3 Disruptive Technologies To Combat Global Warming

Anton Kroger

Climate change is arguably the biggest challenge facing the planet today. In my opinion, politicians, scientists, and energy consumers need to embrace 3 distinct disruptive technologies in order to drive change quickly enough to avert this impending global disaster.

EIA (Energy Information Agency) data tells us that the total CO2 emissions from carbon-based fuels has increased from about 21.45 billion metric tons in 1990 to 33.96 billion metric tons today. The EIA forecasts that emissions will reach 43.22 billion metric tons by 2040 if we continue what we are doing today.

Figure 1. Historical and forecasted CO2 emissions

CO2 emissions alone don’t actually tell us that much about pollution. To learn more, we need to convert the EIA figures to parts per million (PPM) .

We are at the 400 ppm mark today, and if we continue as usual we should hit 460 ppm by 2040. 400 ppm is considered by many scientists to be the maximum level that the ppm count can get to and maintain global warming averages below a 2 degC rise. Above this, the chances of capping global warming to 2 degC diminishes, as is shown in the next figure.

Figure 2. Calculated PPM curve – calibrated to the Keeling curve

So the question now is: How quickly do we need to reduce carbon emissions in order to reduce the likelihood of increased global warming?

Based on my own model and calculation, there are 3 possible scenarios, shown in Figure 3:

  1. We continue as we are today, with little change and an increasing demand for energy supplied by fossil fuels
  2. We reduce our carbon-producing footprint at a rate similar to what was created
  3. We drive a completely disruptive approach to reduce our carbon emissions

In order to reach zero emissions by 2050, we would need to reduce our carbon emissions by at least 10% year on year, which is a huge reduction.

Figure 3. Three possible outcomes for CO2 emissions

We again convert this to PPM, and Figure 4 shows that the only way is rapid disruption. Outcomes of global discussions for the most part only seem to have targets returning to the 1990 averages by mid-century, which is simply too slow. Some countries have adopted a more aggressive approach, which is good, but probably not enough to get us across the line.

Figure 4 – Three possible outcomes for CO2 emissions (PPM)

So the results are  clear: We must act very quickly. The question is what technology or combination of technologies can get us there in short timeframe. There is long-term stable nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, or of course a combination of all these, and storage is a also major part of the equation.

The challenge for governments is where to focus and what legislation or projects to back to ensure that change happens quickly enough. The problem today is that change is happening at a sustaining rate rather than a disruptive rate (Scenario 2). This means change is simply happening too slowly. We therefore need to shift our attention away from sustaining technology enhancements and look for disruptive ones.

The difference between disruptive technologies and sustaining technologies is probably best described by Clayton Christensen in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma:

Sustaining technologies improve the performance of established products, along the dimensions of performance that mainstream customers in major markets have historically valued. Disruptive technologies bring to market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.”

When we apply this thinking to renewable energies, there are two vital requirements that need to come together to drive a truly disruptive change:

  1. The technology needs to have new features that appeal to customers in a different way
  2. The technology needs to have a completely different revenue model or value proposition.

In my opinion, there are 3 technologies that need to come together to deliver these two vital requirements.

The first is rooftop solar.

While rooftop panels might seem like an expensive investment initially, there are some clear long-term financial benefits. Displaying them on your roof also says something valuable about you and your contribution to sustainable living.

Rooftop solar is also taking action at a macro level. It is driving us toward a distributed power model, which is completely different to the model we have today. For the first time in history, individuals have the power to decide where they get their power. This consumer-driven trend has sparked a movement not unlike the rise of the smartphone.

Consider, for example, the plot in Figure 5, which shows the drop in the price of solar PVs against the combined power being generated by solar from 2010 to 2014. The trend added 4.5 GW of power to the grid, while the price of that energy dropped by almost 500% over the 4 years. That’s the equivalent of adding about 8 large-scale power plants to the grid, the bulk of which would have been completed in 3 years or less.

Figure 5 – Cumulative global solar photovoltaic deployment and solar photovoltaic module prices 2000 to 2014

It’s probably no surprise that batteries, or power storage, is the second disrupter. Storage allows us to take advantage of the sun during the day, storing excess power for when there is less sun.

Batteries like solar PV’s are also on a disruptive price curve, meaning that the year on year price decline is making them noticably cheaper every day.

So that is great for consumers living in suburbia with plenty roof space and sunlight, but how does it help apartment-dwellers whose only option is to buy power from the grid?

