Jun 13.2022

IoT Has a Critical Role to Play in the Journey to Net Zero

IoT Has a Critical Role to Play in the Journey to Net Zero

The need for the world to transition to a net-zero economy is more urgent than ever. Find out how stakeholders can accelerate this transition with IoT.

Modern science has irrefutably proven that irreversible climate damage is inevitable unless global net human-caused carbon emissions fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero – the state in which emissions released into the atmosphere equal those removed from the atmosphere – by 2050.
However, balancing total contributed emissions with the amount extracted from the atmosphere is easier said than done. Energy generation, distribution, and consumption metrics largely remain unpredictable due to the complexity of operations. Moreover, many companies do not have a unified view of their energy and carbon footprints. As a result, they often fail to point out viable energy conservation and emission reduction opportunities.
Fortunately, new-age technologies like the Internet of Things can help fill the gap. With IoT, stakeholders in the energy value chain can get real-time visibility into the energy consumption and emissions of specific areas, equipment, and processes and make impactful steps toward achieving their net-zero targets.
Today's article explores how IoT can help the world's top emitters realize valuable untapped potential in reducing their carbon footprints for a sustainable future.

The urgent need for unified climate action

Recent data from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that global temperatures will likely surpass pre-industrial levels by more than 1.5°C during at least one of the years between 2022 and 2026.
One year of exceedance does not mean the world will breach the 1.5°C Paris Agreement threshold. Nevertheless, it reveals that we are edging closer to a future where temperatures will go beyond this level for an extended period, resulting in more frequent and intense heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events. If the current emission levels persist, over 200 million people will become climate refugees by 2050 due to environmental disasters.
Climate experts endorse a rapid, holistic approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change, supported by technology-led solutions across different sectors and sub-sectors. A unified view of current energy consumption and emissions is critical to decarbonizing on a global scale.

How can IoT help the world attain net-zero emissions?

Holistic net-zero action entails utilizing new technologies in critical initiatives like efficient transportation, optimized industrial operations, renewable energy adoption, sustainable agriculture, and intelligent building management systems. With IoT, stakeholders can devise solid, impactful plans that fit their operational needs and help them succeed in their net-zero journey.
Read on to uncover how IoT fits into five of the most crucial climate action initiatives today.

1. Efficient transportation

The transportation sector significantly contributes to global carbon emissions. Decarbonizing the industry requires a multi-faceted approach that includes measures like electric vehicle adoption, intelligent transport systems, and smart mobility services.
IoT can play a pivotal role in making transportation more efficient and sustainable. For instance, tracking and monitoring the location and movement of vehicles in real-time can help fleet managers optimize routes to avoid traffic congestion and save fuel.
For public transport, IoT-based predictive maintenance can help reduce unscheduled downtime of buses and trains, while passenger information systems can offer real-time updates on arrival times and delays.

2. Optimized industrial operations

Businesses operating in high-emission industries like manufacturing and oil and gas can leverage IoT to create comprehensive, impactful action plans for reducing carbon emissions. By synchronizing assets, products, processes, and people, cloud-based connected devices can help streamline data flow to identify inefficiencies and improvement areas in real time.
IoT-enabled digital twin technology can also predict malfunctioning parts and system failures before they occur, reducing unscheduled downtime. Sensors storing real-time data in the cloud can help develop models that forewarn maintenance crews of potential issues and the necessary repair work, optimizing resource utilization and minimizing wastage. 

3. Renewable energy adoption

IoT solutions have numerous applications for reinforcing renewable energy distribution models. For starters, smart grids can leverage IoT data inputs to generate real-time estimates of power usage and accurately predict supply and demand. That way, utilities can effectively manage power distribution without resorting to fossil-fuel-based power generation.
In the case of solar and wind energy, IoT can help fine-tune the operations of turbines and solar panels for peak performance. For example, sensors deployed in wind turbines to monitor wind speed, direction, and turbulence can optimize blade angles for maximum power. Similarly, solar panels equipped with IoT sensors can regulate their alignment to maximize sunlight exposure.

4. Sustainable agriculture

IoT-enabled innovative farming techniques can help improve agricultural productivity while minimizing the sector's environmental impact. For example, farmers can reduce irrigation costs and water usage by continuously monitoring soil moisture levels, weather conditions, and crop growth. IoT can also help optimize the application of fertilizers and pesticides, further reducing wastage.
In livestock management, wearable IoT devices can track an animal's health in real-time, allowing farmers to take preventive measures to avoid disease outbreaks. These same devices can also be used for GPS tracking and precision grazing to minimize the impact of livestock on sensitive ecosystems.

5. Building management systems

IoT can play a significant role in making buildings more energy-efficient and sustainable. For example, building management systems that use IoT technology can automatically regulate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems based on occupancy levels, translating to substantial energy savings and enhanced comfort for building occupants.
Additionally, using IoT solutions to monitor the usage of water, electricity, and gas can help building managers identify leaks and wasteful consumption patterns and deploy timely solutions.

Get your organization on the right path toward net-zero emissions with IoT

As climate change intensifies, countries, industries, and businesses are at a crossroads. The choices they make today will determine whether the planet remains habitable tomorrow.
IoT solutions are projected to reduce global emissions by up to 15% by 2030. By fully leveraging IoT to maximize efficiency in transportation, industrial operations, energy, agriculture, and buildings, stakeholders can turn "net zero" from an abstract, improbable endeavor to an achievable target reinforced by systematic actions and long-term plans.
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