Interview | Jacek Łukaszewski, MEE Cluster President, Schneider Electric

26 February 2020

Schneider Electric provides digital solutions in the field of energy management and automation, ensuring efficiency and sustainable development. The company has been present in Poland since the early 1990s and has developed a robust footprint, which includes over 2000 employees, five production plants and varous shared services (Financial, HR, and Global Marketing 

Schneider Electric offers a broad portfolio - what is presently driving demand for your products and solutions in Poland?

One factor is the overall growth of the Polish economy - country GDP has been growing every year for more than 20 years. As a result we see infrastructure development, growth in the construction market, investments in industry any may other trends positively impacting our business. 

The second big thing is the transformation of the energy market, especially in this country where the energy mix is overwhelmingly based on coal. Especially in recent years when energy prices went up significantly and negative consequences of the climate change became visible more and more customers are willing to change the way they use energy. Here Schneider Electric comes in with our energy and automation digital solutions based on our flagship platform EcoStruxure. We help our customers improve their efficiency and sustainability with our world-leading energy technologies, real-time automation, software and services in homes, buildings, data centers, infrastructure and industries, and all other places where energy is consumed.  

What are in your view the most important technological trends that are taking shape and how are they influencing the energy sector?

There are mega trends like digitalization or sustainability, that apply to the overall economy and some other more specific to the energy industry. One example of such trend is growing demand for electrical energy caused by industrialization, urbanization and overall progress of our civilization.

 

Only about 20% of the energy used globally is in the form of electrical energy, whereas the rest is based on direct combustion or fossil fuels.

In Schneider Electric we believe that electrifying some of these energy sources is a solution for sustainability because electrical energy, unlike other energy sources, can be made completely carbon neutral. 

 

As for the energy sector specifically, renewables drive sustainability, but they also undermine the classical centralized model of energy generation. In the traditional model powerplants are usually located next to the source of fuel for example a lignite mine. They are usually large in size because at a small scale neither mining not traditional energy generation including nuclear is economically viable. With renewables, small scale is not an issue, allowing for generating energy close to the places where it is consumed which cuts the need for transportation. This is called distributed generation and it increases the need for energy storage and grid management.

Here comes the digitalization mega trend that is also impacting the energy sector. The electrical grid with increasing number of distributed renewable energy sources becomes less reliable and more difficult to balance energy supply with demand. Grid automation and management software is a solution and Schneider Electric is a global leader in advanced distribution management systems for electrical utilities. 

The energy industry is often regarded as conservative. What has been your experience in Poland, do you notice a growing appetite for modern technology?

Indeed, the energy sector in Poland is considered as conservative. This is a CAPEX-intensive industry with regulated pricing. Their ability to invest in new technologies is very much depended on politicians and some other stakeholders. Even so, you always find pockets of excellence. For instance we have done a few projects on “self healing grids”. It is a smart grid solution where the fault is automatically detected, isolated and reconnected through another route. 

 

New technologies require two distinct elements. One is the mental ability to get out of a conservative world, and second the financial ability to afford new technology.

 

You briefly mentioned storage, how do you expect this segment will evolve in Poland in the coming few years?

Schneider Electric has some specialized solutions where we help customers build and operate small grids, and storage is part of the package. I would say right now everyone is looking at this technology and with the higher adoption of RES we need to have a technology that allows us to match supply and demand. 

But for a country like Poland it is still very early stage, especially if we consider the budget limitations. Sooner or later it will happen though, the trend of electrification and distributed generation will increase also the need for storage and the payback for such investments.

In terms of objectives, what are you pursuing with priority for Schneider Electric in Poland?

 

Schneider Electric made a pledge that we will become carbon neutral as a company by 2025 in our extended ecosystem and achieve net-zero operational emissions by 2030. Inside the company there are already many grassroots initiatives coming from our employees, who are enthusiastic for this direction. 

 

Other than this, we will continue supplying our energy and automation digital solutions. In brief, we will look to capture opportunities within the trends I mentioned. More and more our products become connectable allowing us to offer even more integrated solutions more advanced digital services. 

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