ICTs could play a driving role in smart grids and carbon emission reduction


London, U.K. and Delhi, India — (METERING.COM) — September 19, 2008 – Information and communication technologies (ICTs) could play a major role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions through enabling reductions in other sectors, in particular smart grids, according to a recent study by the Climate Group.

With the potential to reduce 2.03 GtCO2e globally by 2020, smart grid technologies were found to offer the largest opportunity among those identified where ICT could play a driving role in reducing emissions.

Other opportunities identified include smart buildings, which could enable 1.68 GtCO2e of emissions savings, smart logistics in energy transport and storage, which could reach 1.52 GtCO2e, and smart motor systems, which could reduce 0.97 GtCO2e.

The study, “Smart 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age,” finds that in total ICTs could deliver approximately 7.8 GtCO2e of savings in 2020. This represents 15 percent of 2020 emissions based on a business as usual estimation and in economic terms translates into approximately €600 billion ($864 billion).

The sector’s own contribution to emissions, at around 0.5 GtCO2e now, approximately 2 percent of the total, is expected to more than double by 2020.

The study says that ICT is integral to the range of technologies that comprise a smart grid, some of which include smart meters and demand management systems. Of the total ICT smart grids abatement potential, 0.9 GtCO2e is estimated to come from reduced transmission and distribution losses, 0.83 GtCO2e from the integration of renewables, 0.28 GtCO2e from reduced consumption through user information, and 0.02 GtCO2e from demand side management.

The example of India

The study points out that while the emergence of smart grids as an alternative to well-established, existing infrastructures is very much upon us and that in the years to 2020 much change is expected, in places such as India, where the network’s inefficiencies are severely impeding economic growth, the imperative to transform the current system and remedy these shortcomings is immediate.

Against a background of rapidly rising demand for energy, high carbon intensity of supply, high grid losses, and rising energy costs, the most important technologies would be ICT platforms that help reduce the losses. These include remote measurement and monitoring of energy use, remote grid element management and energy accounting, which together would help utilities monitor energy use across the grid better and allow them to trace the source of energy losses. In addition there is the further emissions reduction opportunity in smart grids’ capacity to support decentralized energy production.

“Action is urgently needed to tackle the energy losses. The power sector and the Indian government are expected to invest significantly to support GDP growth, providing upcoming investments that will last 20-30 years. This represents an opportunity to put in place a ‘best in class’ system early and leapfrog grid technology,” says the study.

It is estimated that the transmission and distribution losses in India’s power sector could be reduced by 30 percent through better monitoring and management of electricity grids, first with smart meters and then by integrating more advanced ICTs into the so-called energy internet.