The growing role of AI in supporting the grid will be key to making our energy supply greener and more efficient, writes Moixa founer Simon Daniel
‘Consign coal to history‘ – these were the words echoed at COP26 this year as countries committed to ending coal investments and scale up clean power. However, questions have already been raised around what businesses and the UK government need to do within the coming year to ensure they stick to the global 1.5C target.
Without significant action next year, we can wave the pledges made at COP26 goodbye. The UK government has already committed to a target of cutting emissions by 78 per cent compared with 1990 levels by 2035, with all electricity to come from clean sources. However, while it’s great to see the government set ambitious targets, without tough policies in place and a clear action plan, the UK will fall behind on its commitments. Already this year, renewables growth has been at its lowest since 2010, falling every year since 2015.
In order to keep our climate goals alive, businesses and the government need to deliver on their targets. There are a number of factors which need to be taken into account and utilised such as technology and climate reporting if the UK is to reach its 2050 net zero goals.
How technology can help us reach our goals faster
We are racing against the clock when it comes to climate change. The ten warmest years on record have occurred in the past 15 years with 2020 noted as the second warmest year since 1880. The amount of future warming our planet will experience depends on how much greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are released into the atmosphere. Currently global actions are adding around 11 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year increasing the urgency of meeting the 1.5C warming target.
Technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), can and should be utilised to help meet this global objective, especially within the electric power industry and optimising the grid. AI can increase energy efficiency and enhance the reliability and resiliency of the grid by helping utility companies manage an increase in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. This can be done through AI learning and predicting local weather conditions and how they impact heat flows of homes as well as being able to adapt energy consumption to real-time pricing.
Through identifying factors that impact energy demand and by optimising the output of energy, AI can isolate wasted energy before it is lost to the environment causing further damage to our plant. According to a recent report, in one year alone, the power lost in the UK totalled enough energy to power almost seven million homes. Targeting these energy inefficiencies can have a large impact on carbon emissions and keep the UK on track to meet its 2035 targets. It’s therefore crucial that the government maintains and upgrades the grid so that this technology can be fully utilised and have a tangible impact.
The role of climate impact reporting
Alongside AI technology, there needs to be a structured reporting system in place to hold businesses accountable for their environmental impact. As we begin the countdown to becoming net zero, a robust reporting system will ensure that companies commit to their sustainability pledges and limit corporate greenwashing.
In advance of COP26, the UK government confirmed that large UK-registered companies such as public companies, banks and insurers with over 500 employees will have to disclose climate related financial information from April next year, making the UK the first G20 country to mandate this. Businesses will need to look closely at the risks posed to them by a warming planet and lay out plans to cut emissions.
However, if businesses aren’t incentivised to commit to plans to reduce their own emissions then the government must step in to make this mandatory, especially for those with a larger carbon footprint. Without follow up on impact reporting we will be no better off.
Why we all need a seat at the table in this fight
Whilst there was a lot of talk to end the use of oil and gas at COP26 with several countries supporting a new alliance to end new oil and gas extraction, senior leaders across the oil and gas sector were not directly present which impacted the ability to commit to any real change.
We can’t make decisions on the world’s future unless we have everyone at the table and recognise that everyone has a role to play in the move to a greener world. There needs to be more conversations around the shift from our current ‘System A’ fossil intensive energy system to ‘System B’ which relies on renewable energy such as wind and solar if we hope to see any innovation around this. We need to properly consider how – and if – gas and carbon capture can work in the transition.
Businesses and the government need to go beyond pledges and begin taking steps over the next year to prevent further damage to the planet. Focussing on the role of technology and ensuring everyone has a voice in this fight will be vital to enacting the necessary change. The role of AI in supporting the grid will be key to making our energy supply greener and the grid more efficient. While we can’t undo what’s already happened, we can stop further harm if we collectively act now.
Simon Daniel is founder and CEO of smart battery company Moixa Group.