Photo courtesy of AVEVA.

The Tools to Accelerate the Net Zero Transition Are At Hand; It’s Time to Use Them

“From modeling carbon emissions to improving value chain efficiencies, digital solutions enable industrial organizations to monitor and drive decarbonization across their ecosystems,” says Lisa Johnston, Chief Sustainability & Marketing Officer, AVEVA.

Achieving global net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is an ambitious and critical target that will require nothing short of an extensive transformation of our economy – and the energy sector in particular. Data-led digital technologies are already helping support the energy transition while delivering measurable gains for the operations of early adopters across the industrial spectrum.

Power generation and transport sectors – both integral components of the energy industry – account for more than two-thirds of total emissions, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The challenge ahead for both is to build an alternative, sustainable and less carbon intensive energy landscape while ensuring operations continuity.

In line with our common net zero targets, a number of urgent business imperatives are demanding quick action. Energy players around the world are being tasked with addressing stricter environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations, in order to maintain their license to operate. At the same time, volatile prices, frequent supply chain disruption and alternative, hybrid work structures are increasing operational stress.

Digital technologies will be integral to addressing those imperatives and supporting our net zero goals. The tools to accelerate the transition are available to us today.

New analysis1 from Accenture, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, indicates that current digital technologies could affect up to 20 percent of the 2050 reduction needed to hit the IEA’s net zero trajectories in the energy, materials and mobility industries. Quick onboarding of advanced technologies can trim carbon emissions four to 10 percent, the analysis shows.

Early adopters have already witnessed how digital transformation produces cost reductions of 10 to 30 percent, while driving production and yield improvements at rates of up to10 percent, according to McKinsey2, although those benefits vary by scenario and digital approach.

AVEVA and its strategic partner, Microsoft, have been at the vanguard of this transformation and are enabling leading energy companies globally to accelerate the transition, and support long-term decarbonization. The two partners’ combined software solutions overlay the power of artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins, big data, sector-specific analytics and human insight with the scale, breadth and latency of cloud, empowering energy leaders to unlock data-driven sustainability gains at every step of the value chain.

AVEVA’s industrial software supports long-term, sustainable value creation that can mutually benefit people and the planet. Our solutions help diverse industries save energy, reduce emissions and waste, boost circularity throughout engineering and operations, to maximize sustainable performance.

We believe that technology helps companies to accelerate along their chosen “pathway to Paris” by enabling them to conserve energy across their operations and operate more efficiently. It also provides them with accurate baseline data and measurable evidence of progress.

Our experience shows there are several major ways in which energy companies can leverage digital transformation for business resiliency and operational efficiency in service of their net zero targets.

Improve Operational Efficiencies

Efficiency remains the biggest sustainability play, as AVEVA CEO Peter Herweck said at the recent AVEVA PI World Summit in Amsterdam. This is because equipment downtime has a negative effect on productivity, profitability and potentially safety, but it also causes resource wastage. Advance warnings of potential equipment failures mitigate the problem while improving environmental outcomes and driving long-term sustainability.

An example comes from biodiesel producer REG. The Iowa-based company uses an external vendor to detect performance anomalies in the centrifuge units that support its clean fuel production. The vendor suggests optimal maintenance remedies that have minimal downtime, cost and revenue impacts on production lines. However, until recently, this centrifuge data was tracked manually, meaning that the vendor’s analyses and suggestions were often outdated before they could be implemented.

Since REG implemented a scalable cloud data platform to integrate both its system and that of the vendor in a closed-loop, two-way flow of operations data, anomalies have been detected, and issues identified in near real time. Now, REG can quickly act on the vendor’s recommendations. Downtime and maintenance can be planned to avoid unscheduled production interruptions. Overall, the solution maintains data integrity without unwanted exposure, and all results are recorded for future analyses. The setup reduces reactivity and can minimize equipment downtime by up to 90 percent.

Introduce Carbon Emissions Modeling

As Microsoft’s chief environment officer, Lucas Joppa, said at an AVEVA conference last year, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Achieving net zero carbon emissions requires measuring how we use the essential building block of life, and how it affects every aspect of business.”

