How Greenbird Helps Utilities Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Blog posts, Horizon 2020

In 2012, global leaders were urged to focus on sustainability at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.

Three years later, this call to action was realized by the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a sustainability-focused blueprint that involved every single member of the UN.

At Greenbird, we have pledged ourselves to this agenda by focusing on sustainable development and innovation through our Utilihive platform. Read on to find out how we’re tackling crucial sustainability issues and how we empower utilities to do the same.

What Are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)?

Development in businesses and countries is happening at breakneck speed thanks to the evolution of technology. However, the trouble with rapid growth is that it causes an imbalance, which can negatively impact the environment and our society.

Some countries develop significantly faster than others. Communities are separated by drastic gaps in income levels. Essential utilities like water, electricity, and clean fuel become luxuries rather than being easily available for many. These problems highlight the downsides of rapid growth and they are the reasons why the SDGs are needed.

By achieving 17 specific sustainable development goals, organizations can contribute significantly to solving urgent environmental, political, and economic challenges threatening our world.

The 17 SDGs are interconnected in the sense that an action in one area will influence the others—both good and bad. Hence, ensuring business efforts are well-balanced across every social, economic, and environmental aspect is a must to avoid taking a toll on sustainability.

Another core principle of the SDG is to 'leave no one behind'. In essence, organizations in developed countries are encouraged to support and speed up the progress of fellow organizations in less-developed countries. This is achieved through solving critical national challenges such as poverty, hunger, deadly diseases and gender discrimination.

Organizations need to play their part in this movement by utilizing the resources they have at hand. Digital innovation, collaboration, and sustainable investments are particularly important assets that can help the UN meet its target of attaining all 17 SDGs by 2030.

The question is, how do utilities and energy companies (including Greenbird) play a role in maintaining sustainability?

Sustainable Development in Utilities and the Energy Industry

Sustainable energy is included in almost every SDG, which is unsurprising when we look at the numbers:

  • 13% of the world’s population has little to no access to modern electricity
  • More than 3 billion people still rely on rudimentary fuel sources for cooking and heating
  • The energy sector is responsible for close to 60% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally

These challenges are addressed in SDG 7. The core objective of SDG 7 is to provide cheap, reliable, clean, and sustainable energy to all parts of the world by 2030. This is where utilities are expected to contribute.

To realize SDG 7, utilities must focus on providing universal access to energy, while also improving energy efficiency and leveraging renewable energy to tackle climate change. Companies should look into ways to create new employment opportunities to achieve other vital sustainability goals, namely SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).

Efforts put in by utilities look promising so far. The global population with no access to electricity fell from 1.2 billion to 840 million between 2010 to 2017. There is also an encouraging spike in the share of renewables in final energy consumption, which increased to 17.5% in 2016—up 1.1 percent from 2010.

However, improving existing results will not be easy. To further reduce the energy gap to serve the remaining unserved communities, utilities need to: (a) continue their work with government and agencies to stimulate the regulatory framework (b) maintain strong organizational and financial commitments, and (c) plan for the long-term (say, 15 to 20 years ahead) to fully realize the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Over at Greenbird, we are aware of these challenges and have revamped our vision to overcome them. In other words, we are actively exploring how we can push ourselves, our stakeholders and utilities in the sector to meet the SDGs.

Greenbird’s Role in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

The most important obstacle to address is the data gap in technologies that utilities deploy today. Massive volumes of data are collected and processed daily, but they’re nowhere near utilized efficiently. For example:

  • Which data is accurate, complete and accessible?
  • How will data be collected, stored, processed, and integrated into utility processes?
  • Are utilities allocating the right resources to innovate?

These questions are often left unanswered by utilities, impacting the success of their digital transformation efforts, which in turn affects sustainability measures. The reality is that over 80% of IT budgets are still being spent maintaining existing IT solutions and a further 80% of time is still being spent on accessing data. This means that for most utilities limited time and resources remain to innovate and generate new business value.

This is where Greenbird makes a difference.

We built Utilihive to address these pressing questions and enable utilities to put data and technology at the heart of their organizations to help them meet the SDGs. With Utilihive, utilities can:

  • Simplify access to big data to make it accessible to all parts of the organization
  • Provide a platform for IT innovation, partner ecosystems and third-party providers in the energy sector, delivering innovation from integrating distributed energy resources (DERs), eMobility, and new smart city initiatives
  • Overcome inefficiencies (e.g. delays, expensive deployments) in utility IT systems by dramatically speeding up data integrations from months or even years to just a few days or weeks
  • Mitigate the complexities involved in legacy system integrations, in addition to enabling OT/ IT integration
  • Benefit more from emerging technologies such as Grid Edge, AI, IoT, and predictive analytics

All these technologies rely on the flow and integration of data at utilities. Done well, it helps to provide the foundation and opportunity to develop new sustainable products and services for generations to come. Our efforts in overcoming these challenges have been recognized by several leading institutions including the European Innovation Council (EIC), who awarded the Utilihive platform a total score of 14.25 out of 15 in addition to a €1.9 million grant from the Horizon 2020 fund.

With Utilihive, utilities can truly revamp their IT architecture and boost innovation efforts to deliver services in a manner that satisfies the requirements of the SDG. This will accelerate the energy revolution move the energy industry forward and the world closer to social, economic and environmental sustainability—and that’s what we’re aiming for.

About Greenbird:

Greenbird offers out-of-the-box system integration for utilities. We are a true DevOps company, delivering unique time-to-market and reliability. We were named a Gartner ‘Cool Vendor’ in 2018 because of our domain-specific and flexible integration capabilities, crucial for creating easy-to-consume integrated solutions. Utilihive empowers utilities to manage their data flow faster and smoother than traditional system integration models while accelerating the journey towards the energy revolution. Greenbird is based in Oslo, Norway.