September 30, 2021
Contact: Alec Gerlach, GerlachA@c2es.org, 703-516-0621
Reducing Emissions through Digitalization
Data analytics, networked devices, sensors, and other digital technologies are changing how energy is used and consumed across the economy. These technologies also create new opportunities to optimize energy use and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
The latest C2ES “Closer Look” brief, Using Digitalization to Achieve Decarbonization Goals, explores how digital technologies and innovation can play a significant role meeting emissions goals. The brief explores opportunities and challenges and recommends policies to enable climate-beneficial digitalization across the economy.
C2ES research identified opportunities for digitalization to achieve significant decarbonization in the following sectors:
- Power: Improving the grid’s ability to integrate more variable renewable energy, creating an interconnected grid with multi-directional power flow, and expanding the use of demand response strategies (including smart charging of electric vehicles).
- Transportation: Enabling electric vehicles to provide flexible load and storage resources for the power grid and improving fuel efficiency (e.g., through route optimization) and enabling autonomous driving systems.
- Buildings: Energy management systems, smart heating and cooling systems, and connected appliances and equipment—can improve comfort while reducing energy use.
- Industry: Optimizing energy and resource use, improving supply chain management, and allowing for differentiation of products based on environmental attributes.
- Oil & gas: Assisting with preventative maintenance, detecting and reducing emission leaks, and improving the sector’s environmental footprint.
- Agriculture: Reducing emissions-producing inputs (e.g., fertilizers) and water, improving management of livestock production and animal health, enabling urban and vertical farming, and improving accounting of carbon sequestration.
The brief proposes policy recommendations to enable digital decarbonization technologies, including:
- Investing in research, development, demonstration, and deployment, including appropriations for the digitalization demonstrations authorized in the Energy Act of 2020
- Driving deployment through government procurement, including requiring agencies to procure digital solutions, document the related energy efficiencies and cost savings, and publicize the lessons learned
- Enhancing understanding of digital technologies, including by incorporating these technologies in agency outreach activities and by developing real-time measurement and verification protocols for systems-level efficiencies in buildings, industry, power, transportation, and agriculture and land use
- Developing interoperable standards and communications protocols between devices and systems
- Investing in digital infrastructure, such as semiconductors and broadband.
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change. Our mission is to advance strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.