Smarter industries can help decarbonise our planet

November 03, 2021 | 16:17
Climate change is accelerating around the world – but 5G and other digital cellular technologies can play a vital role to combat it. Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos, delves into how smarter industries can help decarbonise the planet.
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos
Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos

There is no question that we humans are the main drivers of climate change. Due to the way we live, the way we consume and run our industries, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has been rising extensively since the Industrial Revolution and climate change are widespread, rapid, and intensifying. The public and private sectors, therefore, need to work together to ensure a rapid transformation to a net-zero global economy.

In the technology sector, Ericsson is leading the way by describing how innovative network performance can reduce energy use. For example, in our Ericsson Radio System, we are set to achieve a 35 per cent energy saving by 2022 compared to the legacy portfolio in 2016. We are also actively decreasing the company’s own carbon footprint. In 2020, we reduced our emissions by almost 60 per cent compared to 2016 and by over 70 per cent in comparison to 2012. This shows that halving emissions in less than 10 years is completely possible.

Nowadays, a winning business is increasingly defined by its capabilities to minimise its carbon footprint. Here, technology innovation plays an important role.

If the energy, manufacturing, and transport sectors succeed in halving their emissions by 2030, it would have a substantial impact on meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement: to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To reach this goal, the world must undergo a tremendous transformation in energy production, where 70 to 85 per cent of all electricity generated must come from renewable sources.

Here is where cellular connectivity and 5G can make a difference. It is a key enabler in the realisation of the smart energy grid due to its improved speed, ultra-low latency (which measures how long a signal takes to go from its source to its receiver and back), and its ability to connect more devices at once. Thanks to 5G, the energy sector will be able to collect data in near real-time, helping them distribute energy in a much more effective, efficient, fast, and secure way.

Coupled with advanced storage technology and AI in the energy sector, this will allow energy suppliers to feed huge databases from smart sensors. As a result, they will know exactly when to distribute or redistribute power and in what exact amount, leading to a secure and stable power supply and energy savings for consumers.

Using the intelligence and real-time data provided by a truly smart energy system, we can better match supply with demand and integrate more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the system. These forms of generating energy create less air pollution and emit significantly less CO2 into the atmosphere.

Ericsson’s smart factory in Texas is equipped with fast and secure cellular connectivity
Ericsson’s smart factory in Texas is equipped with fast and secure cellular connectivity

The industrial sector is responsible for over 30 per cent of the global total CO2 emissions, according to the Exponential Roadmap report. If large industrial companies make significant changes, industry-related emissions could be cut in half by 2030.

By combining fiber-fast speeds, non-stop reliability, ultra-low-latency, and superior security, 5G has already set off a wave of innovation across industries. They are critical for businesses to advance their digital transformation and improve efficiencies such as reduced energy consumption and increased recycling efforts. The fact is that material reuse and recycling could have the single biggest impact on reducing carbon emissions in the manufacturing sector, potentially accounting for nearly half of emissions reductions by the end of the decade.

We can illustrate how 5G connectivity can drive down costs while lowering energy usage and mitigating climate change by highlighting Ericsson’s 5G smart factory in Texas. Twice this year, this plant was recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s lighthouse factories, meaning a manufacturing site that serves as a role model to the rest of the world in creating profitable economic growth without increasing its environmental footprint.

Our factory in Texas, which produces 5G and advanced antenna system radios and primarily serves Ericsson 5G customers in North America, is equipped with fast and secure cellular connectivity to improve efficiency and optimise our production process. We use our private network to power autonomous mobile robots for quicker routing to move materials, for a real-time digital twin to identify where performance could be improved, as well as AR for our engineers to improve operations remotely.

The factory, built with 98 per cent of construction materials recycled or reused, is designed to reduce energy consumption by 24 per cent, indoor water usage by 75 per cent, and the factory runs on 100 per cent renewable electricity. Due to its closeness to our US customers, the factory also helps us reduce emissions from product transportation – which is key to delivering on Ericsson’s global goal to cut airborne supply from 30 to a maximum of 10 per cent. Just imagine the impact on climate change if we can implement these solutions across over 10 million manufacturing sites globally.

Cellular tech and 5G could soon, therefore, contribute to an exponential acceleration of global efforts to reduce emissions by enabling interconnected supply chains and networks, improving data sharing, optimising systems, and spurring operational efficiency.

By Denis Brunetti

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