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How to decarbonise industry: what international experts think

Industrial decarbonisation is about addressing the global challenge posed by climate change. To be effective and to be in line with an economic growth policy, solutions need to be adapted to local circumstances and to each geographical region. Focus on North America and the UK.

How mature are industries when it comes to decarbonisation? What are their motivations? What regulatory constraints are they subjected to? What about the economic situation? What skills and energies are available? Are there subsidies and financial support available to help manufacturers get their energy transition underway? There are numerous problems, and the need for support is real and growing.


By providing its clients with advice, expertise and experience in relation to all of these questions, Equans' teams which operate in 17 countries can provide tailor-made solutions in their particular region.

In North America, target those industries which use the most energy

In North America, Equans has access to a team of business developers based in Montréal and Ottawa in Canada, and in Boston in the US. Their mission is to help manufacturers, retail spaces and local authorities on the East Coast optimise their sites and production facilities. As far as decarbonisation is concerned, Canadian industries are endeavouring to comply with the various commitments that the government has made. This is so as to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and prepare for the carbon tax, which will gradually be implemented between 2023 and 2030. In the US, in the face of a great deal of industrial lobbying, many states have introduced financial incentives, rather than bringing in restrictive legislation. Helping manufacturers find out what subsidies they are entitled to and creating a financial model to start decarbonising their area of activity are fundamental.

“A complete financial model, a long-term vision”

In North America, energy is indeed less expensive and is less affected by inflation than it is in Europe. In order to turn reducing consumption into a fully-fledged lever for economic performance, the Equans teams have to target those industries which use the most energy – such as metallurgy, cement manufacture, petrochemicals and paper pulp plants. So Equans has been working to support the heavy industrial sector with its energy transition, assessing opportunities to a full implementation, with companies like Cascades, Arcelor Mittal and HOLCIM.

Modern tower buildings or skyscrapers in financial district with cloud on sunny day in Chicago, USA.

 “Some companies have set themselves ambitious emission reduction goals in their corporate agendas as far as reducing emissions is concerned. But these aggressive objectives require a complex offering, bundling a technical, logistical and financial solution. That's why they need our support.”, says Elie Asmar, director of energy business development and sustainable solutions at Equans services in Montréal.

“Nowadays, it is no longer simply a question of targeting buildings’ heating and air-conditioning systems. We also have to tackle production processes and come up with radical new technologies to optimise them. Waste heat recovery is a good example”.

Equans’ teams develop turnkey solutions and are involved in each and every stage: conducting facility audits and gauging current consumption, producing roadmaps appropriate for each client and putting together corresponding financing solutions, as well as overseeing implementation and providing long-term maintenance. “Our approach involves placing the emphasis on the total cost of ownership, rather than on investment spending (CAPEX). That includes maintenance, the life cycle of raw materials, etc.We include all parameters so we can provide a comprehensive economic and financial model, as well as a global, long-term overview. That is doubtless what sets Equans apart from its competitors in this particular geographical region”, says Elie Asmar.

Managing risks in the UK in difficult circumstances

In the UK, Equans consultants are split into three teams: the first is in charge of the private sector, the second is in charge of the public sector (including universities, Local authorities and the Defence Sector), and the third is in charge of compliance – as well as supporting the first two.

The private sector accounts for 30% of Equans UK's activity and mainly involves a range of corporates – both local and multinational. These include car manufacturers (Ford, Jaguar), companies operating in the pharmaceutical industry (such as Roche), and manufacturers operating in heavy industry.

The UK is keen to decarbonise its industry. Companies are subject to reporting obligations and are required to report on the implement energy savings programs (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme, ESOS). They also have to quantify the financial risks associated with climate change (TCFD). Minimum energy efficiency standards have also been introduced so as to improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings. By 2030, everybody will need to be able to provide evidence of performance that is at least equivalent to level C.

“Requests for solutions have more than doubled”

Over the past two or three years, in circumstances made challenging by the pandemic and the increase in energy prices, “requests for solutions designed to reduce energy consumption have more than doubled”, says James Rooke, Managing Director, Energy & Carbon Solutions at Equans in the UK: “In addition to keeping energy costs under control, what we do involves reducing risks by catering to people’s desire for transparency from investment through to operation through and the supply chain. It's not just a question of the cost of energy consumption, but also of resilience,revenue and brand equity – that is what will keep business resilient.”

These circumstances, and the impacts of the war in Ukraine on energy prices and security, have meant that client focus has intensified. We no longer just have to provide technical solutions that are profitable in the short term, we also have to design a whole strategy and manage long-term risks, energy security and asset value
James Rooke Managing Director, Energy & Carbon Solutions, Equans UK

In the UK, the added value that Equans provides is therefore not just its technical expertise, but also its ability to incorporate this expertise into a company’s global strategy, by assessing the reduction in costs and the reduction in risk.

Because decarbonisation is an increasingly geometrically complex and involves expertise in a plethora of different areas (including waste heat, electric mobility and data analytics), Equans' Decarbonisation Business Club is particularly precious. It provides us a platform for sharing experience, knowledge, tools and innovations.

Equans’ vision and support solutions

Equans' Decarbonisation Business Club – a global asset that sets us apart

With multinational geographical coverage, Equans' various teams can also get together within the framework of the Decarbonisation Business Club. This is globally coordinated by Elvia Marcellan, Director of decarbonisation for industrial clients.

Each session is an opportunity for the teams to engage in discussion about the latest innovations, pool their knowledge, share tools and examples of good practice, share ideas and provide as wide an array of expertise as possible.

Their shared aim is to turn reducing carbon emissions into a lever for economic development for manufacturers. Equans' expertise in industrial decarbonisation is therefore the fruit of this real-time exercise in sharing their local expertise globally.

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