Schneider Electric Focuses on City Infrastructure
By Bill Lydon, Editor
Schneider Electric held their Xperince event on June 4, 2013 in Washington D.C. which primarily focused on the challenges that cities face and how to solve them. There is a significant migration of people into cities and the infrastructure is not there to support this rapid growth. Key topics included transforming energy into an asset, the smart grid, making smart cities a reality, and turning operating inefficiencies into capital investments. Schneider Electric people demonstrated and discussed intelligent energy management as a way to balance rising energy costs while increasing productivity, sustainability and the bottom line. The event featured more than 30 breakout sessions related to energy, sustainability and innovation.
Chris Curtis, President and CEO, North America Operations
Chris Curtis addressed media by saying, “What it is about Schneider Electric you need to know…” He described Schneider as a large company on the move that has a wide range of capabilities. He also framed a major industry issue with the statement, “The necessity to advance the whole idea of a comprehensive U.S. energy policy.” Curtis feels that people have become complacent about energy with all the natural gas finds, while in contrast United States energy efficiency as a percent of GDP is low. Even though the supply side is improved with natural gas discoveries, the inefficiencies of energy generation and transmission are a major factor that needs significant improvement.
Another challenge is that each individual state has unique energy regulations which he terms “organized chaos.” I asked Curtis what Schneider would like to see in an energy policy. He suggested starting with a labeling/rating program for buildings similar to Energy Star (www.energystar.gov) appliance ratings that inform users about annual and lifetime operating costs. This program would provide information that could lead to more private money invested in energy conservation. He highlighted the challenges cities face by saying, “The process of urban planning has been on vacation awhile and now it is coming back…” People are moving into city centers that don’t have the infrastructure capable of handling the population influx and Curtis suggests that Schneider has the capabilities to serve these needs.
Curtis contrasted commercial buildings and industrial plants. Commercial buildings typically have a high level of interest in optimizing energy. Regarding industrial plants, Curtis said, “Energy efficiency you hope is a byproduct of a process that is efficient by itself.”
How should people think about Schneider?
Curtis described Schneider Electric as transitioning from a “product to channel” company to a business focused on solutions to improve efficiency. In addition, Schneider was a highly decentralized company with many individual brands now merging into one globally integrated company with the Schneider name as the brand. In November of 2012, Schneider Electric reported twelve month sales of 24 billion euro. In fiscal year 2011 the company reported business of 24% utilities & infrastructure, 22% industrial & machines, 16% data centers, 29% non-residential buildings, and 9% residential.
I asked Curtis that with the emphasis on infrastructure if there is less of a focus and resource on industrial automation. He responded that the same technology is of practical use in industrial and infrastructure.
Schneider Electric StruxureWare software is the foundation for serving all their markets. StruxureWare is a software platform based on their own web services to integrate a suite of applications between automation and enterprise computing, including standardized user and data interfaces across all products. The goal is to make it easy for people to integrate Schneider Electric products with this software platform. More Information: Schneider Electric's "Big Bet" on Software
EcoStruxure Alliance & Technology Partners
Schneider Electric announced the launch of its EcoStruxure Alliances Program for global strategic alliance partners and EcoStruxure Technology Partner Program for technology partners. An EcoStruxure Alliance Partner designates the highest level of partnership with Schneider Electric including joint commitment to R&D, sales, marketing and executive resources to support the partnership. Schneider Electric has formed EcoStruxure Alliances with Cisco and IBM.
EcoStruxure Technology Partners designates a partner’s commitment to working together with Schneider Electric to develop solutions designed to meet energy efficiency and sustainability goals for mutual customers that can connect to the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure architecture. EcoStruxure Technology Partners have the possibility to receive the StruxureWare Tested and Approved logo after test lab evaluation. Companies who have joined the EcoStruxure Technology Partner program include: Alcatel-Lucent, Belden, Ekahau, KGS Buildings, OSIsoft and Verdiem. Also joining are Cisco, Esri, HMS Industrial Networks, IBM, Intel, JouleX, Niobrara Research and Development, and Sage Electrochromics.
Thoughts & Observations
More industrial automation companies are focusing on the application of automation technology for the infrastructure of cities to increase efficiency and quality. This was major topic at the 2013 Hannover Fair with a hall dedicate to Metropolitan Solutions and the establishment of an ongoing Metropolitan Academy facility.
City infrastructures present a major opportunity to apply automation. The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates $57 trillion in infrastructure investment will be required between now and 2030 simply to keep up with growth. Click here for Full Report.
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