By Santhosh Jayaram, Global Head, Sustainability, HCL Technologies Ltd.
Droughts, famine, loss of natural habitats and more unpredictable and dangerous weather phenomena are real-world examples of the threat of climate change as it accelerates. The world’s reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy has caused global temperatures to increase – the tipping point has been reached and now, any inaction or indecisiveness over addressing climate change would be catastrophic.
The environmental and societal impact of climate change are compounded by the challenges of rising living costs that has been caused, in part, by geopolitical factors, such as Brexit in the UK and the current crisis in Ukraine.
Businesses and society no longer have a choice: fossil fuels must be replaced by renewable energy sources and nature-based solutions must be developed Technology is a key enabler of both.
There are a variety of renewable technologies leading the clean transformation of the energy sector.
Renewable energy technologies and sources
Approximately, 29% of the world’s energy is generated by renewable energy sources.
The majority of this comes in the form of:
Hydropower accounts for approximately 60% of the energy generated from renewable sources and contributes to 16% of the total energy generation globally. Providing energy for low-cost over the long term, the use of Hydropower has helped avoid over 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the last 50 years.
Used both on and offshore, wind turbines are used to generate electricity. In 2020, onshore wind electricity generation increased by 11% and offshore by 29%. This type of renewable energy source, alone, has the potential to deliver significantly more electricity than the current global demand.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) grew significantly between 2019 and 2020 – 23% according to the International Energy Agency. It’s now the third largest renewable energy contributor, accounting for 3.1% of global energy generation. China leads the way when it comes to Solar PV capacity additions.
Biofuel is the use of plant-based material as fuel for heat and/or electricity. Its demand is predicted to grow by 28% over the next four years. To achieve Net Zero targets, this area of renewable energy will need to experience a 14% average annual growth rate between 2021 and 2030. To make this a reality, stronger policy support is needed.
To improve the efficiencies of these clean energy sources and increase their adoption at scale, several renewable energy technologies can be leveraged.
Investment in battery storage capabilities must be increased to match the growth of renewable energy. To harness and store this renewably sourced energy more effectively, innovation in the field needs to be prioritized.
An example of this in action: Innovatium, a Glasgow-based tech firm focused on reducing the carbon impact of industrial processes, recently announced that it had secured almost £1 million to enhance its new liquid air battery technology.
The battery, called Prisma, combines energy storage and compressed air, that the company has said will lead to energy savings and hours of back-up energy storage.
Smart energy grids and renewable energy sources will rely on technologies like AI and machine learning to reduce complexity, lower costs and drive more energy efficient operations.
By analyzing the data in real-time, AI algorithms can also recommend more efficient courses of action to reduce global energy use and make the green future a reality.
Digitalizing the energy sector is needed to support the clean, smart cities of the future.
As featured in Forbes, Brian Lynch, of LG Solar, said he expects to see growth in renewable energy storage systems connected via software to provide the right power at the right times, depending on usage needs.
He said: “In terms of technology breakthroughs, it’s going to be quality over lowest cost, vertical integration of the technology stack – ESS, software, DERMs [distributed energy resource management systems] – which leads to solar [among other sources] being baseload power and dispatchable.”
Nature-based solutions can also help mitigate the threat of climate change. These solutions, such as ecological restoration, coastal management and the development of green infrastructure can provide one-third of the mitigation needed to reach a 1.5C pathway by 2030, at lower costs than technological solutions while offering substantial co-benefits for people and the planet.
This area of climate change prevention is ramping up. Corporate investment, for example, is increasing and to date, 3.7 billion trees have been pledged to 1t.org by companies.
The challenge is that many companies are interested in investing in nature-based solutions, but don’t have the knowledge or approaches to do so in a socially and ecologically responsible way.
To find out more about what is needed to ramp up socially and ecologically responsible corporate investment in nature, interested readers attending World Economic Forum can attend or tune in to the Accelerating Corporate Investment in Nature panel on Tuesday 24 May at 14:30 - 15:15 in the Congress Centre, Situation Room.
During this panel, HCL’s Chairperson, Roshni Nadar, along with a host of other exceptional speakers, will dive into this topic in greater detail.
Find out more on HCL's World Economic Forum homepage.
Action in the enterprise
The adoption of renewable energy technologies and nature-based solutions must be championed by both public and private sector organizations – as was highlighted during COP26.
The private sector has the funds and the skills, while the public sector can minimize the regulatory red tape that so-often hinders change.
HCL, for example, is using its immense resources and technology to drive global sustainable initiatives, with its ‘ACT, PACT and IMPACT’ philosophy.
At HCL Technologies, our sustainability strategy, which is integral part of our overall strategy stems from the philosophy of “ACT, PACT and IMPACT”. We understand that impact starts with us and we will act in the most responsible and sustainable manner, ensuring that we use every resource efficiently to garner the maximum value. We also understand that when we partner and collaborate with our stakeholders we can create the biggest impact, and that is our pact with our stakeholders. We focus on creating sustainable impact through all our initiatives and activities. We have defined our pathway and our goals to our sustainable growth and to provide value to our clients’ sustainable future.
HCL aims to be Net-Zero by 2040 and in that direction the organization plans to move 80% of operations to renewable energy sources by 2030.
In our pathway to Net-Zero, renewables will be our top priority. Energy efficient buildings will be second, followed by eco-efficiency (water, waste, paper etcetera), EV, the reduced emission from purchased goods and services, and nature-based sequestering projects.
Below are two examples of how HCL has leveraged the MinSait OneSait platform, to help our customers prioritize sustainability through renewable energy technologies and strategies.
1. One of the largest combined gas and electricity utility companies in Spain
The business challenge: Nationwide renewable generation forecasting for resource balancing and optimization
Delivered short, medium and long-term forecasting solutions to enable resource balancing and optimization.
Hourly forecast of wind power generation
Forecast of daily national hydro power generation
Forecast of hydraulic reservoir levels over the short (days), medium (months) and long (years) term
Daily forecast of water inlet to 12 main reservoirs based on meteorological prediction
Combination of different forecasting techniques allowing users to choose the best forecast
Integration of automatic interfaces to advanced modelling and optimization platform
2. Leading public research university in Australia
The business challenge: Setting up microgrid in university campus integrating renewable plants, substations and building automation systems by implementing IoT edge-based AGM Solution
Set up Smart Energy Management using battery storages, EVs smart lighting systems and efficient energy controls.
Designed scenarios for the building energy storage for demand response
Established centralized monitoring dashboard and control system
Optimized energy use in response to pricing signal