AI can be used to automate, monitor and thus predict the energy needs of factories, which can greatly improve the consumption of energy-intensive processes. (Photo: 123RF)
GUEST BLOG. According to the Royal Bank of Canada, Canada will have to spend almost 2 trillion (2,000 billion) dollars by 2050 to reach its goal of carbon neutrality. This exorbitant sum, at a cost of $60 billion a year, will be divided among all the economic players in the country in order to actively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is mostly businesses and consumers who will bear the brunt of this environmental debt and who will pay the bill.
There is now no debate about the seriousness of the current climate emergency which is intimately linked to GHG emissions. In recent years, the discourse surrounding the environment and global warming has greatly influenced our decisions, but that has certainly not always been the case!
Remember that not so long ago, the idea of a green and sustainable economy was far from being a governmental or even societal priority. For most companies, an energy transition represented a costly and complex change, and only the most “green” of this world adopted concrete measures to protect the environment.
Today, however, the reality is quite different. Not only is GHG reduction the topic of the hour, but it is also on the way to becoming an obligation for a good number of companies.
Already, more drastic measures have been imposed to deal with the crisis and set fire to the powder. Quebec, like many other places in the world, has also adopted a “carbon tax”, or an invoice sent to the main polluters based on their CO2 emissions.
And that’s just the beginning. Soon, companies and organizations that wish to maintain their activities and ensure their success will no longer have the choice of completely rethinking their business model to make it less polluting in the long term, failing which they will have to pay a very high bill or just close up shop.
This is where new technologies come into play. Among these, artificial intelligence represents one of the most promising solutions for ensuring the future of many Quebec and Canadian industries, especially when it comes time to reduce their ecological footprint.
Its ability to provide in-depth information on multiple operational facets of a business makes it the perfect tool to predict, control and manage polluting or energy-intensive processes. Moreover, a study conducted by Microsoft and PwC has shown that on an international scale, artificial intelligence could help reduce GHG emissions by 1.5% to 4% by 2030! Moreover, the advances that have been made in this field over the past few years have made AI much more accessible and affordable for all businesses.
The cases of application are so numerous that in general, we lack hindsight in relation to all the positive impact that these projects can have on the environment. For example, it is easy to automate, monitor and thus predict the energy needs of factories, which can greatly improve the consumption of energy-intensive processes. Supply chain optimization is another big driver of change. It is thus possible to reduce factory inventories, offer products that are better suited to customer needs and optimize supply and transport routes.
In the agri-food sector, algorithms for predicting harvests, sales and logistics systems make it possible to produce the right product at the right time, avoiding food waste. Remember that in Canada, we waste no less than 58% of all the food produced, which represents approximately 35 tons annually!
Of course, the monetary benefits of an energy transition are also a major motivator in the equation. Optimized and less polluting processes are very often less expensive, in addition to considerably minimizing the energy consumption of industrial processes. Even the big names in the world, like the multinational eBay, have opted for zero-carbon processes and are now reaping the benefits.
With new technologies, the business world is changing at a bewildering speed. Increasingly, consumers are looking for eco-responsible and sustainable products and services that reflect their values and beliefs. Whether we like it or not, we will no longer have the choice to transform our industries and our factories if we want to achieve the government’s carbon neutrality objectives. To remain competitive, Quebec businesses will have to be innovative, show openness to new technologies and get rid of their reluctance to change.
We’re at a crossroads, so now is the perfect time to invest in technology to avoid getting stuck in a corner. Beyond the desire to become ever more efficient and profitable, we can also see AI as one of the keys that will ensure a sustainable future for us and our children.