A concerted (r)evolution: accelerating decarbonization across the energy and utilities ecosystem

The pandemic has placed health, social and environmental considerations very much in the spotlight. Businesses are taking stock of the ongoing and wider relevance of their organizational purposes. Across today’s smarter greener energy ecosystem, energy & utility companies are in a unique position to champion major advances in decarbonization using digital technology as the critical enabler.

Even before the crisis, there was some progress on decarbonization in all industries. Energy production and consumption accounting for 72% of all carbon emissions globally – putting the energy & utilities sector firmly at the center of the world’s drive to net-zero carbon as it rebounds after the pandemic.

Instead of the old linear supply chain, the new energy & utilities ecosystem is dynamic and ever evolving. And it’s underpinned by hyperconnected technologies and data that enable energy from renewables, produced centrally and locally, to be distributed via intelligent grids to smart, energy-efficient networks, devices and appliances.

So, how do digital technologies accelerate progress toward decarbonization, especially with the convergence of rapid advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and hybrid cloud?

Underpinning critical renewable energy infrastructures

New technologies are integral to the state-of-the-art wind, solar and hydropower infrastructures now required to scale and sustain the production of reliable clean energy. Operating in harsh, remote, often offshore environments, renewable energy companies face unique challenges. Emerging digital tools such as AI-driven predictive operations and maintenance, automation and digital twins, all play a vital role in underpinning these high-performing critical infrastructures.

Critical communications systems are also needed to ensure security and resilience while enabling different partners and systems to interact seamlessly. Ørsted, for example, a leader in offshore wind farming recognized as the most sustainable company in the world, is using this type of critical communications solutions for the rapid, secure data flow and communications that are essential for its wind farm operations in Europe, Asia Pacific and the US.

Enabling intelligent power grids

The percentage of energy generated from renewables is growing, which in turn creates new challenges for the companies who distribute it. Given that renewable energy loads can fluctuate significantly, grid operators rely on the flow of real-time data to constantly adjust load and demand in order to ensure a stabilized network and supply.

At Atos we are working with Transnet BW, a German transmission network operator and Netze BW, a power and water distribution system operator, to deliver an intelligent power grid that’s accelerating Germany’s progress to net-zero. We’re developing and implementing a secure digital platform that orchestrates the exchange of data to coordinate measures that will stabilize networks and eliminate congestion across the grid.

Increasing energy-efficiency and performance

Digital technologies can be used to achieve step changes as well as vast numbers of incremental improvements in efficiency and performance that together accelerate decarbonization. With a water company in the UK, for example, we’ve worked in partnership to deliver a series of innovative AI projects including pumping station energy efficiency, leakage reduction intelligence scaling and per capita consumption, with energy efficiency savings validated at 6-8%, scaling to around 1,700 pumping stations.

We’ve also supported and contributed to the development and validation of the company’s decarbonization route map: to reduce operational emissions from the day-to-day running of the business and reduce embodied emissions from the ‘cradle-to-grave’ lifecycle of assets, as well as the long-term removal, capture or sequestration of CO₂ from the atmosphere.

An enterprise roadmap

So, what does all this mean for individual energy & utility companies in their unique role as both energy producers and consumers? How do they continue to reduce greenhouse gases?

At the enterprise level, one place to start in 2021 is an assessment – or reassessment – of your decarbonization strategy and roadmap. This includes assessing your current climate impact and setting science-based targets (SBTs), which are emission targets that align to the level of decarbonization required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In addition, this process includes developing action plans to reduce CO₂ and IT-related emissions, as well as enacting carbon offsetting initiatives for lasting sustainability. Agreeing and measuring progress against this kind of roadmap is critical to give organizations clarity and confidence on what actions are needed to continue the (r)evolution toward the energy & utilities industry of the future.

While certainly stretching, industry net-zero carbon targets are achievable, and essential for the future of our communities and our environment. All parts of the global energy & utilities industry are demonstrating strong commitment to decarbonization, but concerted and combined action in every area is now needed to accelerate progress toward global, national and enterprise decarbonization targets. Collaboration with digital partners, stakeholders, the research community, customers, governments and other energy & utility companies will drive innovation and turn the current momentum into orchestrated action.

See how we’re helping energy & utility companies become sustainability champions: https://atos.net/en/industries/energy/decarbonization

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About Caroline Barret
Head of Energy & Utilities Marketing and Portfolio
As sales lead and offering manager for the Atos utilities and energy team, Caroline is primarily focused on ensuring the Atos utilities proposition is in tune with market trends and requirements. Following her master’s degree in systems and markets at the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble, Caroline worked on the national sustainability plan for the Vietnamese government before joining Atos in 2010.

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