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Siemens and sustainability: interview with Roland Aurich, UK chief executive

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Roland Aurich, chief executive of Siemens UK, on sustainability, renewable energy and why the northern city of Hull is central to its future plans.

The people of Hull had spent two years playing ‘will-they, won’t-they’ when they were finally given the answer they had longed for. German manufacturing giant Siemens announced on March 25 that it was choosing this emerging northern city, along with neighbouring Paull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, as the location for two offshore wind turbine manufacturing plants.

Despite fierce competition from a range of coastal locations across Europe, the game went in Hull’s favour because of the UK’s place as an offshore wind leader and its own location at the heart of the Humber estuary. The decision confirmed that the city really was the subject of a sea change – after it was named city of culture for 2017 just four months earlier.

For Siemens – a firm with a global market capitalisation of over €82 billion – the deal reaffirmed its offshore wind leadership. Hull, once a thriving fishing port, sits 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Some 1,000 direct jobs are expected to be created as part of the deal, which – it is hoped – will help create a renewable energy hub in the Humber region.

The early signs are certainly promising. Just two weeks after the deal was announced, the Hull Daily Mail reported that a “major renewables companywas in talks to move to a business park right next to the Siemens site in the city.

The long deliberation process may have made Hull sweat. But Roland Aurich, UK chief executive at Siemens, is certain that the decision is an informed one – and carefully based on a range of economic and geographical factors.

We really wanted to make sure that the industry has the certainty, because we would never make investments like this unless we saw a stable market trend going forward”, he says.

I would say that the UK has one of the more stable regimes when it comes to making sure we meet our decarbonisation targets and at the same time making sure that capacity is there to avoid the blackouts. It is almost an impossible equation, but I think the UK has come a long way to establish that framework. There is a bit of envy from other countries like Germany and others, which are probably watching pretty closely at what the UK has been doing.”

Roland Aurich, chief executive of Siemens UK

The positive market conditions for offshore wind that Aurich speaks of have led to the UK being described as the “most attractive” country in the world for investing in the technology. As a windy island with over 11,000 miles of coastline, it is not difficult to see why.

David Cameron joined the energy secretary Ed Davey in July last year in cutting the ribbon on London Array – the world’s largest offshore wind farm, which has capacity to power Hull’s 100,000 or so homes four times over. Meanwhile, the government’s long-term strategy, unveiled in August, hopes to boost the UK’s position at the forefront of the industry.

It is a different story for onshore wind, which continues to divide opinion among voters and businesses alike on both value for money and aesthetics. The Conservative party is even reportedly including measures to curb development of onshore turbines in its manifesto for the 2015 general election.

I think they need to be extremely careful in proposing things like that”, says Aurich, who concedes that debate around onshore wind is a “neverending story”. He adds that wind conditions are more attractive and reliable offshore – added to the fact there are fewer dissenting locals about to stall the planning process.

Aurich himself is Siemens through and through, having first joined the firm in 1986. He has been chief executive of its operations in Canada and his native Sweden, before moving to head the UK business in 2012.

He explains how innovation and technology have always been core to what the company does. But in the last decade, it has become increasingly cautious about the bigger picture – namely, its impact on society and the environment. It has reshuffled its portfolio, moving away from less sustainable industries and into smart grid, energy efficiency and making cities more sustainable.

The location for our interview, the Crystal, is a prime example of its future ambitions. Situated on Royal Victoria Dock in east London, it is an interactive showcase for what sustainability might look like in our cities.

The building itself has meticulous architecture, with a natural cooling and self-shading design, insulation, solar panels and ground source heat pumps. Its roof harvests rainwater which is then treated and used throughout the buildings for taps, showers and in the kitchen. Meanwhile, its immediate surroundings have been landscaped in a way that maximises conservation and green space. The result is one of the world’s most sustainable buildings.

The Crystal's sustainability credentials (click to enlarge)

But does Siemens’s vision for its own future – to be a sustainable technological leader – include the fossil fuels that we know do serious harm to the environment? Yes – but only ones that emit the least possible carbon, Aurich says.

He adds, “We still need to acknowledge that at least 60% of the world’s global power generation is based on fossil fuels. We won’t be able to switch that off from one day to another, but what we can do is have a much higher efficiency in the power plants that are based on fossil fuels.

In the last 10 years, we have been focusing more on how to make sure that we add value to our customers, and how to make things more sustainable.”

Some of his peers in the business world may think sustainability is a passing fad – a view that Aurich is determined to fight against. It’s a myth that there is a trade-off between going green and making a profit, he explains.

He points to the latest series of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which expertly and alarmingly outlines what’s in store for our climate in the coming decades – including impacts on food prices, national security and the environment – if we don’t act soon.

Urbanisation, demographic shifts, climate change – these are the megatrends that Siemens has been focusing on for years now”, he says. “For us, it’s just evidence again that we are going in the right direction.”

Further reading:

£310m Hull offshore wind plant given go-ahead as Siemens confirms investment

Wind farms an ‘attractive long-term’ investment opportunity

£450m Humber offshore wind turbine scheme given go-ahead

Demand for renewables to drive wind turbine towers market

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy 2013

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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