From the time when primitive craftsmen first used fire to forge tools and weapons, through the era of water-powered mills, right up to today, industry and energy have had a fundamental, essential relationship. Without energy, there can be no industry.
But today, that relationship is changing at the speed of light. We are living in an era of continuous disruption; we adapt, we innovate, or we die. There’s usually no third option. Nowhere is the necessity to adapt and innovate more clear than in the area of energy – an area that touches the very heart of all of our industries.
What can we say for sure about the future of energy in Canada? Can I tell you what is going to happen to oil prices or if certain pipeline projects are going to be approved or if scientists are going to solve issues around fracking or extraction? No.
But I can tell you with certainty that nothing about energy – supply, transmission, and usage – is going to be the same, ever again. The emphasis on renewable power generation will continue to grow. The science supporting sustainability will grow with it, creating disruptive innovation at every turn.
In the meantime, we will continue to draw from our valuable and extensive oil and gas supplies, but in this industry, too, innovation will work to our advantage – and it is incumbent upon all of us as stakeholders in the energy field to be enablers of innovation.
We have already begun to experience the impact of disruptive innovation in our urban cityscapes. Cities are changing in dramatic and disruptive ways. Cities are becoming “smart”. Utilities are becoming “smart” as well. Siemens Canada has partnered with NB Power to develop world-leading innovation in power transmission distribution, smart grids, and other smart applications. This is where the creation of smart cities intersects with innovations in energy – because smart cities, smart energy systems, and intelligent buildings all impact on the sustainability of our energy supply.
What did energy mean for industry, a few decades ago? Essentially, it was a commodity we needed to drive our business; we accessed the most available and reliable energy source, we powered our factories, we built the financial cost into our financial equations – and that was basically where it ended for most of us.
Today, we still want a reliable power supply and, of course, the economics will always be important to bottom-line-driven, for-profit enterprises. But today, we are equally concerned with economic efficiency, with resource efficiency and with climate protection.
That’s disruption for you. Where once the environmental impact of obtaining energy was just seen as “the cost of doing business” – a cost borne by everyone on the planet, incidentally – today, job one is to mitigate and if possible eliminate any impact on the environment.
For a while, businesses talked about being green, but worried more about being in the red. Today, that no longer flies. It’s essential to be green. At Siemens, for example, we are committed to being carbon neutral worldwide by 2030 by focusing on more energy-efficient vehicles, on green facilities, and on decreased consumption of fuel.
We must do our part – and that means looking at energy from a new, 21st century perspective. Today, we are perfectly placed to provide the answers to these problems. We each must embrace the opportunity. Get re-charged with the sustainable notion that driving disruptive innovation is the path to greatness for each of our companies. When we embrace disruptive innovation, we are serving the best interests of our planet, our customers, and our people and our business. Profit, people and planet are in sync!