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Can algorithms save the climate?

Electric vehicles, solar panels, smart thermostats – these might be things you think of when you hear the term ‘green tech trends’. But what about the tech behind the tech? Here are three green tech trends you might not have heard of.

Data is the new oil when it comes to carbon emissions

Data decarbonisation

Everything runs on data. But its storage, analysis and processing use vast amounts of energy; so much energy that the Yale School of the Environment reports that data emits the same amount of CO2 as the entire airline industry.  Some refer to data as ‘the new oil’, which isn’t too far off the mark: global carbon emissions for the chemical and petrochemical industry are 3.6 per cent, while that of data is following close behind at 2 per cent, according to a NowVertical report. And because data isn’t physical, people are often unaware of its stark environmental impact.

Now, however, many companies and data providers are planning a move to renewable or low-carbon energy sources – a process known as decarbonization. Deutsche Bank is one of the companies doing its part to reduce the CO2 footprint of its data by shifting to cloud-based financial services. A move to cloud infrastructures is expected to bring an 80 per cent reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions, according to Amazon Web Services.

Green coding

Green coding

Apps and programs run on code created by developers. Each line of code tells the app or program what to do and how to do it – but as each of these lines are processed, they produce carbon emissions. The more code to be processed, the more emissions produced. Green Coding is writing, developing and running code in such a way that the software using it reduces its energy consumption. By using AI (machine learning) that learns the most efficient way of operating, this also improves user satisfaction.

In green coding, Software Developers look at the structural behaviour of the software itself: how can they design software to use less energy while it runs; as well as user behaviour: how much energy does it take a user to check their Instagram feed, for example. This helps businesses not only reduce energy but increase business sustainability as user satisfaction increases. Deutsche Bank is exploring green coding around its financial software applications, with a green coding project slated to start in 2023.

Green mortgages

Green mortgages

This may not seem like technology at first glance, but let’s take a closer look. Green mortgages are preferential lending rates given to home buyers who can prove their property meets – or will be renovated to meet - specific environmental specifications. More energy efficient buildings are crucial, especially in Europe, to achieving the Paris Agreement climate change targets.

But current mortgage calculations don’t take energy performance into account, and lenders don’t yet have sufficient data to prove that energy efficient buildings equal lower risk.

That’s where the tech comes in. Deutsche Bank, for example, is developing a machine-learning algorithm that will assess the energy efficiency of buildings based on geo location and building year; predict future primary energy consumption; and develop customized loans for sustainable home buyers or building developers. The first models for the algorithm have been developed and phase two of the project should begin in February 2023.

Tonisha Robinson

Tonisha Robinson

… works in Internal Communications, writing Human Interest stories that help shape the bank’s culture. She is amazed at the speed with which technology advances and is eager to see how innovation can help save our planet.

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