Sustainable Economic Development Needs Intelligent Software
Nowadays, energy supply, industrial production and the operation of urban infrastructures are no longer conceivable without software. To achieve the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we therefore need to continue to invest heavily in the development of intelligent software. With the world's population currently at 7.7 billion people and counting (as of 2019), these goals cannot be achieved through resignation — they require intelligent solutions.
Alongside the 17 development goals, a global sustainability agenda was launched at the beginning of 2016 to provide a blueprint for world's sustainable economic, social and environmental development by 2030. Items on the agenda include stopping poverty, safeguarding nutrition, ensuring a reliable supply of energy and creating decent work for all, as well as protecting ecosystems and combating climate change.
Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Energy Supply
The energy sector is expected to make a significant contribution to global climate protection. The massive expansion of renewable energy and simultaneous phasing-out of coal and nuclear energy is resulting in enormous weather-related fluctuations and making the grids more complex — problems that can be solved by increasing the intelligence of the control systems.
Since security of supply has top priority, transmission and distribution system operators in countries that produce a lot of renewable energy are already making use of intelligent forecasting and decision-support systems based on current artificial intelligence (AI) methods. Intelligent control system software enables grid operators worldwide to gain control over and make optimal use of volatile energy from the wind and sun.
Through the use of AI, intelligent control system software enables grid operators worldwide to gain control over and make optimal use of renewable energy.
Using Renewable Energy in All Sectors
If the energy transition is to be a success, our electricity and heat supplies need to be integrated with our mobility infrastructure and industrial production — this is known as sector coupling. Using sector coupling can significantly increase the amount of renewable energy used in all sectors.
Examples include the growing use of electric vehicles, the use of heat pumps in the building sector and the use of power-to-gas technology. As this makes the electricity grids and overall system even more complex, intelligent control technology software products are needed to combine the infrastructures for electricity, gas, water and heat into a uniform system and optimize the overall system.
Green Gas in Existing Pipelines
Natural gas is already superior to all other conventional energy sources in terms of emissions.
Technologies such as power-to-gas, biomethane and the increased use of hydrogen can further reduce emissions and make effective use of excess renewable energy.
This means that the existing gas infrastructure, which in Germany consists of 500,000 kilometers of pipelines and large gas accumulators, needs to be adapted to suit an increasing amount of hydrogen and green gas. This includes, for example, complying with higher safety requirements and incorporating gas composition tracking using intelligent simulation software.
Lower Emissions Thanks to Clean Local Public Transport and Smart Logistics
Expanding the public transport network and promoting electromobility are important building blocks for reducing emissions in cities (i.e. creating smart cities). Optimizing the supply chains in freight transport offers extra potential too. Expanding the public transport network creates an increasing need for software solutions for intelligent vehicle, train and depot management.
The charging infrastructure for electromobility must be intelligently integrated into the depot management infrastructure and the existing electricity grids. In freight transport, existing logistics chains need optimizing with intelligent software in order to significantly improve running times, utilization of capacity, emissions, site costs and transport costs.
Climate-Friendly Metal Production
As an important and sustainable material, steel cannot be replaced in most areas of the economy. Steel-heavy products have a high recycling rate, and the recirculation of numerous other materials uses steel-based technologies too. If the greenhouse gas emissions of energy-intensive metal production can be significantly reduced, steel can make an important contribution to sustainable economic growth.
Utilizing new technologies and exploiting existing savings potential enables emissions to be significantly reduced in the long term — right through to carbon-neutral steel production. Short-term savings can be achieved by improving production and scheduling while optimizing energy use by means of industrial artificial intelligence.
"Intelligent Green Software" as a Key Technology for Sustainability
In the context of green information technology, often the only factors taken into consideration are the energy efficiency of the hardware used and perhaps the effect of the software on the energy consumption of IT systems.
The above examples show that the sustainability effect of intelligent, green software far exceeds the IT resources it uses.
Furthermore, operating infrastructures and industrial processes sustainably without intelligent software is almost inconceivable. In the future, emphasis will be placed on further improving existing solutions using additional methods of industrial artificial intelligence and on combining them into comprehensive solution scenarios. For example, combining solutions in the
- depot management,
- traffic flow optimization and
- electricity grid management
sectors will create global solution scenarios for modern e-mobility, production logistics and transport logistics that have immediately tangible benefits.