Schneider’s own sustainability goals? 

GL: Last year, we won the ‘best use of renewable energy’ award at the Gulf Sustainability Awards. This was for our warehouse in Jebel Ali, which has 2,000 solar panels put on the site's rooftop, and can offset roughly 1,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions. The system consists of 16 Schneider Electric solar inverters that change the alternating direct current output of photovoltaic solar panels into alternating current that may be utilised by the grid of the Smart Regional Distribution Centre

We also believe in providing upskilling options to the next generation of employees, especially because having access to skilled people is not easy these days. So we just had an agreement with American University of Sharjah to upskill and train the engineering students, where they would be able to work in their labs, and give them internships at Schneider Electric. We're doing that soon with many other universities as well. 

TRME: What future infrastructure projects do you hope to see in the region? 

GL: There is a massive upswing in renewable generation here in the UAE and globally as well. But if we need to increase renewable penetration in the region, then that will require further technologies to integrate those renewable assets. We need a massive investment in the grid to support the penetration of further renewables to, for example, 60% of electricity generation from renewables. I think the technology for that is available. I also think that we have some good willingness in the government and in the private sector. Now, it's time to act on that technology.