As we continue to advance technologically, the environmental impact of the tech industry is becoming increasingly evident. Between 2015 and 2017, major tech companies faced intense scrutiny over their contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Shockingly, it was revealed that the sector was responsible for 2-3% of global emissions, with some companies even being labelled as the largest energy consumers on the planet.
For instance, Facebook was mentioned in the ranks of the biggest energy consumers, whilst Amazon’s emissions from fossil fuels have risen by a staggering 69% in 2020 alone. As concerns over climate change and sustainability continue to mount, renewable energy has emerged as a critical area of focus for companies across all industries, including the tech sector.
Tech companies have a unique opportunity to lead the charge in the transition to renewable energy and sustainable innovation, given their vast resources, innovative capacity, and the role technology plays in shaping our lives. In this article, we explore how renewable energy is fostering sustainable innovation in the tech sector and what companies can do to accelerate this trend.
According to the United Nations, renewable energy is any form of energy that comes from natural, replenishable sources such as sunlight, wind, and water. In recent years, renewable energy has become increasingly affordable and accessible, making it a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
In recent years, the growing reliance on technology has resulted in a significant increase in energy consumption, leading to the degradation of our planet’s resources. To ensure that the continued advancement of technology can be sustained for years to come, whilst also mitigating the risk of further harm to our planet and its inhabitants, it has become crucial for the tech industry to lead the way in transitioning to more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower are increasingly being adopted by some tech companies to power their operations. Not only are these sources more sustainable, but they are also more cost-effective in the long run. Companies are recognising that investing in renewable energy now can lead to significant savings on energy costs in the future. This shift towards renewable energy is not only good for the environment but also for business.
The tech sector is also utilising renewable energy in innovative ways. For example, some companies are developing smart grids that can automatically balance energy supply and demand by integrating renewable energy sources. These smart grids can also help reduce energy waste by directing excess energy to storage systems for later use. By using renewable energy and smart grids, tech companies can significantly reduce their carbon footprint whilst also improving energy efficiency.
One of the major ways renewable energies have been changing the game in tech is through the powering of data centres. The growth of data in recent years has been exponential and data centres have become significant energy consumers. The use of clean energy such as solar and wind to power these data centres has been on the increase with companies such as Google and Apple making significant investments in renewable energy even powering their data centres with 100% renewable energy. This has led to a sizeable decline in the amount of carbon emissions released by these tech companies.
The development of innovative technological devices that use alternative energy sources has also been another step in the right direction fostered by tech companies. This means that the carbon footprint resulting from consumerism is greatly reduced. We see this play out in the development of electric vehicles for example. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), transportation accounts for around 24% of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, and road transport is responsible for 72% of those emissions. Hence, switching to alternatively powered vehicles is greatly instrumental in reducing global CO2 emission levels.
Renewable energy is driving innovation in the tech sector by spurring the development of new technologies. Companies are developing new materials for solar panels that can improve their efficiency and reduce costs, while advancements in battery technology are making it possible to store renewable energy more efficiently and effectively. This can help overcome one of the biggest challenges of using renewable energy – the intermittency of supply.
Renewable energy is also encouraging collaboration between companies. Many tech companies are coming together to share their knowledge and resources to develop sustainable solutions. For example, the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance brings together companies to purchase renewable energy collectively, helping them get access to renewable energy at a lower cost and encouraging more companies to make the switch.
As the world continues to transition towards a more sustainable future, tech companies must take a proactive approach to incorporate renewable energy and sustainable innovation into their operations. Here are some recommendations for tech companies looking to accelerate their transition to sustainability:
- Set ambitious sustainability targets: Tech companies should set clear and ambitious sustainability targets that align with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. These targets should cover all aspects of the company’s operations, from energy consumption to supply chain management.
- Invest in renewable energy: Tech companies should invest in renewable energy to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their energy resilience. This can involve investing in on-site renewable energy generation, such as solar panels, or purchasing renewable energy credits.
- Drive sustainable innovation: Tech companies should prioritize sustainable innovation by integrating sustainability considerations into all aspects of the product development process. This can involve conducting lifecycle assessments, adopting circular economy principles, and using renewable materials.
The adoption of renewable energy sources can also enhance a company’s reputation and help attract socially responsible investors. Consumers and investors are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and are seeking out companies that prioritize environmental responsibility. By implementing renewable energy sources, tech companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and attract customers and investors who share these values.
In conclusion, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power can play a critical role in fostering sustainable innovation in the tech sector. By implementing renewable energy sources, tech companies can reduce their carbon footprint, save costs, and enhance their reputation. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, it is important for companies to embrace sustainable practices and contribute to a more sustainable future. Tech companies have an opportunity to lead the way in implementing renewable energy sources and fostering innovation that benefits both the environment and the bottom line.