Connectivity and Collaboration: The Foundation of an All-Electric Future

A guest blog post by Nadège Petit, Executive Vice President, Global Power Products at Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric: “Connectivity and collaboration are the foundations of an all-electric future.” Source: Schneider Electric.

We’re on the cusp of an energy revolution. Renewables are gaining ground while generation is becoming more dispersed in the hands of a new generation of energy consumers eager to create energy as well as use it. Power will be cleaner, more efficient and less centralised. Energy efficiency is even expected to double, while energy savings could increase by as much as 25 per cent.

However, a plentiful, efficient energy future will create new challenges. More efficient energy makes power a lifeline for a country’s economy. When that power isn’t available, the entire country stalls. This year, we have seen massive power cuts that have left 48 million South Americans, and 5 per cent of the UK population without power, causing widespread disruption and costing millions in downtime.

Organisations aren’t ready for the paradigm shift created by an all-electric world. In tomorrow’s 5G networks, digital services will run on thousands of private micro data centres distributed across each country. In a digital economy data is the currency, and to ensure vital services stay operational organisations must deliver 100 per cent up-time, all of the time. No excuses.

Yet, organisations can’t guarantee this. Anything from a power cut to systems failure can result in costly and crippling downtime. When Facebook suffered its worst ever outage in early 2019, its share price tumbled 2 per cent and the company was estimated to have lost $90 million. Ultimately, these failings originate in companies’ approach to electrical distribution. Companies find themselves running inefficient power infrastructures, compromised during both installation and operation. They don’t deliver the efficiency, up-time or value for money they need.

To deliver on the promise of the electric future, organisations must adopt an innovative approach that eliminates complexity and helps them scale fast. This means considering technologies, platforms and partners that deliver on collaboration and connectivity.

A broken foundation

Electricity has never been more complex to operate, and current power infrastructures simply aren’t up to the task. The ecosystem of products, solutions and power solutions is fundamentally fragmented. There are thousands of solutions providers offering thousands of alternatives for every part of the electrical system. Organisations are spoilt for choice, but it also means there’s additional complexities from incompatibilities and products that don’t work well together.

Delays, extra costs, less secure installations as well as design and integration mistakes have become all too common. Indeed, engineering fees now make up 53 per cent of total installation costs. To make matters worse, by the end of it you have a system that doesn’t work quite as it should. Organisations are quite literally setting themselves up for failure.

Problems at the installation phase are compounded during operation. Poor design choices will likely add extra costs and inefficiencies, while a lack of skills and experience may cause downtime and safety issues. For example, electrical assets that aren’t connected or compatible can rarely be monitored in real-time. Scheduled maintenance may flag wear and tear before it causes a power failure, but only if luck is on your side. More than likely, you’re going to suffer downtime or, in the worst case scenario, a damaging electrical fire that could have been avoided.

A systems and services model

To escape this quagmire, businesses have to innovate. It’s crucial they re-examine their power infrastructures and seek improvements that will make them more resilient, while lowering both capital and operational expenditure.

First and foremost, organisations should try to simplify and integrate digital models into their electrical systems to cut this complexity. Complexity slows down projects with too much time spent on engineering efforts from integration to commissioning and increases project costs. More components and moving parts have a higher rate of failure than those which are streamlined and simplified. The more subsystems there are, the more likely something will go wrong.

To rectify this, they first need to design installations specifically for the application they serve, and integrate them with the process they deliver. Doing so not only lowers the chance of failure and installation error, it significantly reduces installation costs and benefits customers’ project balance sheets thanks to a simpler design and commissioning process.

Then, companies should embed edge control and smart devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) in functional and integrated building blocks. An IoT-connected power infrastructure offers improved asset management, energy cost optimisation and greater resilience. An operator can monitor asset condition and energy usage in real-time – if a connected circuit breaker is starting to malfunction, the organisation will be alerted before it has a chance to turn into a business-interrupting crisis. Energy waste can also be more quickly identified and resolved. This will drive down costs and eradicate mission-critical power outages.

Yet there’s only so much a single company can do by itself. Organisations should seek to create a more efficient, digital energy management ecosystem that leverages open platforms. Schneider Electric’s electrical distribution platform of the future, EcoStruxure Power, facilitates such an ecosystem. With an extended community of experts to draw from, you’re assured faster, better designed installations and, should any issues arise, faster support and resolution.

The coming of the all-electric future, accelerates the need for new approaches, tools and technologies. To deliver the uptime and efficiency required, organisations need a strong foundation formed by a streamlined and connected power system. At the same time, in striving to serve its customers best, no single company can hope to stand alone and operate this power infrastructure single-handed. Now is the time to create collaborative, open ecosystems with a wide ecosystem of partners, innovative technology and communities of experts. The world of energy is evolving and you need to evolve alongside it.

About the author:

As the Executive Vice President of Schneider Electric’s Global Power Products business, Nadège Petit is responsible for spearheading innovation. Her passion is technology and connectivity - the best routes businesses can take to solve many of today’s challenges and reach their goals.

Nadège believes that power is critical to today’s businesses. Her mission is to find new ways of helping organisations meet their power needs more efficiently, safely and more cost-effectively, all while enabling them to achieve their environmental commitments.

Nadège Petit joined Schneider Electric in September 2004 as International Sales Project Manager, before moving to the Global Power Business in 2007. In 2008, she took over global business development as Business Development VP for the EMEA zone. Nadège Petit moved to Russia in 2011 to take on the role of Business VP for the Energy business. In 2014, she was made Energy Business VP for France Operations and, in 2017, Nadège became Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Schneider Electric group level. Last year, she was appointed Executive Vice President for the Global Power Products business.

Nadège gained her Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Technology of Compiegne, France (2004). She holds an Executive MBA from Kingston University, London, UK (2014). Nadège moved to Hong Kong in 2017; she lives and works there today.