Peer-to-peer trading is the third important disrupter. This essentially cuts out the retailer and allows individuals to trade directly with each other. To make peer-to-peer trading a reality we need to bring together smart grids and network-based trading. The smart grid conversation is well underway, and some companies are starting to look at leveraging blockchain technology to allow peer-to-peer trading.

Peer-to-peer trading would allow city dwellers to partake in the digital energy revolution by buying excess power from the cheapest provider on the grid. What is interesting here is that the longer peer-to-peer trading takes to implement, the more pressure there will be on large power facilities when it does happen. As more users make the jump to rooftop solar (potentially going off the grid), fewer people remain on the grid to pay for the infrastructure. With demand dropping, costs are likely to go up, further fuelling the move to rooftop solar.

This ultimately means more and more solar PVs, which will likely lead to a huge energy glut in the market. When peer-to-peer trading eventually does kick in, large power facilities will need to compete with plenty cheap home- grown solar. (We see a similar phenomenon with AirBnB, where hotels are now competing with individuals who have a much lower cost base).

Electricity generation contributes only about 70% of CO2 emissions, so it’s not the only major contributor to the carbon footprint. The second-largest contributor to CO2 emissions is the transportation sector. With a potential electricity glut driven by the abundance of solar power, storage, and peer-to-peer trading, it follows naturally that electric cars will soon become much cheaper to run than their carbon-consuming alternatives.

This will likely happen more quickly in urban environments, with long-range travel taking a little longer. In fact, we are already seeing similar rapid price declines in the transportation sector, where the cost of electric cars is dropping and the variety of options is increasing dramatically. Electric cars also don’t face the challenge of a network to supply “electric fuel,” unlike competitors such as hydrogen-powered cars.

The final dimension to consider is how all this plays out in third-world countries. Today non-OECD countries, which predominantly represent the poorer countries, account for about 60% of global emissions.

At the rate at which solar and battery prices are dropping, it won’t be long before we see a massive jump in the uptake of individualised power generation in emerging countries. A decentralised power model will leapfrog the traditional grid model, reducing not only the cost of power but also the time required to provide power in remote places from years to literally days. We saw a similar trend when cellular phones emerged, with networks and adoption proliferating even in high-poverty areas.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that unless governments and lawmakers support rapid reduction of CO2 emissions by getting behind energy disruption, supporting a decentralised solar model, and adopting new laws that facilitate peer-to-peer trading and accelerate smart grid technology, we will fail as a society to stop global warming. Unfortunately, I don’t see sustaining technologies like nuclear, wind, and large-scale solar as sufficient, because they don’t make the leap from sustaining incremental improvement to disruptive change.

A decentralised power model supported by power storage and peer-to-peer trading, all linked via a smart grid, will enable the economic drivers necessary to change how we generate and buy power. There is nothing like a financial incentive to ultimately unite consumers toward the common cause of reducing the threat of climate change.

Companies like SAP are helping their customers not only transform their business models to adapt to this massive energy change but also to optimise and save energy at the same time. For more information, click here. To learn more about what SAP is doing with blockchain technologies, click here.

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Anton Kroger

About Anton Kroger

Anton Kroger is an Energy and Natural Resources industry solution specialist for SAP based in Australia.
Anton has worked in the resources sector for 16 years and has field operations and management experience, both locally in Australia and internationally.
He now works with Energy and Natural resources companies across Australia and New Zealand to help them run better, more innovatively and imagine new ways of doing business.
He is an advocate for clean energy and resources and believes that innovation is critical to the future of this industry. Anton believes that despite the disruption taking place in the industry today there is still a lot of opportunity for existing companies in the future.

Digitalist Flash Briefing: Dulux Moves Beyond EDI

Bonnie D. Graham

Today’s briefing looks at how a business that decided to go paperless reaped an even greater benefit when it went to the cloud to digitally transform its supplier ecosystem. Bye bye, EDI!

  • Amazon Echo or Dot: Enable the “Digitalist” flash briefing skill, and ask Alexa to “play my flash briefings” on every business day.
  • Alexa on a mobile device:
    • Download the Amazon Alexa app: Select Skills, and search “Digitalist”. Then, select Digitalist, and click on the Enable button.
    • Download the Amazon app: Click on the microphone icon and say “Play my flash briefing.”

Find and listen to previous Flash Briefings on Digitalistmag.com.

