Saturday, July 20, 2024

The need for environmental accountability throughout the supply chain

Matt Tormollen

By Matt Tormollen, CEO, POWWR

We are in the midst of one of the most consequential energy transitions since records began. The increasing availability of clean electrons has motivated public sector businesses in the UK and beyond to think green. And for good reason. Being environmentally conscious appeases regulators, retains staff, and provides untold goodwill.

The public sector’s move towards a greener future will only continue to gather pace in the years to come. Renewables’ share of the power generation mix is set to rise to over a third by next year alone. With solar and wind driving most of the growth, the renewable energy market is expected to grow from its current $1.21 trillion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.2% between now and 2030.

In their drive to appeal, certain energy suppliers have been guilty in the past of ‘greenwashing’ to exaggerate their environmental credentials. Those suppliers – in addition to those that played fair – have recognised the need for greater environmental accountability. They are, therefore, looking to produce a certificate of authenticity such as a Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs) to prove that the energy they generate is indeed from the renewable sources they say.

A lack of consistency

Unfortunately, producing a REC or similar is remarkable difficult. Ensuring complete energy genealogy throughout the supply chain is tricky because of a lack of consistent data from top to bottom. This is because the majority of energy production globally still runs on outdated, bespoke, software that doesn’t play nicely with others.

Also, there is the fact that the systems themselves were designed for predictable assets like coal or oil, not dynamic assets like solar and wind. This dynamism makes the problem of extracting intelligence more difficult as it increases the sheer amount of data being produced. So much so, that the energy industry is now thought to generate up to 200 exabytes of data per year.

Thankfully, there is now technology available – underpinned by the latest in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – that can sift through this mountain of data in a timely manner. Facilitating accountability by collecting the requisite data to produce the aforementioned REC.

The need to collect the right data

For some time, technology has been used to facilitate everything from providing an end-to-end connected journey for energy sales, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. Yet, recent advancements in technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, robotics, and AI have helped create novel approaches for the energy industry to help public sector organisations meet climate and sustainability goals. However, accessing these devices – and the data held within – can still involve manual and time-consuming processes. Even when technology such as AI can help, it must be remembered that it is only as good as the data the flows into it.

Today, it is not just about collecting more data from such devices, but the right data. So much so, that the market for the use of big data analytics products within the energy sector is expected to grow from $8.37 billion in 2023 to $14.28 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.28%.

Completing the circle

As well as certain energy suppliers looking to clean up their act, there are also countless new entrants wanting to set themselves apart by being seen as the green alternative for the public sector. It is no surprise. Any supplier that can help the public sector access cleaner sources of energy will only grow to become an enduring partner for years to come.

Accountability will be key. Ensuring energy genealogy throughout the supply chain became difficult as its production became increasingly decentralised as well as decarbonised. However, technology such as IoT sensors can facilitate this accountability by collecting energy data from a myriad of distributed devices.

For some time, data has been imperative to help predict weather patterns, production demand, and optimise operation process efficiency within the energy sector. But as stakeholders look to hold energy companies accountable for the claims they are making, proving the energy they are producing is from renewable sources has never been more important. Or more difficult. Yet, using the latest in AI empowered technology can help complete the circle.

The benefits are twofold. As data becomes more prevalent and accessible, energy management solutions will also become more precise, amplifying the benefits public sector organisations can derive from renewable energy. At the same time, it will enable businesses to save on energy costs, whether by procuring energy from the cheapest supplier or facilitating energy use when rates are cheapest.

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