EcoCity Revolution Interview With Chris Sowa, GVP At Schneider Electric, And Alistair Schneider, CEO Of Innouvo

December 14 18:45 2020

During the recent EcoCity Revolution event here, Alistair Schneider, the CEO of Innouvo, interviewed Chris Sowa, a Global Vice President at Schneider Electric focused on innovation, new ventures, and strategy in the Energy Management Software business. The focus on this discussion is how we can drive a true EcoCity Revolution through improved sustainability and green innovation enabled by digitization. This is Part I of III of a EcoCity Revolution perspective.

Part I of III – Vision for EcoCity Revolution

Alistair Schneider:

How is housing likely to develop?


Chris Sowa:

There are a couple of things we can tactically drive toward to radically reduce the carbon footprint, let’s say by 40% by 2040. We need to leverage the change that COVID has spurred through work at home, so we consider how we can repurpose our building stock. Now what the buildings are going to look like, it’s still becoming clear. What we know, however, is that we have a lot of malls and retail space that are closing down and might never open up the same way. We also have excess office space created in some locations as major companies move to hybrid work and work from home options. At the same time, we have major needs for affordable housing, especially in big cities like Boston and San Francisco. Where do we get that affordable housing? How can we take this excess of space, whether it is office space and retail spaces to create housing and efficient uses for this space?


What is your vision for how leading cities, for example, Boston is going look in five years. How is the energy going to flow?


First, as I mentioned, we will likely be repurposing buildings, making them more collaborative spaces that draw us in rather than just warehouse workers. We will also be looking to reuse buildings from an energy efficiency and carbon perspective to create that next generation of affordable housing. I look at the existing infrastructure revitalization as being a really exciting opportunity that we see coming out of COVID and helping us solve some key problems.

Next, we start to build that next generation of digitally efficient buildings. We not only want to design buildings that are energy efficient with the latest BIM software tools, we need to monitor them. We need to design efficient human centric buildings, then monitor their actual use to improve them, and capture learnings to make future buildings even better.

That last part of that equation, is going to require increasing energy use from renewable electric power for things like heating and transportation. In future city design, we can expect to be thinking much more about EVs (electrical vehicles) with micro charging stations being placed throughout the city and eventually fleets of electrically powered autonomous cars and robots. This represents large opportunity for innovative new networks and logistics in cities

To summarize we can expect big opportunities in renovating existing buildings to improve them for better uses. We also can see new opportunities for greenfield buildings that are designed with zero-carbon in mind and with enabled monitoring allow us to continue to learn from the operations of buildings to further reduce carbon. We then need to create that next generation of micro grids and efficient electric city-wide architecture. 


Excellent. How important is it also to go to that end state in your mind?


Our research at Schneider Electric estimates that if we don’t take action, we are likely to see an increase in climate temperature of three and a half degrees. We don’t see global warming and climate change as a debate; it is happening. We literally have the state of California on fire. The pressure from climate change is here, more people are paying attention, and this is especially true for people who live near areas where it is already having negatives impacts on their way of life.

Even in places that don’t typically advertise themselves as green, change is happening. For example, people don’t think about Texas as a leader in carbon reduction, right? People think about Texas oil. Instead, people are focused on New York, New England, and California as driving green, because of the regulations that we’ve put in place to help drive green tech. However, the lowering of cost is driving an energy transition in free market-oriented states like Texas. We now see that wind is becoming cheaper than coal. States like Texas are taking advantage of these economics. Texas is the biggest wind power generator in the United States by far. It dwarfs any other state in terms of wind production. According to the American Wind Energy Association, if Texas were a country, it would be the 5th largest country in terms of wind generation.

Regardless, if you’re in a traditional red state city, like Dallas, Texas with an economic driven mindset toward green, or in a blue state city like Boston, Massachusetts with a more regulatory approach to organizing green transformation, we need to be coming together on carbon reduction solutions. The sooner we start acting at scale together the better.

All EcoCity Revolution presentations are found at Innouvo’s website.

About the interviewee: Chris Sowa, here is his LinkedIn:

Chris Sowa has over 20 years of experience in driving innovation, strategy execution, and new ventures leveraging advanced technologies. He has a global track record of success in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the United States. As a global Vice President, Energy Management Software at Schneider Electric, Chris is developing a new billion-dollar cloud-based software business through strategic partnerships and acquisitions to support the design, building, and operations of next generation sustainable digital buildings. He is also leading strategy for this new business.

About the interviewer: Alistair Schneider here

Alistair Schneider is the CEO of Innouvo, a precision startup studio specializing in venture capital, product, commercialization, and network development. Alistair is also the president and co-founder of AI-Lean, an enterprise software. He provides executive leadership in marketing, venture capital, and global innovation ecosystem development for cities. His company, Innouvo, sponsors EcoCity Revolution, an annual conference dedicated to spurring changes needed and capturing opportunities arising from improving the sustainability of our cities.

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