Reducing Our Carbon Footprint through the “Energy of Things”

Kelly Brieger
:
Skylo Director of Marketing
May 18, 2021

Last week in an interview with BBC One Radio, US climate advocate John Kerry baffled listeners when he said, “I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. That’s just a reality.” I believe, though, that we can significantly reduce carbon emissions with energy management technology we have today. The “Energy of Things” (EoT), based on always-on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, is affordable, proven and available, right now.

Who has the biggest carbon footprint? 

The world’s top 20 producers (as of 2018) of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most prevalent greenhouse gas, are captured in a pie chart below. In gross emissions China is number one, with 10.64 metric gigatons (GT), followed by the US with 5.41GT and India with 2.65GT. Interestingly, the US is fourth in per-capita emissions (16.56 metric tons), after Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Australia. China is thirteenth (7.05T) and India is number 21 (1.96T).

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Source: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2020

 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the US is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation. Breaking that down further, the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions follow. All figures are percentages of total US emissions, 2019.

  • Transportation (29%): Fossil fuel for cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes. 
  • Electricity production (25%): Burning fossil fuels, mostly coal & natural gas, produces ~62% of electricity. 
  • Industry (23%): Fossil fuels for energy, as well as from certain chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials.
  • Commercial and Residential (13%): Fossil fuels burned for heat and the handling of waste.
  • Agriculture (10%): Livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.
  • Land Use and Forestry (12%): On the positive side, since 1990, US-managed forests and other lands have absorbed more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.

How the Energy of Things can help reduce CO2 emissions

IoT technology has been in widespread use for more than a decade. It has evolved beyond rudimentary connectivity with sophisticated, highly efficient techniques that bring down costs by an order of magnitude. For example, the use of narrowband IoT technology for machine sensing and “seeing,” combined with affordable satellite communications, is a viable approach to deploying large-scale connectivity. Developing smart “Energy of Things” systems for disaster management, recovery and preparedness, air quality systems, energy management, and more, can be implemented anywhere on earth. Here are a few examples of how EoT solutions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally:


  • Transportation: Smart meters stationed throughout metropolitan areas allow emissions data to be continuously micro-monitored, to inform municipal and state policy decisions around energy efficiency. For example, EoT sensor data can be used to develop tax breaks and other incentives for trucking businesses to convert to electric trucks, pinpointing areas with the highest concentrations of emissions to inform program rollout, and to provide ongoing monitoring of environmental improvement.

 

  • Agricultural: Within agriculture, beef cattle are responsible for the largest amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, emissions. EoT sensors can be cost effectively deployed across cattle-raising facilities, helping optimize enteric fermentation and manure management, which together comprise 42% of agriculture greenhouse gases.

 

  • Commercial and Residential: Electricity and natural gas providers can sponsor cost-effective building management system feeds and controls, allowing companies and residential customers to optimize heat, ventilation and light effectively. Composite information can be rolled up to the energy provider, to inform critical decisions about energy rationing, including “rolling blackouts” during extreme weather.

 

  • Forestry: The 2020 wildfires across California left not only tragic losses of property and life in their wake. The fires burned nearly 4.2 million acres and emitted an estimated 112 metric tons of CO2—about the equivalent of 24.2 million passenger cars driving in a single year. EoT sensors can be installed on transformers across high-risk areas, monitoring for smoke or fire to avert disasters. Always-on coverage afforded by a satellite network makes this strategy not only possible, but viable and cost-effective.


The energy industry is already embracing advanced technologies, and EoT promises to catapult it forward in its ability to lower carbon dioxide emissions. Over the next year we will see major deployments of EoT solutions, bringing us one step closer to a world with a smaller, safer and healthier carbon footprint.


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