In this Q&A, Liam Dowd talks to Harry Verhaar of Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, who is chairing a panel at next week's Responsible Business Summit Europe

As part of the knowledge exchange in the build-up to the Responsible Business Summit Europe, Liam Dowd, managing director at Ethical Corporation, speaks with Harry Verhaar, head of global-public policy and government affairs at Signify, about his involvement at the event and what he sees as the biggest opportunity for the industry in the next 12 to 18 months

Liam Dowd: What you will be speaking on at the event?

Harry Verhaar: The focus will be on how business can address energy efficiency in a more ambitious way. This brings a lot of economic and environmental benefits and is a good way to create a more inclusive and fair transition to a more sustainable society.

The recent scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency show that energy efficiencies can account for half of the required action to keep us within the 2C degree limit.

There’s increasing need of urgent action. A comparison I like to make is comparing climate change to your body temperature. If your body temperature increases by 1C degree you don’t feel so well. If it goes up to 1.5C degree you might have to stay at home. If it’s 2C degree, then you’re seriously ill and finally if your body was to reach a 3C degree temperature rise then it would be fatal. That is the situation that faces us when tackling climate change – that’s why we need urgent action.

LD: Why are you involved in the event?

HV: Signify is looking for action-orientated companies that are open to new, innovative proposals. We are confident there will be a sizable number of companies at the event that we could work with to achieve the required impacts.

One could say energy efficiency is a subject that is not sufficiently well understood by our public sector leaders or corporate executives. The annual rate of energy efficiency improvement is about 1.5% per year. That needs to be 3% per year.

We need to accelerate renovation of the existing infrastructure – i.e. buildings and street lighting. This in turn will help improve the finances of public city finances and household budgets

LD: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for Signify over the next 12 to 18 months?

HV: A lot of the new innovations, technologies and solutions are digital, which presents an opportunity to improve our wellbeing and quality of life.

For example, in 2006 we called for the global phase out of incandescent light bulbs. And at the time lighting accounted for 19% of global electricity. And, although more lights are being used globally, lighting now accounts for 13% of energy use. With the development of LEDs and connected intelligent LEDs we forecast this decreasing further to 8% by 2030.

Although more lights are used globally, their energy footprint is decreasing. (Credit: NicoElNino/Shutterstock)

The fact that this technology has become digital offers a lot of benefits.

We recently launched an Internet of Things platform called Interact. It’s open platform, which will allow people to develop apps for several purposes – from home and office use to public space and retailers. The connected LED solutions will operate through wi-fi or grids so they in turn will become digital ports.

LD: What do you see as the biggest opportunity for the industry over the next 12 to 18 months?

HV: The whole renovation of infrastructure is a massive job creator. Ecofys and Rocky Mountain Institute recently calculated that this will create at least 6 million jobs worldwide and possibly more. In that sense this is an innovation agenda – these new solutions will be a result of new innovations.

Presently we don’t have the right number of people nor right skills to identify these new innovations. This provides an opportunity to focus on these new innovations within the educational system, so that future jobs are ones which help deliver the changes we require.

Harry Verhaar will be leading a session at the upcoming Responsible Business Summit Europe titled "Focus on Cities: public and private collaborations that are delivering impact". Speakers joining Harry on this panel include; Beccy Speight, CEO at the Woodland Trust; Tara Janssen, sustainability wconomist at RaboResearch; Francisco Carranza Sierra, managing sirector Nissan Energy at Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance; and Natalia Agathou, business advice manager at London Waste and Recycling Board.

To join Signify and 500+ peers at the Responsible Business Summit Europe, simply reserve a pass here.

Main picture credit: Davizro Photography/Shutterstock
Signify  energy savings  #RBSEU  IPCC  International Energy Agency  Harry Verhaar 

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