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Making a clean, green break for the future

How sustainable technology can transform UK industries

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Climate change can be the catalyst to help us rethink how we do business. Discover the people leading the change and what could be possible for your business.

Achieving net zero targets will require bold transformation. All of the changes required to how we live and work to reduce carbon can be enabled by technology in some way.

Clean technology refers to any process, product, or service that reduces negative environmental impacts through improvements in energy efficiency, the sustainable use of resources, or environmental protection activities.

Right now, many business leaders will be weighing-up ‘win-win’ advancements in clean tech to meet their own climate ambitions, and deliver new efficiencies in their business models. With the industry creating $1 trillion of value for investors in 2020 – embracing clean tech also offers big opportunities for companies themselves to attract new investment too.

There are as many lessons to be learnt from smart, sustainably-minded start-ups as well as from big businesses challenging how things have always been done. So here’s how companies from five different industries have found new, innovative ways to embrace green tech to inspire your own journey.

Better energy efficiency? Google it.

With global demand for electricity set to double by 2050, a transition to renewable energy is central to any net zero strategy. But efficient distribution can be as crucial as the renewable power itself.

That’s why Google has developed an AI‐powered recommendation system to improve energy efficiency at its data centres. Every five minutes, cloud based AI pulls a snapshot of the cooling system from thousands of sensors. Then it feeds the information into its neural networks, to predict how different combinations of actions could potentially affect energy consumption.

Then AI identifies how to minimise consumption while meeting its safety constraints. Once verified and implemented, Google has found this delivers consistent energy savings of around 30%. Technological developments like this will allow the grid to become more flexible and respond better to fluctuations in demand, enabling more sustainable shifts to the cloud.

A more pallet-able solution

For most manufacturers, a straightforward switch to 100% renewable electricity eliminates about two-thirds of their emissions. The remaining third, spread throughout the value chain, is tougher.

AT&T, the world’s largest telecoms company, has harnessed IoT technology to connect durable pallets to the internet, allowing clients oversight of inventory. It’s found that this level of connectivity generates commercial and environmental benefits. Like reduced fuel consumption from reduced load weight; less waste from broken pallets; and cuts in raw materials, since the durable pallets can be reused around 160 times, rather than 18 times for wooden pallets. For AT&T, it translates to a potential 21% reduction in carbon emissions.

Innovation and the use of automation are transforming manufacturing. As the cost of these technologies decreases and they become more efficient, the technologies will have great potential to enable decarbonisation.

Improvements in the long haul

According to latest government figures, the transport sector accounts for around a third of all UK greenhouse gas emissions — more than any other. Not surprising, when you consider trucks move almost everything we depend upon in daily life.

That’s particularly true for food giant Nestle. Conscious how much of its value chain emissions derive from freight, it has developed an app to allow for mobile refuelling, as well as optimisation of fuel consumption, GPS positioning and tachograph data transfer. It includes in-app payment, and a connected health solution which allows for monitoring of the HGV fleet while it’s on the road. That means easier undertaking of essential repairs and preventative measures, saving time and money. All of which helps Nestle operate more efficiently, and with a drop in fuel consumption of up to 15% that makes a serious dent in emissions.

This is just one way disruptive green tech is revolutionising the haulage sector. Before long we expect to see intelligent convoys, and machine learning to reduce or even replace transportation.

Smarter energy for better healthcare

Emissions in the buildings sector have reduced against their 1990 level. This is largely thanks to the decarbonisation of the grid, and the shift towards insulation installation. However, policy continues to lag behind the radical levels of change needed so that buildings everywhere reach net zero emissions by 2050.

British Gas, in partnership with the Welsh Government and the Hywel Dda Health Board, has entered the Guaranteed Energy Savings Initiative, to modernise the ageing energy assets of four Welsh hospitals. It’s using the latest technology to reduce emissions, make patients more comfortable and save the NHS money.

It’s meant a vast range of tech upgrades right across the estate, with new energy management systems giving staff web-based tools and real-time monitoring to manage their energy use. The benefits extend far beyond the environment — with a guaranteed annual saving of £862,000, as well as a 30% cut in energy consumption.

While there is still a level of uncertainty around the future of office buildings, measures to improve environmental efficiency will reap dividends. This could include smarter management of the energy supply in particular, to reduce that all-important carbon footprint.

A drone’s eye view of reforestation

Precision farming methods such as satellite tracking, ground-level sensors and airborne thermal imaging can all play an important part in emissions reduction in agriculture. But, deforestation remains a major obstacle; particularly when clearing land for agriculture replaces the positive carbon-removal effect of vegetation with potent methane emissions from livestock.

Dendra, is an Oxford‐based tech company with plans to plant 500 billion trees by 2060 using drones and AI. Drones identify ideal environments, collect detailed terrain data, and generate high quality 3D maps of the areas to aid reforestation. Scientists map the soil typography and select the appropriate species and planting patterns, then the drones disperse biodegradable seedpods across large areas using pressurised air. Seedpods filled with a germinated seed and nutrients, which activate and grow once they penetrate moist soil.

As one of many drone-based innovators set to benefit agriculture and the environment, Dendra estimates their tech will enable governments to restore forests ten times cheaper and 150 times faster than planting by hand.

Read the full report

For more inspiration, and stories about how technology is making both an environmental and economic impact in the UK, please download our Tech for Impact report here. And if you’d like to discuss ways to get green technology initiatives working for your company, contact Rafi Addlestone.

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