Hard Realities Pervade COP27, but Scaling Renewable Energy Offers Hope

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Thirty years ago, 154 nations agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Last month, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to that agreement (now at 198 signatories) met again (for the 27th time) at COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt. 

 

COP27 took place amid a cacophony of alarms on climate change impacts. From flooding in Asia to hurricanes in North America to heat waves and drought in Europe, there have been 29 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2022 so far. And a recent UNEP report revealed how updated national pledges since last year’s COP26 in Glasgow have barely registered a difference to predicted 2030 emissions. Worse news: the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is exceedingly unlikely to happen because many nations did not enact the policy changes necessary to achieve that goal in time. In fact, our current policies indicate a dire 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century. The pledges from COP26 will likely only reduce this to a 2.4-2.6°C temperature rise—a catastrophic forecast.

 

The all-important matter of financing the world’s adaptation to a warming climate, and averting the worst outcomes by slowing the rate of climate change consequences, dominated the two-week conference agenda. The top headline coming out of COP27 was undoubtedly the groundbreaking agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for countries most affected by and least equipped to respond to the damaging effects of climate change in the coming years. And per the Sharm el Sheikh Implementation Plan memorializing the COP27 decisions, a colossal global investment in renewable energy infrastructure is called for: “USD 4 trillion per year needs to be invested in renewable energy up until 2030 to be able to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and that, furthermore, a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least USD 4-6 trillion per year.”

 

Several notable positive developments emerged from COP27, like the U.S. and China—two countries responsible for over 50% of global emissions—re-engaging in direct climate cooperation talks for the first time in years and 150 countries signing a pledge to reduce methane pollution. There is also mounting evidence that renewable energy production can realistically replace fossil fuel in the future, a fundamental tenet of arresting the pace of climate change. 

 

Renewable energy growth promises major economic benefits 

Reporting from the energy think tank Ember shows that even as global electricity demand rose by 3% in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021, renewable energy production entirely met the rise in demand, averting the need for any increase in coal or gas energy production. According to the report: “The growth in wind and solar in the first half of 2022 prevented a 4% increase in fossil generation. This avoided $40 billion USD in fuel costs and 230 Mt CO2 in emissions.“

 

Convincing heads of state to recognize the favorable economic tradeoff between short-term pain and long-term benefits with regard to transitioning to renewable energy as soon as possible will be vital to achieving net zero by 2050. As Sverre Alvik of DNV wrote in a World Economic Forum op-ed published ahead of COP27, the race to net-zero is affordable: “Since the Industrial Revolution, energy demand, cost, and emissions have moved in lockstep with GDP growth. However, as the world electrifies and societies reap the benefit of the associated energy efficiency improvements, energy demand—along with emissions and cost—will slow whilst global economic growth continues. This historic decoupling means that just 2.1% of global GDP will be spent on energy in 2050 compared to 3.4% today.”

 

Researchers from Oxford University, publishing in the journal Joule, support this position in a recent study about the benefits—both economic and environmental—of rapidly transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Beginning with the observation that most energy-economy models historically underestimate deployment rates for renewable energy technologies and overestimate their costs, the study uses empirically validated probabilistic forecasts of energy technology costs to show how a rapid green energy transition will likely result in many trillions of dollars saved—between $5T and $15T—if current growth paths are continued. The authors emphasize that the forecast held true in 80% of modeled scenarios, and the projected savings may even be conservatively stated, given that innovative technologies and solutions are likely to be developed that make renewable energy even more affordable to produce, store, and distribute in the future.

 

SparkCognition Renewable Suite: Maximizing efficiency for surging global demand 

As demand for solar, wind, and storage continues to grow exponentially through 2030 and beyond (in the U.S. alone, roughly 100 GW of wind and solar capacity is projected to be built over the next decade), the matter of whether the renewable market will grow isn’t even debatable. But the question of how to compete in this expanding market remains. 

 

As detailed in one of our recent webinars, AI for Renewables: 4 Ways to Successfully Scale a Diverse Fleet, capital costs for renewable energy projects are going down, making operating expenses (OPEX) an even bigger portion of levelized cost of energy (LCOE). New operators transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables need systems to manage their wind, solar, and storage assets. The cost of avoidable expenses and lost energy in renewable energy production is estimated to top $32B by 2023. 

 

SparkCognition Renewable Suite answers this challenge with a single cloud-based SaaS solution leveraging the power of AI to manage multiple asset types like wind, solar, hydro, and storage. With over 8.5GW currently under management, Renewable Suite is proven to increase annual energy production and reduce maintenance costs while improving operational efficiency.

 

Renewable Suite delivers a comprehensive toolset integrating five major functional modules that enable operators to maximize profitability and operational efficiency.

 

  • MONITOR: Centralize data from all asset types, SCADA systems, weather, and market pricing to monitor real-time asset performance and production metrics
  • REPORT: Customize and automate periodic reporting to meet various key stakeholder needs
  • MAINTAIN: Maximize efficiency of operations, maintenance, and asset management
  • PREDICT: Leverage physics-informed predictive analytics and advanced AI to prevent failures and reduce maintenance costs
  • ANALYZE: Create self-help analytics and visualize key performance metrics and AI models to take appropriate actions to optimize energy production

 

Designed from the ground up by energy experts for energy experts, SparkCognition Renewable Suite is a complete asset management and predictive analytics suite that’s ready now to help renewable plant operators meet rapidly rising global energy demands while optimizing their cost of doing business. 

 

To achieve net zero in time to limit the worst-case scenarios stemming from climate change, it will take extraordinary political will, rapid economic investment, and the implementation of innovative technologies to successfully scale renewable energy and capture carbon emissions. SparkCognition is committed to building a smarter, safer, and more sustainable future with artificial intelligence, and SparkCognition Renewable Suite is ready to help accelerate this transition.

 

To learn more about how Renewable Suite can improve performance for wind, solar, and battery storage needs, read our eBook or contact us for an exploratory call today.

 

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