Become part of a new energy system

Thursday, September 28, 2017 4:00 pm EDT

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Lisa Davis, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG

Companies that don’t give value to society shouldn’t exist. The most competitive business strategies strive to make a difference. This is what Siemens believes, and why the company launched its Business to Society platform. Blog posts in this series, like the one below, capture a key part of what Business to Society means to Siemens: It’s about addressing some of America’s biggest challenges as part of the company’s core business strategy. Siemens’ 50,000 U.S. employees are making a difference by helping to close the skills gap, supporting U.S. R&D, reducing carbon emissions, driving breakthrough medical innovations, and advancing America’s security, infrastructure and economy. Learn more at: https://www.siemens.com/us/en/home/company/sustainability/business-to-society.html

Each of us uses energy – and thus produces CO2. The energy sector produces roughly 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Among scientists, the amount the world can sustainably bear without irreparable damage is disputed. But the facts are obvious: We are increasingly experiencing the impact of a changing climate, witnessing extreme draughts, floods and hurricanes at home and around the globe.

The energy transitions taking place show that many states, cities and communities are seriously seeking to reduce their carbon emissions. But what would an energy system of the future look like? A system that could continue to guarantee supplies, remain affordable, meet higher demand as more areas dependent on fossil fuels switch to electricity (think electrical vehicles) …  and yet, still drastically slash emissions? 

Recently I was honored to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, my Alma Mater, about changes that must be made in our energy systems. As we know, some parts of the system will remain in place, but many new things are needed.

The focus of attention is on three factors:

  1. Renewables will make the energy system more sustainable, but also more decentralized. The system will consist of countless smaller parts and thus be far more complex.
  2. Even over the medium term, we won’t be able to forgo a fossil-fueled system backbone. Gas-fired power plants, above all, will support efficient, decarbonized energy supplies, and compensate for the variable share of electricity produced by renewables.
  3. Power grids will be critically important energy managers, handling both generation and consumption, and digital technologies can support their complex functions. Surplus power will be used to drive the electrification of many other fields and applications.

Changes in the system – shifting from an energy chain to an integrated system – require new products, systems and business models. Siemens is working closely with research institutions and universities, with our customers and with leaders in government to provide these solutions. Siemens and UC Berkeley, for example, have closely collaborated for years to develop new materials used in power generation that have increased the efficiency of turbines. 

The good thing about this new, distributed energy system: The more participants there are in the system, the more valuable, resilient and sustainable it will be. Energy is becoming more democratic! From home owners to business owners, to universities and hospitals and manufacturers, every energy consumer can become part of this new system and make a small personal contribution to decarbonizing our world. 

Earlier posts in this series:

Introducing our New Business to Society platform – Judy Marks, CEO, Siemens USA

Why Robots Will Improve Manufacturing Jobs – Joe Kaeser, CEO, Siemens AG