Sustainability technologies

The Business Imperative of Sustainability

Key technologies that businesses will use to go greener in 2022 and beyond.

For businesses, sustainability goals were once seen as a choice. Increasingly, they are an imperative. Consumers, investors and governments are seeking assurances that the demands of the present don’t compromise the future. 

Digital technologies are paving the way, in a couple of ways, like cutting power consumption, supporting renewable sources of energy and decentralizing services to mitigate the impact of natural disasters caused by climate change. Along the way, they’re using big data, smart grid, blockchain, renewable energies, Internet of Things and electric cars.                         

“The technologies as a whole require a high energy expenditure to be developed, however, they replace previous less efficient and dirty methods such as the use of fossil fuels and biomass,” said IEEE Member Filipe Torres.

The IEEE Standards Association supports sustainability through standards that cover, among other things, the interfaces between renewable energy sources and smart grids, the operation of smart grids and methods to measure and identify power consumption of IT and communications devices.  

Increasing Energy Efficiency

As per the data provided by the Ministry of Power, India’s power consumption increased from 109.21 billion units (2020) to 129.51 billion units, indicating an 18.6 percent increase. India’s expanding economy, population, urbanization, and industrialization have all contributed to this rise in energy consumption. One of the ways to deal with this ever-increasing demand and the problems that it entails is by focusing strongly on energy efficiency and conservation.  And keeping that in mind, various businesses across verticals and particularly IT firms, are creatively leveraging technology to measure their carbon footprint and energy consumption across the value chain, allowing them to make decisions and promote sustainability.

Commenting on the current scenario of energy consumption, Kyri Baker, IEEE member said “Electricity prices are trending upwards in many areas, so reducing electricity consumption through sustainability efforts can help save significant amounts of money in the long run.” 

“Smart devices that monitor and control usage of natural resources such as water, electricity and gas are among the technologies that will drive sustainability in the near future,” said Guilherme Susteras, IEEE Senior member. 

Another energy efficiency initiative that is generating significant interest: harnessing waste heat from computers for power generation, either at the data center level or from individual graphics cards. 

Supporting Renewable Energy

One challenge of supporting renewable energy is that power generation may not align perfectly with demand. Power consumption tends to drop at night when people are asleep. Wind turbines, however, may still be able to produce power during this time. But unless that energy can be stored in batteries, the wind turbines may simply shut down.

A promising avenue for increasing the number of batteries: storing energy in electric vehicles. The vehicle batteries can be charged during off-peak hours. And during the day, when power demand is high but the vehicles are not in use, they can provide electricity to the grid through bi-directional chargers. 

Baker said this type of system could be beneficial for organizations that operate vehicle fleets. 

“Looking forward, businesses can also leverage transportation electrification by electrifying fleet vehicles, drawing more people to the business by providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and even utilizing bi-directional EV chargers to help shave peak demands and lower electricity bills,” she said. 

Decentralized Assets

Rooftop solar panels and localized energy storage can help decrease reliance on a centralized grid. That’s a huge benefit in the case of a natural disaster or widespread power failure. 

“Increased deployment of decentralized energy resources — in particular (partly) self-sufficient microgrids with autonomous generation and storage capacity, that are capable of providing service even when faced with grid failures will enable a better response to natural disasters,” said Jorge Soares, IEEE Senior member. “Innovations here range from improved computing capacity, better prediction models, and even vehicle-to-grid capabilities.”  

Going green is no longer an option but a business imperative. Governments, investors, and consumers are all joining hands and working towards building a more sustainable world together.

The article is authored by IEEE Experts.

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