Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New technology ‘must drive global carbon emissions cuts’

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor

New technology including smart meters, “intelligent” electricity grids and teleconferencing systems could cut global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 per cent, according to the chairman of BP.
Carl-Henric Svanberg, the newly appointed chairman of Britain’s biggest company, said such technology would play a significant role in tackling climate change by cutting energy wastage and demand for domestic and international travel.
“The world’s GDP will treble by 2050 and if we continue, that means three times our energy consumption and three times our carbon dioxide emissions,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Times.
“We cannot just live the way we do and multiply it by three. We must find more intelligent ways of doing things.”

Mr Svanberg, who remains chief executive at the Swedish telecoms company Ericsson until the end of the year, said that smart meters that monitor household energy consumption in real-time would be a key factor.
“Over time every house and every energy-consuming unit will have a Sim card that means there can be a dialogue with energy suppliers. You can save a lot of energy by doing that.”
His remarks come as the Government sets out details today of a £9 billion plan to introduce smart meters in all 26 million British homes by 2020. However, the company advising the Government on the technology said yesterday that there was no reason “in principle” why the introduction could not be completed four years ahead of the government schedule.
Omar Abbosh, managing director at Accenture, said the meters were crucial to reducing and managing energy consumption before predicted energy shortages over the next decade.
The new meters will enable power companies to make improvements in energy efficiency by introducing off-peak deals similar to those offered by telephone operators.
Consumers will be rewarded for using energy-hungry appliances such as dishwashers and tumble dryers at off-peak times, such as between 1am and 5am, allowing for a reduction in the total number of power stations needed to power Britain.
Inaccurate billing should also end because suppliers would receive exact data.
Mr Abbosh said: “The rapid roll-out of smart meters is critical if they are to help address the generation gap forecast for 2014 to 2017, as meters will help reduce and manage consumption. We expect the industry to be ready for mass deployment by 2013, so full deployment by 2016 is possible, albeit challenging.”
Mr Svanberg, 57, said the present trajectory of the world’s energy consumption was unsustainable, adding that world leaders meeting in Copenhagen this month must set a high global price for carbon emissions in order to drive billions of dollars of fresh investment into low-carbon sources of energy.
“If the world’s scientists and leaders can agree that emissions need to be reduced, then putting a price on emissions seems like the way to go. There is a lot of support for finding a way of pricing emissions.”
Mr Svanberg said that businesses needed to lead the way in taking action to control emissions, rather than waiting for politicians.
“As citizens of the world, I don’t think we can just sit back and wait for the politicians to make their decisions and then just act. Everyone must contribute. Everybody needs to do their part.”
Mr Svanberg, who has no previous experience of working in the oil industry, said there were parallels between the worlds of telecoms and energy.
“If you see the world as a human being, you can see the oil as the blood and the telecoms as the nervous system. Both are very crucial to a country’s prosperity. Both are very important for a country’s development.”
Mr Svanberg also said that large chunks of global air, road and rail passenger traffic could be removed through the use of teleconferencing and telecommuting.
“We continue to travel the world just to have meetings . . . [but] you can replace an awful lot of meetings with teleconferencing.”
Transport accounts for 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of these are from road transport, at 76 per cent of total transport emissions, and aviation, at 12 per cent.
“In many ways we have come full circle as a society. First we had the horse and carriage, then came the railroad and then steamships and then airplanes so you could fly across the world. Now we don’t have to travel so much because of technology," Mr Svanberg said.