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The Question Utilities Should Be Asking Technology Providers in 2022

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James Anderson's picture
Vice President, Customer Engagement Systems & Software, Inc.

A proven utility industry leader with over 35 years of experience managing customer care and billing, sales, consulting, product marketing, and back-office solutions. Strengths include sales...

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  • Jan 25, 2022
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2022-01 - Power Industry 2022 Trends & Predictions, click here for more

If people weren’t already talking about climate change and its’ consequences before COP26 summit in 2021, they sure are now. In the world of utilities, this has led to increasing pressure the replace carbon emission-producing energy sources with renewables.

While this is the most important step utilities can take to help reverse climate change, it’s not the only thing that can be done. Choosing technology providers and solutions that are environmentally sustainable is something we’re going to start hearing a lot more about in 2022 and beyond.

Technology is helping reduce Co2 emissions by enabling sustainable development, energy efficiency, transportation, and even new fuel sources. For example, a Canadian start-up called Carbon Engineering takes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and uses it to produce fuel. According to the company, “Direct air capture can remove far more Co2 per acre of land-footprint than trees and plants”. While these solutions are promising and exciting, technology is inherently a Co2 producer. There’s no way around it, but we can do better.

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“Today, an estimated 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas and emissions are produced through manufacturing and running digital technologies,” Natasha Matta writes in the article, “Technology’s Carbon Footprint.” That’s concerning, and it’s going to get worse unless technology providers make solid commitments to environmental sustainability.

The Promise of Cloud Solutions

Not surprisingly, adopting cloud solutions will be vital to reducing the carbon footprint of technologies. According to a 2021 report by Accenture, “Migrations to the public cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 59 million tons per year which equates to taking 22 million cars off the road”.

Moreover, the 2020 Accenture report, “The Green Behind the Cloud”, states, “In most cases, cloud providers also have greater renewable energy mixes than cloud users and minimize data center carbon footprints through renewable energy.”  According to its analysis of the largest public cloud service providers, the “average enterprise-owned-to-cloud migrations can lead to an impressive 65% energy reduction and 85% carbon reduction.” The cloud also helps reduce the technology waste associated with on-premises equipment retirement.

During technology procurements, utility decision-makers should adopt a cloud-first mentality, if they haven’t already, and add environmental sustainability to their list of requirements. It will be essential to ask questions about the contributions these solutions are making to global Co2 emissions or lack thereof. Solutions with a low PUE (power usage effectiveness) metric should be prioritized along with those who can show proof of:

  • IT Operational Efficiency;

  • IT Equipment Efficiency;

  • Datacenter Infrastructure Efficiency;

  • Ethical Technology Waste Practices; and

  • Renewable Electricity Procurements.

It will be important to look for leaders in data center energy conservation with accolades from reputable organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Another Reason to Consider a Cloud CIS

Cloud CIS's allow utilities to collect, analyze, and store large quantities of customer data and increase business agility for a lower total cost of ownership. When it comes to environmental sustainability, moving from many on-premises servers to fewer large cloud datacenters presents opportunities to:

  • Use less energy-consuming equipment supporting applications and the cloud environment;

  • Pool resources;

  • Increase application performance; and

  • Reduce toxic IT waste when it's time to upgrade or replace the CIS.

Conclusion

Achieving carbon reduction goals isn’t going to be easy for utility companies but procuring cloud technology solutions is an excellent place to start. This coming year, utilities engaging in CIS procurements should consider the environmental sustainability commitments of solution providers and refer to this article as a guide for asking the right questions.

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Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Jan 27, 2022

Insightful feedback.  In addition to Cloud supporting the carbon reduction ethos inherent to our industry, cloud partners play a major role in modernizing utilities' digital infrastructure for the flexibility and cost efficient scale that the future inevitably requires.  Leveraging quality solutions from top cloud partners who specialize in the capabilities utilities will require to serve customers of the future makes for a worthwhile investment.  Great article.

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