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Can Open Source Technology Help Meet Decarbonization Goals?

As the concern over battling climate change surges, we discuss LF Energy’s (Linux Foundation’s Initiative) aim to accelerate electricity, energy, and mobility to meet decarbonization goals.

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In an exclusive interview with Shuli Goodman, Executive Director at LF Energy, an initiative hosted by Linux Foundation. 

January 2020 has been the hottest January recorded on Earth in 141 years, as pointed out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The reality of climate change becomes more profound as temperatures rise aggressively across the globe. Some authority figures and influential people are using their resources to fight this change. 

A lot of businesses are also pushing towards contributing in some way to this cause. Microsoft announced a while back that it plans to go ‘carbon negative’ by 2030. The company plans to erase all of its carbon emissions since 1975 by 2050. This brings into focus the role of the private sector in fighting climate change and if there is still a possibility of hope? 

Express Computer interacts with an organization that works on powering energy through open-source technology with the aim of decarbonization. Executive Director of LF Energy (an initiative by Linux Foundation)- Shuli Goodman speaks about LF Energy and the way forward for the private sector in reducing carbon emissions. Shuli Goodman

1. Please elaborate on LF energy and what solution does it provide to the existing problem of climate change?

LF Energy is a nonprofit, vendor-neutral initiative hosted by The Linux Foundation. LF Energy’s mission is to accelerate the energy, electricity and electric mobility sectors’ worldwide decarbonization goals through open-source technology.

A first-of-its-kind initiative, LF Energy provides a 21st-century plan of action for grid modernization to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis through decarbonization of the energy and transportation sectors with open source software open frameworks, reference architectures and a support ecosystem of complementary projects. In addition to RTE, members include Energinet, TenneT, Alliander, Elering, IBM, Recurve, Stanford University, NREL, OSISoft, Unicorn, CloudBees and more.

2. How does LF Energy’s open-source technology help in decarbonization? 

Renewable energy is variable, meaning a cloud can pass and shade a PV panel, or the wind may not blow, and you won’t be able to create energy. This is different from a coal fire plant, which is constantly generating as long as you feed the plant. So for companies to feel comfortable to switch to renewable energy, energy providers are going to require the ability to move electrons from places that have the energy to places that don’t and enable network operators to “orchestrate” or “shape energy.”

 The only way to do this is by enabling a digital supply-chain – through a communication infrastructure that networks electrons through meta-data – and by creating the market mechanisms that shift supply and demand to meet the new characteristics of a decarbonized grid.

Open source creates a community where companies collaborate and share resources to develop the foundations of these complex processes. This ensures they don’t waste time attempting to recreate and support redundant technology and processes that could ultimately benefit the entire industry if they were harmonized into a shared, de facto code implementation. If we join forces and minimize fragmentation, the industry can better achieve innovation — in this case, the technology needed to better integrate and utilize renewable energy — much more quickly than trying to work out the problems by themselves.

3. How important is it for the private sector to come up with solutions for decarbonization? 

It is extremely important for the private sector to come up with solutions for decarbonization. We’ve reached the limits of being able to ignore the threats to our society.

The private sector’s job, especially in the next 20-50 years, is to design systems that are aligned with the natural laws of the universe rather than in contradiction to them. The externalities of fossil fuels have shown us what happens when we don’t pay heed to consequences. We are entering a cycle of profound innovation in the effort to reduce the global population’s resources and carbon footprint. If we fail to come up with solutions for decarbonization, we are going to see mass-migrations, mass die-offs, and major catastrophic events all over the world. Our existence as we know it is in critical danger.

4. How can the private and public sectors come together to fight climate change? Is LF Energy already doing something in this regard? 

To reach climate goals, we need governments to set clear policies that drive market transformation so that citizens and companies respond. Ideally, there would be a financial mechanism like carbon accounting to facilitate new markets that drive us towards cleaner forms of energy. This is the best way for us to have transparent production and consumption to lead us towards the necessary changes to reduce impact.

5. Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas that stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and companies like Microsoft have announced its plans to go carbon negative by 2030. How do you think they can achieve this? 

Modernizing today’s infrastructure, while also building new sustainable infrastructure, is going to profoundly transform society. With this in mind, Microsoft’s goal to go carbon negative by 2030 is fantastic and will undoubtedly unleash innovation throughout its supply-chain. By demonstrating leadership, Microsoft is putting itself in a “pole position” in terms of driving the change. The rewards and financial benefits will accrue to the early movers in this space. It’s a brilliant move. Becoming carbon-negative will be another big challenge in itself. But that should not deter them.

6. Do you believe technology could help fight climate change? How?

While every industry can and should be working to fight climate change, the only way the energy and power industries can successfully do their part is to work together. The alternative power options are there — they just need to develop the technology to effectively manage and distribute it. Working toward these solutions separately will only slow down decarbonization goals industry-wide. Open-source tech allows energy, power and utility companies to jointly invest and work together to build the processes necessary for them to fight climate change.

7. Global temperature is expected to increase at an average of 6-degree celsius demanding an aggressive action to be taken against emissions. Do you believe it is too late for companies to act against climate change? 

While it may be too late to reverse climate change, it is not too late for companies to act against climate change in order to reduce its impact. We can never think that it is too late to take action, otherwise, we will most certainly give up prematurely. The human ability to innovate is tremendous. Once we collectively train our sites on creating a sustainable future, I believe we will find that radical energy efficiency is not only good for the planet, but it will be phenomenal in terms of the economic prosperity it offers across the globe.

8. Apart from developing solutions, what other efforts can private companies take?

The transition that is before us requires that we change our minds about how we conceive of and think about our place on the planet. From adopting green energy to setting up composts, private companies can do a lot to reduce their footprint and shift mindsets. As a company begins to build capacity, it will be able to focus on more complex things. That is the foundation of innovation. Scaling will require higher and higher degrees of efficiency in terms of how we use materials and energy. That, in turn, will drive the economics. Ultimately, the climate crisis will be fought on economic grounds.

But when it comes to combating climate change, the most powerful leverage points we have is what we do with our money. If we want to make change possible, private companies need to drive waste – at all levels – out of the supply chain to make it easier and cheaper for their customers to choose green.

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