The road to carbon neutral – defining, planning, and achieving a carbon neutral future for all
Net Zero, carbon-neutral and the Paris Agreement are terms we see in daily news streams around the world.
We know these emission targets are as stretching as they are vital when it comes to preserving our planet as a habitable one, what’s less clear is how we can achieve them.
Right now, the route to our global destination of Net Zero by 2050, and reaching the emission reduction milestones along the way, is not clearly defined. Radical changes need to be made to the living and working practices that have been a way of life for generations. And legislators, industry leaders and consumers all need to understand the roadmap.
Impact of the micro and macro – a challenge for industry leaders
The vast amount of emission reductions we need to achieve is so monumental that change has to happen at a micro and a macro level. From switching a single lightbulb, to revolutionizing a whole industry, we must leave no stone turned. With ever-tightening environmental legislation being passed by governments across the globe, it’s industry leaders, and technology innovators, are being tasked with leading the way to effect large-scale change.
So, what does that mean for smart buildings? As our built environment consumes almost one-third of the world’s energy and generates up to 40 percent of greenhouse gases (GHGs), reimagining our buildings is one of the biggest and most important environmental challenges we face.
From single dwellings to offices, factories, communities, and entire cities – industry leaders need to join forces with suppliers, planners, developers, and strategic partners to create and embed the sustainable solutions for our customers to make these changes and meet emission targets, both in new builds and through retrofits.
Reimagining our built environment
As we demonstrated at Light + Building in Frankfurt earlier this month, it’s technology that can help us reimagine the places we live and work in. The solutions need to be scalable and flexible so they can be applied in all areas – across residential commercial and industry building stock – old and new – and with integrated renewable energy sources.
We developed ‘Mission to ZeroTM’ to accelerate this transformation – by delivering an industry-wide initiative that provides other businesses with a tried-and-tested blueprint to guide their own carbon neutral journeys.
At the center of our Mission to ZeroTM model is open-source infrastructure designed for integration across different platforms, making it extremely flexible. By using the power of technology to digitally connect all components across an eco-system so they are controllable – linking data across heating, lighting, ventilation, security and building occupancy – energy consumption is radically reduced.
Renewable energy can also be integrated, incorporating solar panels and thermo-efficiency with the smart building control systems managing and optimizing distribution. Installing EV charging helps reduce emissions even further. When fully implemented, these systems drastically reduce the environmental impact of the building through enhanced efficiency, also saving energy costs of up to 30 percent.
At ABB, our aim is to extend this model beyond the walls of our buildings, with each building being a step towards energy efficient communities and transportation networks.
Connectivity, interoperability, and scalability is the key
A three-pronged approach of connectivity, interoperability, and scalability means all devices within the intelligent ecosystem need to communicate with each other seamlessly. They must also be ‘interoperable’ so they can work together – whether they are made by the same manufacturer or not – including seamlessly connecting with customers’ existing property management systems.
Collaborating with cutting-edge technology developers is leading to break-through innovations, like we’ve seen with BrainBox AI and Samsung SmartThings. It’s partnerships like these that will achieve faster, and wider-reaching, results for all.
Finally, the system needs to interconnect with individual energy systems to they can scale together, in harmony. In short, it all needs to work together, while the power grid needs to be able to communicate in real-time across multiple platforms while conserving supply. It should also integrate renewable sources, like solar and wind, into existing grids.
Uniting our efforts through COP27 and beyond
As we look ahead to COP27, we can expect buildings to be an increased priority following the progress made through the Building to COP Coalition. The innovations modelled in Mission to ZeroTM, and showcased at Light + Building, have the potential to be major catalysts for helping achieve the 2030 and 2050 carbon goals we all strive for.
We now have the technology and by uniting our efforts and with the right financial infrastructure, we need to make it happen. If the whole of humanity pulls together, and industry leaders are properly equipped, we have the potential at our fingertips to make the environmental change we so urgently need.
I spoke about the benefits of our Mission to ZeroTM program on our panel discussion at Light + Building 2022.