February 26, 2020

Report Explores the Impact of Mobile Communications Technologies on Carbon Emission Reductions

According to a report jointly produced by the GSMA, a trade association, and the Carbon Trust, a London-based climate advocacy organization, "Mobile communications technology has revolutionized how we live, with its influence rapidly extending to new markets and sectors at an ever-increasing rate."

The report, The Enablement Effect: The impact of mobile communications technologies on carbon emission reductions, further asserts: "With the high levels of connectivity and data sharing, mobile is having extensive spill over benefits, opening up possibilities for innovative forms of emissions reductions."

The Executive Summary notes that "[t]he report offers context and provides a high-level analysis of six categories of enabling mechanisms, along with case studies.

"The six different categories are:
  • Smart Buildings
  • Smart Energy
  • Smart Living, Working, and Health
  • Smart Transport and Cities
  • Smart Agriculture
  • Smart Manufacturing

What is more, "This is the first time a report has attempted to assess the enablement impact of mobile communications technology at a global scale. To quantify the total global avoided emissions, 14 countries (in six regions) were identified as a representative global sample from which to extrapolate. This sample consists of France, UK, Spain, Germany, Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, South Korea, China, India, Brazil, Mexico, US, and Australia."

In explaining its main findings, the report says "Two forms of enablement were assessed; smart technologies connecting one machine to another (M2M technologies), also known as the internet of things (IoT), and behavior changes from the personal use of smartphones.

"The majority of avoided emissions from M2M technologies are primarily in buildings, transport, manufacturing, and the energy sector:
  • Savings in buildings are a result of technologies that improve energy efficiency and encourage behavior change, reducing gas and electricity consumption. Among these technologies are building management systems and smart meters.
  • Mobile communication technology enables the reduction of transport emissions in various ways. It acts as a catalyst for the increase in electric vehicles by facilitating the use of charging points, and, through telematics, creates an improvement in route optimization and vehicle fuel efficiency.
  • Within manufacturing, the use of mobile technology for storage and inventory management greatly reduces the overall level of inventory and area needed, increasing efficiency and decreasing energy use for lighting and cooling.
  • Smart grids within the energy sector utilize mobile communications technology to help monitor and regulate electricity demand and transmission, to improve coordination and distribution efficiency. Additionally, small-scale renewable electricity generators are able to participate in the wider market by using M2M connections, increasing the amount of green and local energy in the national grid."

Moreover, "To analyse the use of smartphones to facilitate behavior change, the Carbon Trust commissioned a global survey study of more than 6,000 smartphone users in the UK, China, India, USA, Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa. From this research, significant avoided emissions were seen in the areas of:
  • Reduced travel for commuting and for leisure
  • Increased use of public transport by using apps providing real-time updates
  • Accommodation sharing for short stays and holidays
  • Reducing travel by use of mobile shopping and mobile banking apps"

The report adds that "[c]ategories of enablement such as agriculture and health are not currently showing a significant impact on avoided emissions. However, both are important as they hold significant future opportunities of enablement by mobile communications technology."

I found this report valuable in obtaining a better understanding on how the use of mobile communications technologies can lead to a reduction of carbon emissions.

Are there aspects of the report that you find valuable or informative?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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