The world is in urgent need of solutions for its energy problems. Analyst Tom Raftery explains how the Internet of Things (IoT) can counter climate change.

News about natural disasters is taking over the media. Just recently, the U.S. Drought Monitor published a report outlining how California is in the midst of the worst drought it has ever experienced, causing water shortage and dangerous wildfires. May 2015 was the warmest May ever recorded, and 2015 is set to become the warmest year in recorded history.

In 2009, representatives from 176 countries gathered at the World Climate Conference in Copenhagen. They realized that we needed to keep global warming down to a maximum of 2° C (35° F) higher.

“Right now, the average temperature has already risen 0.8 degrees. That means we have only 1.2 degrees left,” warns Tom Raftery, a GreenMonk analyst at RedMonk. Global warming also needs to be dealt with at a technological level. To set course towards an energy revolution, renewable energies must become part of the power grid.

This realization has changed what we require of our electricity networks: Having many small power generators that need to be integrated into the network causes more fluctuations in supply, so the energy consumption has increased significantly in industrialized countries and emerging economies. Load management cannot make the necessary changes with the outdated technology of current networks.

Smart grids help load management

A study by PricewaterhouseCooper revealed that electricity and transport are the greatest causes of CO2 emission at 38 percent and 32 percent respectively. “The current trend is to make more and more electric vehicles,” Raftery explains. “This means we could influence an entire 70 percent of the CO2 emissions.”

The idea behind smart grids is to connect electricity generators and consumers on one big network, so that it can be controlled more efficiently and dependably. Load management plays a big part in controlling the generating and consumption of electricity and makes it possible to include more renewable energies in the system. The more renewable energies in the network, the better: Their varying costs make them cheaper, and they emit less carbon dioxide.

The most important renewable energies right now are solar and wind energy. Unfortunately, these do not produce a constant amount of energy and can thus only offer a varying amount of supply in the energy market. To counter this, demand must somehow be adjusted to the fluctuations in energy supply.

Smart grids are interconnected through the IoT and can help influence energy demand. “Having a source of energy that can’t be controlled is a big problem for energy companies. However, if the supply of a product can’t be controlled, we will just have to control demand instead. For this, we need the Internet of Things,” explains Raftery.

Newest technology needed

The Internet of Things can do more than help everyday users monitor and quantify their daily activities; it can even contribute to getting our global energy problems under control and reducing CO2 emissions.

“The Internet of Things is an important driver for smart grids. It allows us to manage electricity more efficiently, save resources, and use more renewable energies,” says Raftery.

But in order to exert this influence on energy usage and to set up a comprehensive load management, the newest technology is necessary. For example, large wind turbines and solar fields are each connected to their bases. They continually send data back and forth to measure the performance and efficiency of the turbines.

With the help of real-time analysis through SAP HANA, the network utilization is monitored so that the electricity supply can be optimized automatically at any given moment. More and more manufacturers install small chips in their digitized machines that collect data, evaluate it, and identify action areas.

Data collection is also increasing in everyday life with the smart meter. It is being installed in more and more private households, where it shows how much energy you are consuming and the actual usage time. It also allows you to control your electric appliances with a smartphone app.

“Appliances with a high energy consumption like fridges and freezers could be controlled through the Internet of Things. You can set the temperature of your freezer lower when you want to save energy, and higher when you have energy to spare,” Raftery explains. Controlling your electric appliances can save a lot of energy.

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