Clean energy solutions top the agenda at Lisbon Sustainable energy conference
Business responsibilities and consumer awareness of sustainability energy issues were at the fore at the 4th Irish-Portuguese Business Network Sustainability Conference which took place in Lisbon in March.
An IPBN flagship event, the Sustainability Conference touched on Energy, IT, Smart Cities, and the development and profitability of green energy initiatives, important since one of the central themes of the conference was the challenges to business of being both environmentally and profitably sustainable, the importance of meeting ESG targets (Environmental, Social and Governance), and how information technology and digitalisation can work together to make those businesses more profitable.
Held on St.Patrick’s Day (Friday, March 17) at the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce (CCIP) in Lisbon, the event attracted over 150 Portuguese, Irish and international delegates from the world of business and the public sector in both countries and further afield. It had been Diogo Ivo Cruz, an expert in International Economic Promotion and City Branding, and Project Director at Invest Lisboa who had helped secure the late 19th century downtown venue for the event.
The morning’s proceedings were introduced by Geoffrey Graham, Chair of the IPBN & Senior Partner at EDGE who thanked the executive and non-executive partners who sponsored the event which included Enterprise Ireland, Invest Lisboa, Fifty Shades Greener, Full Cycle Building, Brookes Property Group, PwC, Ardanis, Skanstec, and Konceptness, among others.
This was followed by a welcome from The Irish ambassador to Portugal, Angola, Cabo Verde & Guinea-Bissau H.E. Mr. Ralph Victory, and Mr. Neale Richmond T.D., Ireland’s Minister for Employment Affairs and Retail Business who opened the morning’s panels.
Mr. Richmond said Enterprise Ireland took its “suite of engagements” very seriously and that it was great to be “on the road again” meeting the Irish diaspora, but also to stress the real passions and priorities of the Irish Government and people, and top that agenda is sustainability when it comes to business.
“I think this conference is timely, dynamic and ambitious” he said, before touching on key areas which related to Irish Government policy and EU policy, as well as two key priorities for the next few years. The first is digitisation. “We want to harness the gains that were made during Covid-19 when a lot of work was done by businesses to get online. We need to seize those gains and move beyond them”, he said.
“This is not a matter of doing something that is the right thing to do, this is now about adapting to market demands”. Neale Richmond T.D.
The second, is sustainability, which in Ireland’s case involves a “whole new government approach” to the entire area of sustainability. Mr. Richmond said that going forward the idea of sustainability would drive markets and businesses. This is not a matter of doing something that is the right thing to do, this is now about adapting to market demands”, he said.
And continued: “People when they go out to buy something, or companies that sign a multi-million contract want to know that the businesses they are engaging in are sustainable, and we in the Irish Government, our EU partners, and our partners in Portugal are keen to develop a system that ensures that this is attainable for businesses of all sizes, particularly the ESGs in the retail sector which I represent, with a model that is profitable and sustainable in the economic sense as well as the environmental sense,” said the minister.
The morning’s panels kicked off with Energy with Margarida Correia Pires – with EDP’s Head of Business Development/New Downstream discussing ‘Leading the Energy Transition’.
Ms. Correia Pires talked about the Portuguese multinational electricity and reenables energy giants leading role in energy transition in Portugal, and its preparation for Zero Carbon by 2023.
In 2015, the United Nations defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And with these SDGs, a deadline to comply with them: 2030. EDP has set concrete goals for more than half of these SDGs, setting very clear goals for their fulfilment. Ms. Correia Pires also highlighted the work Portugal has been doing in renewables and innovation. Agreeing that energy efficiency was “quite important”.
“I would say its about energy efficiency which is the path to go to tackle climate change. It is critical because we all saw what happened last year with the war in Ukraine with the volatility of energy prices. It’s also a question of environmental sustainability, as well as financial sustainability since it has a direct financial impact on costs.”
Claudia Coelho, a partner at PwC Portugal – Sustainable Business Solutions talked about the opportunities for business and growth potential in this area.
