24 September 2019
How clean is the electricity I’m using right now? Am I giving my business to a green company? These questions are becoming easier and easier to answer – and it’s all thanks to technology. We can now analyse and measure the emissions of the biggest facilities around the world and consult all of this information in real time.
The secret is to look down from on high – through the eyes of the satellites that orbit our planet – while also making use of an advanced system built around data and algorithms, allowing us to stay up to date with the situation anywhere on the Earth at any moment.
The first to come up with such a strategy was Wattime, an experienced start-up in the field of artificial intelligence that is working on a programme that will be constantly updated and open to all, so that we can all find out the pollution rate of every electricity plant in the world, wherever we are. It’s essentially a database of CO2 emissions by plant – and it’s already been backed by Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, who have set aside over $1.5 million to support the initiative.
The heart of the project
The basis of the programme is the huge quantities of data gathered by the satellites constantly travelling around our planet. For example, information from infrared cameras can show heat variations on the surface of the Earth, one of the main indicators of pollution. However, on a simpler level, simply looking at smoke clouds or the state of wastewater can tell us a huge amount about how a cooling system is being run.
Indisputable information could be provided by the European Union’s Copernicus programme, NASA’s Landsat probes and a host of public and private organisations involved in gathering, managing and exchanging data.
The process will then be taken up by specially developed algorithms that can not only read and process large quantities of data, but also interpret them to provide a precise, real-time measurement for each individual plant.
Words to actions
But how can an awareness of the environmental impact of individual electricity plants help us to protect the planet? Wattime is clear that its mission is to push the main culprits of pollution on the planet to make their activities public, thus encouraging them to choose alternative, cleaner paths. It’s about highlighting the problem, in order to increase the pressure and boost awareness – and bring about tangible change.
In truth, this information has been in the public domain for a while, but has so far failed to make any difference. The latest State of Global Air Report paints a disastrous image of the situation at hand and shows that a huge number of people are paying the consequences of pollution in the atmosphere: five million people lose their lives due to illnesses linked to this phenomenon every year. And many companies around the world are succeeding, despite everything, in hiding their true impact, according to those in charge at Wattime. Therefore, simply being able to access information, gathered through direct, unbiased observance, and making this available to regulatory bodies, politicians and regular citizens, could be the decisive step this time around. The public vote, to coin a phrase, could make all the difference.