‘We can adapt and change’

New boss of Schneider Electric in Ireland says new models of finance and governance can help us make buildings greener without excess costs

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Chris Collins is a positive guy.

The Maryland grown American is the new boss of Schneider Electric in Ireland and his relaxed tones, seem to match his relaxed nature.

He’s impressed with the Emerald Isle even though he arrived during lockdown and instead of sipping Guinness and enjoying the craic, he had to content himself with long walks to enjoy the vistas.

He says it made him wonder at the nature and appreciate the need for its preservation even more and his teenage son also spotted something profound.

“ My 17-year-old, he commented as we were discussing about the move and what do they enjoy about the country, he said, you know it’s very much more sustainable over here.

“Everything from recycling to switches on all the outlets and commitment to renewables and the conversations you’re hearing on the radio and tv about Ireland’s commitment to sustainability.

“Very different conversations to what we are having in the States right now.”

The recent IPCC report was considered a dire warning, apathetic too with many saying what’s the point we are now heading to awful climatic despair. But Chris doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m the optimist and when I read that report I didn’t see doom and gloom. I see that we can have an impact, we can make a difference and that the ability to change is in our hands.

“And I think that’s why I love working at Schneider Electric. We’re embracing sustainability and we want to have an impact on our environment, on our planet, on our customers and we can do it.”

One direct example he mentions is buildings and the dilemma of fitting them with energy saving measures.

“When we think of these green intelligent buildings you know everybody thinks of cost, it’s expensive. When you put down the numbers it’s not a cost problem. These technologies pay for themselves when you look at the total lifecycle of what it costs to construct and operate a building.

“The challenge that we have is finding new business models and new financial models. The developer is telling me it’s great to put this technology in but we are building this building to flip it. They’re not thinking of the long-term operating costs.

“The other problem we have a lot in Europe is tenants cover the energy cost. And the landlords cannot drive more rent to put these technologies in, so they’re happy to do the bare minimum.”

So, what’s the solution?

“For us as an industry, as governments, we really need to look at upsetting the financial models and really start mandating some of these technologies.

“If we do that the cost equation takes care of itself.”

Obviously, our chat turns to COP26 in Glasgow. Considering his views on improving the efficiency of buildings, what does he hope to see as an outcome?

“I’d like to see a little bit more of a stick approach from governments. If you’re going to build a building now it’s got to have EV. If you’re going to build a building now, we need to see some sort of renewable strategy. We need to have our green certifications. That’s what I’d like to see coming out of COP”

Watch the interview now for more.