Read more on today’s topic

 

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Bonnie D. Graham

About Bonnie D. Graham

Bonnie D. Graham is the creator, producer and host/moderator of 29 Game-Changers Radio series presented by SAP, bringing technology and business strategy thought leadership panel discussions to a global audience via the Business Channel on World Talk Radio. A broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years in media production and hosting, Bonnie has held marketing communications management roles in the business software, financial services, and real estate industries. She calls SAP Radio her “dream job”. Listen to Coffee Break with Game-Changers.

Blockchain To The Rescue: We Can Be Much Better At Weathering Natural Disasters

Susan Galer

As a massive hurricane devastates a city, first responders immediately bring life-saving medical attention, food, water, fuel, and other resources to victims in real-time, hiring suppliers with the best prices to deliver items to the exact locations where people need it most.

Contrary to real-life events in the news lately, this is not wishful thinking. It’s a humanitarian relief scenario made entirely possible by a blockchain technology demo I saw at the recent SAP TechEd event in this video interview with Torsten Zube, blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network.

Bringing help where it’s needed most

Called the “pooling and sharing” scenario, this blockchain example offers a fundamentally disruptive approach to quickly mobilize public and private organizations when disaster strikes. Often the problem lies not so much in the lack of resources available to help, but in the logistics to efficiently direct and deliver that support to the right places.

“Blockchain’s trusted, decentralized transparency across numerous parties – government officials, community organizers, vendors, utilities, healthcare providers ­– makes it perfectly suited to help align citizen demands for relief with the most readily available supplies,” said Zube. “It’s a very simple way to bring help to where it’s needed most. Giving everyone involved the ability to write and read data on an open source platform speeds up disaster relief to a whole new level.”

“During natural disasters, blockchain can bring life-saving transparency to humanitarian relief missions”

Essentially operating as an ad hoc supply chain network on a mobile app, this blockchain example connected suppliers of clean drinking water with helicopter pilots to schedule deliveries at specific locations within certain time frames. Smart contract technology determined which offer was the best one based on community needs, triggering acceptance of the offer, and setting in motion the delivery through confirmation.

“We end up with a system of record, built from scratch and outside of any existing application, that everyone can use right away to help alleviate problems faster,” said Zube.

Blockchain can’t prevent natural disasters, but it’s top of mind as a solution right now when millions of people are struggling with this season’s record breaking natural disasters.

Distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and other blockchain technologies embed integrity and provenance in every digital asset and transaction. Learn more about the benefits of Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Follow me: @smgaler

This article originally appeared on SAP News Center.

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Human Skills for the Digital Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

Technology Evolves.
So Must We.


Technology replacing human effort is as old as the first stone axe, and so is the disruption it creates.
Thanks to deep learning and other advances in AI, machine learning is catching up to the human mind faster than expected.
How do we maintain our value in a world in which AI can perform many high-value tasks?


Uniquely Human Abilities

AI is excellent at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data — but humans know what they don’t know.

We’re driven to explore, try new and risky things, and make a difference.
 
 
 
We deduce the existence of information we don’t yet know about.
 
 
 
We imagine radical new business models, products, and opportunities.
 
 
 
We have creativity, imagination, humor, ethics, persistence, and critical thinking.


There’s Nothing Soft About “Soft Skills”

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level. There’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

We must revamp how and what we teach to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, creativity, critical thinking, and persistence. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, and most people will need help acquiring and improving them.

Anything artificial intelligence does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique abilities into account. While we help AI get more powerful, we need to get better at being human.


Download the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.


Read the full article The Human Factor in an AI Future.


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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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The Human Factor In An AI Future

Dan Wellers and Kai Goerlich

As artificial intelligence becomes more sophisticated and its ability to perform human tasks accelerates exponentially, we’re finally seeing some attempts to wrestle with what that means, not just for business, but for humanity as a whole.

From the first stone ax to the printing press to the latest ERP solution, technology that reduces or even eliminates physical and mental effort is as old as the human race itself. However, that doesn’t make each step forward any less uncomfortable for the people whose work is directly affected – and the rise of AI is qualitatively different from past developments.

Until now, we developed technology to handle specific routine tasks. A human needed to break down complex processes into their component tasks, determine how to automate each of those tasks, and finally create and refine the automation process. AI is different. Because AI can evaluate, select, act, and learn from its actions, it can be independent and self-sustaining.

Some people, like investor/inventor Elon Musk and Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma, are focusing intently on how AI will impact the labor market. It’s going to do far more than eliminate repetitive manual jobs like warehouse picking. Any job that involves routine problem-solving within existing structures, processes, and knowledge is ripe for handing over to a machine. Indeed, jobs like customer service, travel planning, medical diagnostics, stock trading, real estate, and even clothing design are already increasingly automated.