This is a question that bp seeks to answer as it transitions from an international oil company to an integrated energy company by 2030, and achieve net zero across its entire operations on an absolute basis by 2050. One aspect of its strategy is resilient hydrocarbons, from exploration and production to the transportation, refining and marketing of oil and gas.

bp drives value in its global business by identifying the optimal oil balance and operating plans for its refineries and downstream distribution networks. It does so by evaluating multiple scenarios in the cloud using a single integrated supply chain and calculation software suite, as opposed to a range of several different programs that were earlier used to optimize different aspects of the business. Consequently, its teams can make quick and informed decisions in response to real-time market and operating conditions, such as the crude spot prices, refinery operations data and the production and distribution status.

Now, its digital manufacturing team has added CO2 modeling capabilities into the existing solution. This additional modeling layer empowers bp engineers to understand and evaluate the impact of CO2 emissions for different scenarios, and to identify the most carbon-intensive aspects of any scenario. Energy can now be produced with minimal CO2 impact – an important step on the path to net zero. “Modernizing our digital capabilities is a fundamental enabler towards our sustainability goals,” says Rob Kelly, VP digital, production, manufacturing and projects at bp.

Deliver Energy Traceability for ESG Auditors

The right software program can help power companies manage their green energy mix while facilitating compliance with ESG regulations and supporting partners’ net zero commitments.

In the renewable energy sector, U.S. based Dominion Energy is sharing source data with its partners and customers to meet their ESG reporting requirements.

The company aggregates data from remote wind and other assets and shares it across its North American grid network using an integrated cloud-based data management solution powered by AVEVA and Microsoft. This information enables its customers to verify Dominion’s use of low-carbon energy sources, and provide tangible proof of their net zero actions to investors and ESG auditors. The information now serves as a new source of revenue for Dominion, while helping to hasten the low carbon energy transition in North America.

Dominion realized a 50 percent increase in speed to market for vital environmental data. The company can now easily scale the system to incorporate data from plants, driving comparative value and economies of scale across the business.

Leverage Digital Transformation to Unlock The Network Effect

The pandemic has sharpened the need for urgent climate action, something 90 percent of industrial enterprises recognize, according to a AVEVA-commissioned survey of over 850 C-suite and transformation experts in 2021. Almost nine in ten leaders (89 percent) are now committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions across their businesses and to tackling climate change within a five-year time horizon.

Digital transformation is a key building block to supporting a net zero pathway when considered as part of a multi-layered approach. But for too many organizations, digital transformation is equated with implementing energy-saving software. Its promise goes much further.

Delivering net zero will require energy sector organizations to adopt a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes decarbonized value chains without sacrificing agility and resilience. Unifying both priorities into a single-window interface can support decision-making at every level within the organization, as well as extending that support to business partners for a network approach to a problem affecting us all.

Integrating data with rigorous modeling and AI, and leveraging that over the cloud enables us to transform the way the energy industry operates, and empowers us to track, measure and drive decarbonization through complex value chains across the industrial ecosystem or what we at AVEVA call the connected industrial economy.

While there are no quick fixes to the issues ahead of us, we now have the tools to achieve carbon neutrality and create an inclusive and sustainable world for everyone.

1 World Economic Forum, Digital Tech Can Reduce Emissions by up to 20% in High-Emitting Industries, press release, 24 May 2021, retrieved 9 June 2022.

2 Enno de Boer, Søren Fritzen, Rehana Khanam, and Frédéric Lefort, “Preparing for the next normal via digital manufacturing’s scaling potential” in The recovery will be digital, industry forecast report, August 2020, retrieved 9 June 2022.

Headline photo courtesy of AVEVA.

Author Profile
Lisa Johnston
Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer - 

Lisa Johnston was appointed AVEVA’s chief marketing officer in November 2018. In her role, she has responsibility for driving growth through global customer and prospect engagement, go-to-market initiatives and brand development. As chief sustainability officer, Johnston is also responsible for AVEVA’s sustainability activities, both in respect to customers and operations, but also the company’s corporate and social responsibility initiatives.

Johnston has over 20 years of IT industry experience in software, systems and services. Prior to joining AVEVA, she was managing director, marketing, at Vista Consulting Group, where she led the Vista CMO community across more than 50 companies within the Vista Equity Partners’ portfolio. Previously, she was vice president of Power Systems Global Marketing at IBM, responsible for marketing and strategic business transformation.

Johnston has been a member of the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology, and has dedicated time to philanthropic causes as a member of the board of directors of the United Way. Johnston holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

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