I thank the committee for inviting me. When one considers the related sub-problems to do with energy security such as renewable energy sources, efficiency and emissions, the defining challenge of our time and generation is to deal with these. It is similar to the space race or the industrial revolution in previous times.
To take this on, we must solve the problem on a global level for all nations and all peoples. It will need to be solved incrementally over time. People who wait for others to solve the problem will be left behind, especially when one considers globalisation and the ability of people to move from place to place.
My training is as a computer scientist so I focus on solutions in the virtual space, not necessarily chemistry, civil engineering or material sciences. There has been a fundamental change in the field of computer science. This is related to the energy security problem in that previously we were focused on challenges on automation, on using computers for automating tasks. This has significantly changed in recent times in a move towards optimisation. This is relevant to the energy security problem or the way in which we are attempting to tackle that problem.
When I refer to optimisation I mean representation of these real world artefacts like chemical properties, mechanical properties or other physical properties of systems and the use of mathematical or logic-based techniques to try to resolve problems in that space and then support decisions based on these models. It is also to automate the control of systems based on decisions from these models.
My research centre focuses on the theme of smarter cities. This is related to the energy security problem because by the year 2050 we believe that roughly 6 billion people will live in cities and this will significantly change their profile for energy consumption and waste. People will move from rural and other areas into the cities and change the way they earn a living, change the way they live and therefore significantly change how they consume energy, water and produce waste. According to estimates, roughly 75% of the world's energy will be consumed by cities and roughly 80% of greenhouse gases will be emitted by cities. This is a significant change. The figure of 6 billion is the total world population today and that number of people will move into the cities by the year 2050. This is a very disruptive change in terms of consumption of resources. The advantage is that localisation is achieved along with economies of scale and a better quality of life so there is much to gain from this movement of people into the cities, despite these energy and waste challenges.
I am speaking about IBM research on a global scale and not just about my research centre here. In terms of the IT space for renewable energy sources, essentially what is needed is monitoring of the distribution network that supplies energy to the different consumers. Here the problem is that introduction of renewable energy introduces instability and integration challenges for the grid. What we are trying to do with IT is to be able to monitor this and to provide stabilising technologies. One of the examples is a decentralised transactive control methodology. Instead of thinking of it as some single controller that will try to control the entire system, it is to have technologies that would be able to distribute this just like the generation is being distributed. Another important piece which IT can help is the reliability of the grid, such as, being able to monitor the individual pieces of it.
Approximately 27% of the energy produced is lost in transmission because of faults and issues with the distribution network. This is an approximate number, based on looking at many different transmission networks.
Another important area where IT is trying to help with the energy security problem is in trying to model the different types of energy generation that could be used, tidal, wind, nuclear and so on, and to use those models to try to get better information on the building of the plants, the distributions and so on. This is another aspect on which we focus.
We also deal with security. The committee members are probably aware that the number of attacks have increased. In 2009 there was an attack on the US energy security grid. Hackers are getting into the system and their attacks are growing and becoming exponentially worse because they are leveraging what are called, botnets, essentially, networks of systems that have been corrupted such that whenever an attack is launched, all of these systems can join in the attack and therefore, the attacks become progressively worse. Some of these attacks are being carried out by individuals but they are also being carried out by nation states and energy becomes an important target.
Another area of focus is smarter buildings. Commercial and industrial buildings consume about 40% of the electricity produced. This is a significant amount. We are deploying instrumentation such as metering and sub-metering. The reason for doing so is to get better information on how the energy and water is being consumed and then identify anomalies and help the operations personnel to control and remediate those problems and help users to be able to adapt their behaviours, and so on.
The IBM results tell us that smarter building technologies can reduce the water and energy consumption of buildings by approximately 50%, which is significant, with a similar reduction in emissions. The significant savings in energy are 50% to 70% and in water are 30% to 50%.