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Climate Change: Resolving 'Energy Dilemma’ Jigsaw Holds The Key For A Sustainable Future

To address today’s energy dilemma and that in the foreseeable future, we will need pioneering IoT solutions for energy efficiency. Advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity technologies will help deliver Innovation at every level - from connected products to edge control, to applications, analytics, and services

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The world today is facing an energy dilemma. Worldwide legislation is compelling all industries to make more environment friendly decisions. In April 2016, 175 countries signed the United Nations’ Paris Agreement, which aims to limit warming to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and seeks to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. Additional targets include the long-term global goal of a 100 percent carbon-neutral world. On the other hand, energy – whatever be its source – is still a universal human right and its equitable access should be an important concern given that one in every six people on the planet still do not have access to energy. Energy is still a source of livelihood for many and forms the backbone of economic growth across the world and hence its uninterrupted supply cannot be overlooked. This has shifted the narrative from why to how we can use energy in a way which improves accessibility to those who do not have it, but at the same time, is in harmony with the environment.

However, a new theory of energy consumption and consequent environmental pollution postulates that the fastest growing sources of environmental impact are not necessarily the tangible, visible ones; although they may dominate the debate and agenda. Increasingly significant are the ‘unseen’ consequences of technology like e-commerce, virtual reality, remote services, big data, remote collaboration, mobility, the Internet of Things; all of which are assumed to be inherently ‘environmentally friendly’ but whose impacts can be equally pervasive. The advent of technology, with all of its amazing developments and inventions, has accelerated our use of electricity by leaps and bounds.

According to recent estimates, more than 40% employees in large trans-national enterprises prefer to communicate electronically at work than face to face or even over the telephone. Millennials routinely make use of their own technology at work and three-quarters believe that access to technology makes them more effective at work. Looking back at India, our internet consumption via mobile phones is likely to double in the next five years. Mobile video traffic is set to grow by almost 10X in the next five years or so.

This, in essence is the Energy Dilemma - neglect of the latter (advancement of technology and the consequent use of energy), will mitigate all progress made with respect to the former. The environmental impact of the technological, virtual world, may be even more pervasive than that of the physical, mechanical one. What this means is that in the chain of environmental pollutants, the first (rather obvious) element is the visible or tangible pollution - all the energy produced from burning of fossil fuels and the consequent pollution. The second element constitutes the unseen or invisible components which emanate from increasing use of technology.

While technology is also a cause of environmental pollution (intangible), digital transformation of electricity is the single biggest opportunity. We ought to make power more accessible to the over billion people who don’t have it; and more sustainable for the people who have it - smart energy, smart buildings/smart homes, smart manufacturing and smart urbanisation (smart cities). Energy efficiency solutions and connected products will help to do more with less energy. This is the solution to address the energy dilemma.

Addressing the Energy Dilemma

The emergence of the Internet of Everything (Connected Objects and people) will generate vast amounts of data. With the application of analytics and visualisation techniques, these banks of data will help us understand more about the way we interact with each other; with businesses and with the world around us. Unlocking insights from this will enable us to discover patterns for more sustainable behaviour.

While it is clear that delivering such a connected world and managing the resulting data will in itself impose an environmental load, the rigorous application of so-called “Green IT” techniques like IoT, virtualisation, efficient hardware components, and free air cooled data centres, will help ensure minimal impact.

To address today’s energy dilemma and that in the foreseeable future, we will need pioneering IoT solutions for energy efficiency. Advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity technologies will help deliver Innovation at every level - from connected products to edge control, to applications, analytics, and services.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Anil Chaudhry

The author is Country President and Managing Director, Schneider Electric, India

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