Digital Decarbonisation

Focus Geography: USA

How might we harness 5G, the internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence to build a low-carbon energy system and enable radically more carbon-efficient industries and cities?

The Problem

Climate change is the defining global issue of our time. Unchecked it threatens a global humanitarian crisis and economic costs, estimated at 5-20% of global GDP. We need deep and rapid decarbonisation in energy, manufacturing, buildings, transport and agriculture to avert this. The only way we will achieve this is through redesigning and re-engineering many of our industrial processes and economic systems.

The Opportunity

The convergence of 5G-enabled hyper-connectivity, internet of things, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics, represents a huge opportunity for decarbonisation. Harnessing these technologies could enable entirely new business models that fundamentally shift how we produce, consume and transact, to radically reduce our carbon footprint. In so doing, we stand to generate new wealth through the birth of a US$ 4 trillion market opportunity for low-carbon technology.

The potential applications of smart, connected technology for decarbonisation are vast:

  • Smart energy systems that connect intermittent renewable supply via smart grids to distributed energy storage, electric vehicles and smart homes, enabling whole new prosumer markets
  • Smart buildings that optimise energy usage, making use of smart systems to regulate lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), power generation and energy storage opportunities

  • Multi-modal, automated transport systems that seamlessly integrate public transport with automated vehicles and reduce the need for owning and running cars
  • Low-carbon logistics that use sensors, smart packaging, and big data to drive radically more efficient logistics through open warehousing, optimised haulage, load consolidation, back-hauling and promote circular flows of goods and materials
  • Re-engineered supply chains that harness automation and additive manufacturing to bring down costs, enabling production to be brought closer to the point of consumption, and localising supply chains to reduce shipping and aviation and their associated emissions
  • Cleaner industrial production based on the use of 5G connectivity, smart sensors and automation to optimise processes, material use and detect harmful leakages, e.g. from gas pipelines
  • Protection of forests and carbon sinks through the use of sensors and drones to monitor forests, detect illegal logging or plantation growth and even regenerate forests through automated tree planting

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