Digital technology: the backbone of a net-free future

Digital technology: the backbone of a net-free future

Digital technology: the backbone of a net-free future

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Data is emerging on the impact of digital technologies on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and its importance is clear. The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Accenture claim that digital technologies can help the energy, materials and mobility industries reduce their emissions by 4% to 10% by 2030.1 PwC calculates that AI to it alone can reduce global GHG emissions by 4% by 2030,2 while Capgemini reports that the climate potential of AI puts the figure at 16% in several sectors.3


Despite the proven impacts of these technologies, however, organizations do not have enough urgency around their adoption to accelerate decarbonization and emissions reduction goals. Across the industry, many leaders rely on partners to support digital transformation, while energy transition remains a secondary focus. Digital and sustainability leaders are taking a surprisingly conservative approach to technology that fails to address today’s problems. As justification, they cite the immaturity of existing solutions, the need for further study or customization, and challenges ranging from intermittent renewable energy supply to lack of confidence in carbon trading systems. existing.

MIT Technology Review Insights conducted a global survey to examine industry leaders’ use, plans, and readiness to adopt digital technologies to meet decarbonization goals. The survey reached out to 350 C-level executives from leading global companies across eight major industries to gather their perceptions of these solutions. Insights were also gathered from in-depth discussions with nine subject matter experts.

Here are the main results of the search:

Digitization is the backbone that will accompany the energy transition. Despite differences between industries (and between regions), digital technologies are considered important (scored from 1 to 10, where 10 is most important) for maximizing efficiency and reducing energy and waste (overall score of 6.8); design and optimize carbon sequestration technologies (6.7); make sustainability data accessible, verifiable and transparent (6.2); monitoring of GHG sinks (6.6); and design and optimize low-carbon energy systems (5.8).

For most industries, the main driver of decarbonization is a circular economy. A majority (54%) of respondents from all industries (except petrochemical manufacturing) cite a circular economy4 as their top environmental sustainability goal. A circular economy minimizes waste with reduced consumption, increased efficiency and recovery of resources and energy. The second highest rated sustainability goal is to improve access to clean energy (41%), and the third is to improve energy efficiency (40%).

Partnering with technology experts is how the industry innovates with digital solutions. The most cited approach to adopting new digital technologies is partnering with vendors (31%). Leaders, however, are less likely to stress the importance of open standards and data sharing across the supply chain to accelerate the deployment of digital technology (particularly in energy, metals and mining, construction and petrochemical manufacturing), with only 16% identifying it as the top enabler. Yet experts say an embrace of open standards and data sharing – critical to AI and ML’s ability to conquer complexity – to streamline the supply chain is “inevitable” to achieve the goals of decarbonization.

Digital technology: the backbone of a net-free future

Attitudes towards technology adoption and innovation vary by industry and region. Although cybersecurity is considered the biggest external barrier to digital transformation as a whole (58%), construction companies are much more worried (76%), while metals and mining companies are less worried (47%). %). Overall, 11% of respondents want to experiment with digital technology early on, but some sectors are less enthusiastic: just 4% in metals and mining, 5% in petrochemical manufacturing and 6% in industrial manufacturing. Buy-in and a willingness to learn are essential for cooperation between departments and organisations.


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