Judging from the hype, the global energy sector has begun its journey to a clean, green and low-carbon future powered by windmills and solar panels.
This will be a long journey. According to the International Energy Agency, we still get an incredible 80% of primary energy from fossil fuels, of which oil accounts for 32%, coal accounts for 27%, and natural gas accounts for 23%.
Transformation can only happen if global utility companies can invest trillions of dollars to cover the hills and pastures of the world with enough photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and nuclear reactors to replace dirty electrons with clean ones. Hugh Wynne, an electrical industry analyst at
Research Institute SSR, said that investors should be based on the assumption that governments around the world will only take more active actions to tighten control of the biggest polluters. He said that carbon dioxide will be regulated in one way or another, through carbon taxes, capacity exchanges, emission quotas, etc. Companies with high emissions will have to pay for pollution, while companies with low emissions will enjoy cost (and profitability) advantages.
Digging deeper, Wynne (formerly Bernstein Research) calculated the carbon intensity of the world’s largest utility companies, including most of the components of the Forbes Global 2000 utility companies. He found that the “dirtiest utility companies” were those with coal fleets in China, Russia, and India. According to their calculations, China Resources Power and Huaneng Power emit 0.97 tons of carbon dioxide per MWh (about enough to power 1,000 households for one hour). Also in the carbon hatchery are Datang with 0.94 ton / MWh, Inter RAO with 0.93 and Zhejiang Zheneng with 0.90.
At the other end of the scale, we find that utilities are strongly nuclear: Exelon is 0.05 t / mwh and Electricite de France is 0.08. Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola and progressive southeastern US utility NextEra (Florida Power & Light’s parent company) are tied at 0.21.
Wynne said that the global average power generation footprint is 0.52 tonnes / MWh. There are some well-known companies that are wrong on this average, but there is still room for a quick improvement in their renewables portfolio. Saudi Electricity (0.65 tons/MWh) is unique in that it generates more than half of its energy by burning oil. The kingdom hopes to quickly balance its impact by investing in solar energy. In the United States, Houston-based NRG energy has an average of 0.68 tons/MWh, because the pollution level of its traditional coal-fired power plants is significantly higher than that of its regional counterparts.
If you are right, it may cause a huge change in the Forbes Global 2000 ranking in the next ten years, because companies that have turned to reduce emissions will benefit at the expense of polluters.
At the same time, some more advanced utility companies are eager to take advantage of the new tools brought about by advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence. For example, Forbes Global 2000 companies, Southern Company, Exelon, and Dominion Energy are all clients of a startup called Urbint, which was founded by Forbes 30-year-old alumnus Corey Capasso and has raised more than 4000 for the company Ten thousand dollars in funding. The security of the infrastructure supported by AI. platform. “Damage to critical infrastructure is on the rise, potentially leading to harmful methane emissions and posing a major threat to public safety,” Capasso said. “Preventing them is not only vital to combating climate change, but also to protecting workers and the public.” The
Urbint system collects records and drawings of pipes, lines, and conduits, and builds real-world models. Emeka Igwilo, chief data officer of Southern Company Gas at a branch of Southern Company in Atlanta (0.49 tons/MWh, by the way), said this is a “more transformative” tool, explaining that any utility The riskiest part of the utility company is when people start digging up their property without calling the utility company first. Every year, the Southern Company generates 2.2 million “tickets” in the places where the customer intends to dig. The law requires the company to send people to investigate and mark the paths of buried lines and pipelines. Despite being well-intentioned, people still feel tired, rushed, and do not review documents, and in the southern region, they end up with about 5,000 damage cases each year.
Urbint overlays its digital model with historical damage reports to better understand where the accident happened and where it might happen again. The system details the specific digging hazards at each location and even suggests whether more labor should be added to a job. Igwilo said: “The tool expands the work done by the human brain by linking points to seemingly unrelated events.” “Now I don’t have anyone driving around to make trouble. I can guide them where they need to go.” China Southern Airlines launched Urbint in its Nicor ​​division in 2019 and throughout the company last year. They have seen continuous improvement in the reduction of accidents.
Preventing leaks and accidents can help reduce a company’s carbon footprint. But both green technology and artificial intelligence will be enough to save us. “No matter what you do, someone has to turn the wrench,” Igvilo said. “This is just a complement to manual work. The tool can predict, but someone must intervene.” We still need muscles now.
To learn more about how some of the world’s largest power companies adopt machine learning and artificial intelligence, check out Boston Dynamics’s robotic dog Spot’s work under dangerous conditions.

By Peter

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