She said that some companies may be thinking why invest in energy efficiency if they already have renewables?
“I don’t think that’s the way things are going to work. When we look at what’s happening on a global level in terms of decoupling of energy emissions intensity with economic growth, it’s not happening when we look at a local level in terms of the speed needed.
“If the world doesn’t change the way we produce power, we — our children and grandchildren — will have a problem. I think there are some really good initiatives out there to encourage companies to go in the right direction, like Net Zero Standards and Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) for example, where we see companies wanting to be Net Zero, but in order to do this they need to adopt these standards because they tell other companies that they are reducing (the carbon footprint) which while being difficult, is essential,” she said.
Declan Wynne, Managing Director of Skanstec Engineering which offers a wide range of tailored and flexible engineering solutions across the energy sector, and who is also an IPBN member discussed Power and Power Distribution Systems and related engineering projects.
Mr. Wynne explained why companies needed to prioritise efficiency ahead of power generation because it has “a major impact in terms of decarbonisation and the reduction of emissions”.
“If we can focus on reducing what we use and being SMARTer in how we use energy, it will have a huge impact in terms of sustainability and the environment”, he said.
On a wider scale Mr. Wynne pointed out that behaviours had changed dramatically in recent years, but energy dependency and energy usage was still increasing rapidly, with a growth of 2-3% YoY as demand had grown.
“We have to be very mindful that we have a big challenge ahead, and there will not be one single, simple fix, but the first place to start is efficiencies. As an engineering company of choice, our team has over twenty years of industry experience in the Energy and Telecommunications sector”, he said.
But what about individual responsibility? Important in the domestic energy segment — a segment in which a large energy producer like EDP has a central role to play.
Margarida Correia Pires emphasises that a huge leap has to be made by household utility and company consumers, and the government. Taking the lead, EDP says that 100% of its vehicle fleet will be electric by the end of the decade. It has invested a lot in innovative projects related to green hydrogen, mobility, and other renewable energies, as well as in terms of EDP’s business.
“Today, 80% of our energy capacity is green, and by the end of the decade it will be 100%. Our main obligation is to enable our client side to have simple and cost-effective solutions for consumers who can have more responsible behaviour over energy use”, she said.
She points out that there are a lot of options already in the package, such as replacing a heating system for air conditioning which is four times more efficient, replacing illumination systems to LED systems, making savings of around 30%. There are also a lot of domestic appliances in the market with ‘A-A+++’ energy efficiency ratings which are now more affordable.
But there are also more complex solutions, including electric mobility which is now cost effective compared to conventional petrol and diesel vehicles per 100 km. In an electric car it costs €7 using the recharging stations on the streets, and just €3.5 charged at home — one-third of the cost of a diesel fill-up. “I think there is more to be done on the network providing more recharging points.
Last, solar convection is easy to adapt to, it is sustainable, reducing consumption by 70% if combined with batteries. Solar energy has come down in price by 90% since 2009.
Both the Portuguese Government and the EU Commission had worked hard on introducing new legislation for energy transition, but will have to work harder on the ground, and encourage more awareness among its citizens. “In other words if you give people the right options — and at an affordable price — they are much more likely to make the right choices,” she said.
ELECTRIFICATION OF TRANSPORT
One of today’s buzzwords is the electrification of transport and other areas such as telecommunications. It is a major concern for utilities, ensuring there is viable power from sustainable solutions.
“This digital change and renewable influx that we need to combat climate change changes the dynamic of the grid system, and in every location it is a challenge that we have in Ireland, Portugal and other places across Europe,” said Declan Wynne.
“I think there is a lot of investment and efforts being made, green energy foundations and trusts that have been set up, but we need to leverage all of our technologies and skillsets to ensure that we can make this work as a collective, and behaviour is the stating point, and there is an onus on all of us with companies having a greater responsibility in terms of sustainability than individuals”, he said.
There had also been huge advancements in terms of technologies and cooperation between regions on EPS (Electrical Power Distribution Systems), but it needs a lot more collaborative work”, he concluded. (0:30:02).