Digitalisation can complement existing climate action measures – report
Clean Energy Wire
Increased digitalisation in the energy sector can offer significant but limited opportunities to save greenhouse gases, according to a new report by the Institute for Ecological Economic Research (IÖW) and non-profit energy consulting company co2online on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA). The report found that digital applications complement key climate protection measures, such as making buildings more energy efficient and expanding renewable energy sources. Researchers examined how digital applications could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in case studies on heat and electricity in residential buildings and households. Applications included the use of weather forecasts to control heating systems, online efficiency monitoring of heating systems and the digital recording of power consumption via smart meters with a feedback system as well as tools that make it possible to use heat pumps and electric charging stations to serve the power grid. The research team also compared the direct environmental effects of such smart technologies, including their production, use and disposal, with indirect effects, such as the increased use of renewable energy and increases in energy efficiency as well as user-related and electricity market-related effects. The climate protection potential of digitalisation is limited, however. "When projected across the whole of Germany, the emission savings of the examined solutions in connection with their current market growth can only make a small contribution to the climate protection goals for 2030," said Hannes Bluhm, an environmental evaluations expert at the IÖW. The applications examined in the report can only contribute between 0.07 and 0.21 percent of the 113 million tonnes of CO2 that the energy industry must save by 2030.
The country’s private sector is pushing for an accelerated digitalisation process in order for German industry to remain competitive and become more sustainable.