Ziad Youssef, the VP for Secure Power in the Middle East and Africa at Schneider Electric, says deploying sustainable technologies in the industrial sector can benefit the development of the country while maintaining the overall health of the planet
How was 2021 for the industry and your company?
This past year highlighted just how vulnerable we are to unexpected natural events, the need to speed up digital transformations, and made the threat of climate change even more apparent. The good news is that this realization is spurring change: sustainability has become a global priority across public and private sectors, and with policymakers and individuals alike. And we’re seeing businesses prioritize their digital spending.
At Schneider Electric, we invested early in both of these areas — sustainability and digital solutions have been at the core of our business strategy for the past 15 years. Our recognition as the 2021 World’s Most Sustainable Corporation by Corporate Knights is a testament to the dedication of everyone who has joined us on this journey, and the work we are doing to create Data Centers of the Future that are more efficient and more secure has also been recognized by the industry.
What sort of opportunities did 2021 bring along?
In the past few years, topics like carbon emissions, sustainability, and global warming have become mainstream, and increasingly customers are asking us how we can help them with these issues. The pivot to digital is also making organizations think about how they use technology and how they can better use digital concepts to improve how they operate and up the experience of their own customers. We’re increasingly talking about emerging ideas such as Edge Computing and how these can be deployed in industries such as retail or banking to differentiate the customer experience.
Did you face any challenges in 2021?
Two disruptions — digitalization and electrification — can address climate change and protect our planet’s future. At Schneider Electric, they are at the heart of our strategy. We create technologies and solutions to advance a more efficient, sustainable, resilient, and inclusive world for all, especially in high-growth areas such as data centers. We work with customers, partners, governments, and suppliers to deploy these solutions and create a low-carbon future.
The capacity to create a better future, one that bridges sustainability and progress for all, exists today. And we remain committed to raising the bar for ourselves, our customers and partners, and the communities around us. Whether we’re facing crisis or calm, 2021 has taught us that when we work together, we’re stronger for it. That’s what we’re here to do: be the digital partner for sustainability and efficiency.
What were your key achievements in 2021?
Schneider Electric released a comprehensive novel framework designed to help data centers become more environmentally sustainable. The framework proposes five areas of environmental impact inclusive of key metrics for data center operators in various stages of their sustainability journeys. By leveraging the framework, operators can help to mitigate the impact data centers have on the environment.
This new Schneider Electric framework was developed by its Energy Management Research Center, leveraging expertise from ESG experts, sustainability consultants, data center scientists, and data center solution architects to help take some of the guesswork out of measurement and reporting. The Energy Management Research Center was established in 2002.
Tracking and reporting on standardized sustainability metrics help to drive internal team alignment improvements and increase transparency for external stakeholders, including customers and regulators. Implementing this framework also allows data center operators to help:
- Lessen the difficulty of selecting impactful metrics for tracking
- Improve communication and alignment with internal teams on sustainability objectives
- Act on data used to help improve operations
- Enable more regular and consistent reporting for external stakeholders (investors, regulators, potential employees, etc.)
- Further standardize benchmarking across industry peers located around the globe
Schneider Electric works with major technology companies and colocation providers to design, build, operate, and maintain facilities. It is a digital partner that offers solutions for the power, building, IT, and sustainability facets of businesses.
What promises does 2022 bring along?
We’re going to see increased industry-wide action to introduce technologies that lower carbon emissions. And this will become a priority for all. For example, at the start of 2021, more than 25 of colocation and cloud firms announced a collaboration with various technology trade associations dubbed the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, as a show of their commitment to cutting their carbon emissions.
Many data center operators lack the in-house expertise needed to improve their site’s environmental track records or are daunted by the array of metrics that exist to track the performance of their facilities from a sustainability point of view. Schneider Electric’s five-part sustainability framework, which was developed by the members of Schneider Electric’s Energy Management Research Centre, is geared towards taking the “guesswork out of measurement and reporting”.
Do you see opportunities in the regional markets with new markets opening up?
Sustainability is a must for everyone, and an opportunity to build resilience and efficiency into our operations, to effectively future-proof our systems and processes. Every day, we join our customers and partners on their own decarbonization journeys, delivering digital solutions that help them realize their ambitious efficiency and sustainability goals.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2022?
Deploying sustainable technologies in the industrial sector can benefit the development of the country while maintaining the overall health of the planet. The process of making technical and mechanical activities more energy-saving, eco-friendly, and source-efficient while focusing on innovation, reusability, long-term planning, and social responsibility is known as sustainable technology.
What will be your key focus areas for 2022?
We’re going to continue defining what the data center of the future will look like, and double down on the issue of sustainability for the industry. Data centers are the backbone, perhaps more critical and appropriate, they are the heart of our digital world. All data flows through data centers, and with the accelerated transition to a more automated and more digital world, it is crucial for data centers – the very largest data centers and the very smallest edge data centers – to support the increased demand – efficiently and sustainably, while also delivering on resiliency.
With this increased digital demand, the IT-sector energy consumption and projected energy consumption are highly debated topics given the climate crisis. Today, data centers are responsible for 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions – equivalent to the global airline industry – according to the latest UN IPCC report on climate change. To further this statistic, according to a recent report from Schneider Electric, the IT-sector electricity demand is expected to increase by ~50% by 2030, reaching 3,200 TWh.
What milestones have you set for 2022?
The 2021 – 2025 Schneider Sustainability Impact program introduces six long-term commitments set against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to accelerate us toward a more sustainable future. Taking a broader view on sustainability, our new goals will include empowering local teams to address solutions within their communities and harnessing the power of all generations. Our journey to date has seen meaningful progress, but with the urgency of climate change and the need to create a more inclusive world, we must all do more.
What would you like to do differently in 2022, when compared with 2021?
We’re hoping for more certainty in terms of the economy. The pandemic’s ups and downs have affected everyone, and we hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel next year. We’re also looking forward to doing more face-to-face with our partners and customers throughout the region. We’ve all adapted to doing things online, but there really is something special about seeing someone face to face and greeting them, especially after such a long time.
Do you plan to enter new markets or add new products/applications to your portfolio in 2022?
You will have to wait and see! We’ll be focusing much more on software and services, in addition to our hardware solutions. And our focus will be skilling up the channel, so they’re able to cater to the evolving needs of our customers, especially when it comes to online and remote services.