Feb 07 2024

The Tech That’s Powering a Sustainable Future for Energy and Utilities

Organizations are learning to embrace sustainability without sacrificing operational efficiency, thanks to these smart solutions.

Organizations throughout the energy and utilities industry are looking to conserve resources and reduce emissions. This effort was kicked off in response to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Today, 91 percent of leaders from large utilities across North America report an uptick in environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments, according to a recent PwC survey.

But this prioritization of sustainability doesn’t have to come at the expense of operational efficiency. It just requires that businesses select ESG-friendly technologies. Here are ways that IT decision-makers can invest in technologies to plan for a sustainable future.

READ MORE: Check out the tech that’s helping businesses reduce their environmental footprint.

1. Consider Smart Grid Systems to Reduce Energy Use

Producing excess energy comes at a cost, and not just a financial one. According to a paper in Environmental Chemistry Letters, “the excessive use of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources contributes to global warming by emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and consumption is crucial to combating climate change.” At the same time, failing to supply enough energy can cost companies their customers.

By integrating digital communications technologies to monitor, control and optimize the flow of electricity, smart grid systems can foster sustainability. Per Smart Energy International, Great Britain alone now saves over one metric ton of carbon a year by using smart meters. In addition to forecasting consumer energy needs, smart grids help energy providers meet these needs with greater reliability, efficiency and flexibility in power distribution, reducing losses while easing the integration of renewable energy sources.

99

The percentage of the U.S. coal fleet that would be less expensive to run via solar or wind power

Source: Energy Innovation, “Coal Cost Crossover 3.0: Local Renewables Plus Storage Create New Opportunities For Customer Savings And Community Reinvestment,” January 2023

2. Opt for Clean, Renewable Energy Sources

Businesses that select renewable energy sources don’t produce any carbon dioxide or fossil fuel emissions. Renewable sources include wind, water and sunlight, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. IT leaders can also choose from hydroelectric systems and geothermal energy solutions to help fight climate change.

But the benefits of these technologies aren’t limited to the environment; using tech to harness renewable energy can lead to financial wins. A recent report by Energy Innovation notes that “99 percent of the existing U.S. coal fleet is more expensive to run compared to replacement by new solar or wind. Replacing coal plants with local wind and solar would also save enough to finance nearly 150 gigawatts of four-hour battery storage, over 60 percent of the coal fleet’s capacity, and generate $589 billion in new investment across the U.S.”

New solutions to the operations and maintenance challenges of renewable energy technologies are already helping to optimize efficiency. IBM’s Maximo Application Suite, for instance, has been shown to help increase production by 25 percent.

RELATED: Discover how technology can help stabilize the electrical grid.

3. Conserve More Energy with Smart Storage Solutions

While sustainable solutions such as smart grid systems help to mitigate excess energy production, surpluses can still occur. But excess renewable energy doesn’t have to go to waste. Lithium-ion batteries, flow batteries, pumped hydroelectric storage and compressed air energy storage all play a crucial role in storing excess renewable energy for later use, ensuring a steady power supply.

This steady power supply can help minimize power outages, enhance grid reliability and promote a more productive approach to energy consumption overall. That’s part of why grid-scale storage plays such an important role in the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario. This scenario is a roadmap for how the global energy sector can achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

DIG DEEPER: Is the Google Chrome OS paving the way to digital sustainability?

4. Regulate Data Centers with Liquid Cooling Solutions

Organizations need their data centers to run at a regulated temperature. But too often, they run hot due to energy-intensive workloads.

To address these challenges, businesses can try liquid cooling solutions, which help identify potential disruptions, prevent downtime and keep data centers running smoothly.

EXPLORE: Learn the benefits of grid modernization.

5. Prepare for Future Demand with IoT and Predictive Analytics

As detailed by Yale Climate Connections, the process of creating renewable energy is far more efficient than using traditional energy sources. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. The better energy and utility companies can accurately predict and monitor internal and consumer-facing needs, the more efficient they can be.

That’s why IT leaders are turning to predictive analytics and Internet of Things technologies to enable real-time monitoring of a company’s infrastructure and energy consumption. This makes it easier to manage current and future usage. Together, IoT and predictive analytics help optimize resource use, enabling organizations to get closer to a smart connectivity model so that they are as energy-efficient as possible.

ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images
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