Climate Action, Digitalization and the Opportunity to Reenergize the Buildings Industry

Siemens smart building performance tooll

Climate laws and agreements are being enacted, and big building technology companies like Siemens are positioning to come out heroes

It has been an eventful few weeks for Climate Action watchers. From tree-huggers to eager capitalists, there are a lot of people happy to see moves that will curtail fossil fuel burning. California signed SB32 into law which commits the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. A critical mass of countries formally committed to the Paris climate agreement at the UN general assembly in New York. (India may sign this week). And voters in the USA pressed presidential candidates to detail their positions on the issue of Clean Energy leadership.

Amory Lovins, Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute, holds that climate protection can be profitable. But, for which countries, regions and companies, and in what time frames? There will be winners and losers along the way as these laws and agreements are translated into actions. Certainly today’s biggest building technology companies want to be among the winners.

Lovins spoke at VERGE 16 in Santa Clara, CA, on Sept 20th. On stage with him was Rainer Baake, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Baake reported that Germany is on the right trajectory to meet its target of cutting carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050. A theme of the plenary session was that, if you want to see tomorrow’s clean energy system, look at Germany today. Complementing Secretary Baake’s presence at VERGE 16 were break-out sessions featuring Siemens Building Technologies (BT) Division.  Their message was ‘If you want to see what BEMS (building energy management systems) will look like tomorrow, look at what Siemens is doing today.’ 

Like Germany, San Francisco has a target of reducing CO emissions by 80% by 2050 (against a 1990 baseline). The city collaborated with Siemens on a holistic study released during the conference that applied its City Performance Tool (CyPT). The analysis included recommendations on how to allocate resources toward energy efficient buildings, clean energy, and a multi-modal transport network. Cities and utilities that want to scale building efficiency programs fast look to partner with companies that have a breadth of businesses, the financial resources and the long-standing customer relationships of a Siemens. As shown in the CyPT graphic below, the company has product and service offerings to fill in almost every box in the box-chart.

A growing business inside Siemens BT is the Building Performance and Sustainability Group, serving Infrastructure and City customers. Director of Energy & Sustainability Solutions Ari Kobb led a session on Siemens Energy Data Management services. He noted that Siemens has been moving customers to ‘digitalization’ on both the demand-side and supply-side of the energy equation for years. His group is now able to quickly bring that digital information together as data services. Of course, today there are numerous big industrial companies and IT companies striving to compete for the same enterprise data management business. With competition among the giants fierce, the pressure is on to deliver easy access to data, positive user experience and reduced complexity. The big building equipment OEMs now have extensive experience working with the data streamed from each others’ systems, neutralizing protocol lock-in and making the practice more and more a thing of the past.

Siemens is also learning from its customers in these large-scale enterprise engagements. Another Siemens BT Managing Director, Kimberly Brisley, presented on her work with a life sciences company. Leaders from tightly-regulated process industries like this customer have data science at the core of their culture. They have goals and suggestions for new ways to derive value from energy and building operational data. Siemens is helping them achieve these, and then taking back the learning, translating it into new digital solutions to add to its suite.

While the sensing, software and networking technologies needed to build the digital solutions listed by Siemens in the San Francisco City Performance study have all been generally available for years, the business models, real estate practices and laws have not encouraged fast adoption. It’s notable that researchers for this analysis found 0% of buildings doing monitoring, only 4% doing performance optimization, and 0% doing remote monitoring. In other words, the market for such building data services is truly in its infancy.

Among building types, retail stores have been early adopters of Remote Monitoring. The Siemens VERGE expo featured demonstrations of its Site Controls Energy Management System (EMS) led by Carl Anello, National Accounts Director, and Aaron Moore, National Accounts Executive, of the Retail Group. EMS reduces energy usage at stores by monitoring and/or controlling key energy-consuming devices such as HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units, indoor lighting, store signage, indoor and outdoor temperature sensors, and refrigeration units. The EMS also monitors energy output and performance of on-site solar panels. A cloud-based data analytics platform provides dashboards, KPIs and outlier reporting to quickly pinpoint and resolve issues that would otherwise drive excessive consumption or negatively impact customer comfort.
siemenssfstudy
Siemens itself has committed to being Carbon Neutral as a company by 2030, and is preparing to lead in distributed energy products and services. For all these reasons, it is in a unique position to support customers as they take steps toward greater energy efficiency, resilience and eventually energy independence by running their buildings as microgrids. It is going to take such global powerhouse companies scaling energy efficiency at a fast pace, if the world is to meet recently legislated Climate Action goals.

The big companies are defining their terrain in this new era of Climate Action like snow grooming machines on a ski slope in a blizzard.  But, they are leaving plenty of space for innovative start-ups to roll their own snowballs through this landscape to amass a growing business of their own. …I’m sure that metaphor came from me hoping that Northern California will get sufficient snow in the winter again, once we start taking action to reduce the earth’s GHG blanket.

Contributing Editor, automatedbuildings.com. Providing news and analysis of innovations in Buildings Control and Facilities Management that leverage Mobile Apps, Cloud Services and M2M Wi-Fi and Wireless Broadband networking.

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