‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ – Albert Einstein
In all of the economic and social progress taking place across the globe, energy is the driving factor and, therefore, the most important resource. As per a report by International Energy Agency (IEA), globally around 80% of the energy resources come from fossil fuels like coal and crude oil, and are primarily used in transport, industry and building sectors.
Reliable and affordable energy is a critical aspect of all social and economic activities in both developed and developing countries. It is an essential factor in expanding industries, implementing modern agricultural techniques, and improving the efficiency of trade and transportation activities to support these. These growing requirements are predicted to drive an increase in energy consumption of approximately 20%–25% across the globe by 2040. (World Energy Outlook 2020)
Our heavy future energy demand needs to be met in a sustainable manner, with minimal environmental impact and least pressure on the already strained natural resources. Therefore, beginning immediately, industries across the sector need to introspect on their present energy uses and business practices to identify areas of improvement and search for innovations to make it a sustainable energy journey.
Organisation-wide, long-term thinking, and adopting new energies
In their quest to streamline energy consumption, organisations are exploring various innovations and best practices that they believe will help them in developing a culture of sustainable energy use across the organisation.
At present, the primary objective of the energy conservation measures taken by organisations is to reduce their existing energy expenses. These include installations of energy-efficient lights, fans, motors and air conditioners. While these measures help in providing short-term relief to energy consumption, for long-term sustainability for the organisation a different and deeper approach will be needed.
Adopting innovations and technologies that will help organisations keep a check on their energy consumption and help in improving it in the long run is the way forward. One can expect that the many technologies and innovations in energy conservation that are emerging across the globe will make access to energy affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern. These are also in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of affordable and clean energy.
In this regard, let us take a look at some of these innovations and technologies, and how these can help.
Balancing the power supply and demand by combining it with renewable energy could be a game changer for securing energy availability across all seasons.
Localising the energy production and distribution will help in energy saving, thus offering energy independence, efficiency, and protection during times of contingencies.
Blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence-enabled energy systems
Blockchain works in a distributed ledger that records all transactions made over a peer-to-peer network. This technology is incorruptible and has found use in several industries, including the energy sector. Using blockchain in combination with the internet of things (IoT) can have a significant impact on energy systems – it can help in selling or buying power and in running power plants very efficiently.
Waste heat recovery
It is a process of ‘heat integration’, which means reusing heat energy that would otherwise be disposed of or simply released into the atmosphere. By recovering waste heat, plants can reduce energy costs and CO2 emissions while simultaneously increasing energy efficiency.
Electricity from air
This works by absorbing water vapour in the atmosphere, which interacts with protein nanowires to create an electrical current. At present this technology is being successfully used by smartwatches and mobile phones. Wall paint that powers your home is in the pipeline too. With such technology, there is potential to eliminate the production and charging of billions of batteries.
Switching to green/renewable energy
Adopting renewable energy technology (solar, wind, hydro, tidal, heat exchange, bioenergy) will produce energy without generating dangerous greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution.
Organisations that adopt some of these innovations will surely bring about a paradigm shift with regard to climate change and will also reduce their carbon footprint across the value chain. Driving the culture of adopting innovations in energy conservation will help organisations expend energy in a more sustainable manner while making human lives easier.
Last but not the least – for organisations to attain a sustainable future, adopting innovations in energy conservation will not only be a key differentiator but also offer competitive advantage and create value for the consumer, investor, employee, supplier and corporate customer.
Arani Roychoudhury is AGM-Energy Management & Sustainability, Godrej Electricals & Electronics