As for more complex problem-solving, we used to think it would take computers decades or even centuries to catch up to the nimble human mind, but we underestimated the exponential explosion of deep learning. IBM’s Watson trounced past Jeopardy champions in 2011 – and just last year, Google’s DeepMind AI beat the reigning European champion at Go, a game once thought too complex for even the most sophisticated computer.

Where does AI leave human?

This raises an urgent question for the future: How do human beings maintain our economic value in a world in which AI will keep getting better than us at more and more things?

The concept of the technological singularity – the point at which machines attain superhuman intelligence and permanently outpace the human mind – is based on the idea that human thinking can’t evolve fast enough to keep up with technology. However, the limits of human performance have yet to be found. It’s possible that people are only at risk of lagging behind machines because nothing has forced us to test ourselves at scale.

Other than a handful of notable individual thinkers, scientists, and artists, most of humanity has met survival-level needs through mostly repetitive tasks. Most people don’t have the time or energy for higher-level activities. But as the human race faces the unique challenge of imminent obsolescence, we need to think of those activities not as luxuries, but as necessities. As technology replaces our traditional economic value, the economic system may stop attaching value to us entirely unless we determine the unique value humanity offers – and what we can and must do to cultivate the uniquely human skills that deliver that value.

Honing the human advantage

As a species, humans are driven to push past boundaries, to try new things, to build something worthwhile, and to make a difference. We have strong instincts to explore and enjoy novelty and risk – but according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, these instincts crumble if we don’t cultivate them.

AI is brilliant at automating routine knowledge work and generating new insights from existing data. What it can’t do is deduce the existence, or even the possibility, of information it isn’t already aware of. It can’t imagine radical new products and business models. Or ask previously unconceptualized questions. Or envision unimagined opportunities and achievements. AI doesn’t even have common sense! As theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says, a robot doesn’t know that water is wet or that strings can pull but not push. Nor can robots engage in what Kaku calls “intellectual capitalism” – activities that involve creativity, imagination, leadership, analysis, humor, and original thought.

At the moment, though, we don’t generally value these so-called “soft skills” enough to prioritize them. We expect people to develop their competency in emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, curiosity, critical thinking, and persistence organically, as if these skills simply emerge on their own given enough time. But there’s nothing soft about these skills, and we can’t afford to leave them to chance.

Lessons in being human

To stay ahead of AI in an increasingly automated world, we need to start cultivating our most human abilities on a societal level – and to do so not just as soon as possible, but as early as possible.

Singularity University chairman Peter Diamandis, for example, advocates revamping the elementary school curriculum to nurture the critical skills of passion, curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and persistence. He envisions a curriculum that, among other things, teaches kids to communicate, ask questions, solve problems with creativity, empathy, and ethics, and accept failure as an opportunity to try again. These concepts aren’t necessarily new – Waldorf and Montessori schools have been encouraging similar approaches for decades – but increasing automation and digitization make them newly relevant and urgent.

The Mastery Transcript Consortium is approaching the same problem from the opposite side, by starting with outcomes. This organization is pushing to redesign the secondary school transcript to better reflect whether and how high school students are acquiring the necessary combination of creative, critical, and analytical abilities. By measuring student achievement in a more nuanced way than through letter grades and test scores, the consortium’s approach would inherently require schools to reverse-engineer their curricula to emphasize those abilities.

Most critically, this isn’t simply a concern of high-tuition private schools and “good school districts” intended to create tomorrow’s executives and high-level knowledge workers. One critical aspect of the challenge we face is the assumption that the vast majority of people are inevitably destined for lives that don’t require creativity or critical thinking – that either they will somehow be able to thrive anyway or their inability to thrive isn’t a cause for concern. In the era of AI, no one will be able to thrive without these abilities, which means that everyone will need help acquiring them. For humanitarian, political, and economic reasons, we cannot just write off a large percentage of the population as disposable.

In the end, anything an AI does has to fit into a human-centered value system that takes our unique human abilities into account. Why would we want to give up our humanity in favor of letting machines determine whether or not an action or idea is valuable? Instead, while we let artificial intelligence get better at being what it is, we need to get better at being human. That’s how we’ll keep coming up with groundbreaking new ideas like jazz music, graphic novels, self-driving cars, blockchain, machine learning – and AI itself.

Read the executive brief Human Skills for the Digital Future.

Build an intelligent enterprise with AI and machine learning to unite human expertise and computer insights. Run live with SAP Leonardo.


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Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu