Mobile network operators urge investment in smart tech
Written by: Richard Hook | Published:
377ft high wind turbines in East Sussex Connected technology is currently only used in around 10% of wind grids globally (credit: Oast House/Georgraph)

Mobile network operators association the GSMA has called on policymakers to “harness the potential of mobile connectivity and smart technology” to achieve net zero by 2050.

Research released by the GSMA and the Carbon Trust to coincide with COP26 has suggested that smart technologies are significantly underused by energy-intensive industries, especially power and manufacturing. According to the authors, better use of smart technology in those two sectors could contribute 40% of the required carbon emissions savings for the world’s net zero goals and limit global warming to within the COP26 agreed target of 1.50C above pre-industrial revolution levels.

In the energy sector, connected technology is only used in around 35% of solar grids and 10% of wind grids globally. Connected technology is used in 1% of factories across the manufacturing sector globally. Without using connected grid technology, carbon emission savings would be approximately 10% less – equating to an additional 1 gigatonnes of unnecessary CO2 by 2030 according to the researchers.

Increased connectivity and mobile technology by those sectors could enable global savings of around 11 gigatonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. Looking at specific sector approaches to smart technology, the researchers said that close to half (46%) of the cuts required in carbon emissions in the energy sector could come from the rollout of connected wind and solar energy grids – equivalent to 4 gigatonnes of CO2 or decommissioning around 1,000 coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Electric car charging station numbers are equivalent to only 0.8% of all cars on the road currently but according to the research, 65% of the required carbon emissions reductions across transport could come from digital infrastructure to support electric vehicles, working from home, and, optimised routing and fleet management of road haulage and commercial shipping. This would amount to a saving of 2.8 gigatonnes of CO2 over the next 9 years – equating to a reduction of 2.8 billion flights from New York to Paris.

"Many of the smart tools and technology needed to drive down carbon emissions already exist they just aren’t being used to their full potential”

GSMA’s director general Mats Granryd said: “The risk is that without smart technology used widely, the world will miss 2050 net zero commitments. Business leaders and policymakers must act now to harness the power of mobile technology and connectivity as a key lever in the global race to net zero.

“As low and zero-carbon technology evolves, people might think we will need to rely on future technology solutions to meet net zero goals. At the GSMA, we disagree. We believe that many of the smart tools and technology needed to drive down carbon emissions, especially in the energy sector, already exist – they just aren’t being used to their full potential.”

Alongside the broader GSMA research, Nokia has called for accelerated digitalisation and green energy uptake as well as claiming it will aim to achieve 100% green electricity by 2025. Nokia has targeted to achieve 100% purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025 to power its offices, R&D labs, and factories.

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