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Three sustainability trends to become mainstream - Gartner

By Jessie Chiang
Fri 22 Apr 2022

Industry insights company Gartner says the three emerging sustainability trends that will reach mainstream adoption within one to three years are cloud sustainability, carbon footprint measurement and advanced grid management software.

These findings come from Gartner's Emerging Technologies and Trends Impact Radar: Environmental Sustainability report, which looked at 26 emerging sustainability technologies, strategies, and trends.

The company says the global goal to reach a net-zero future is creating new opportunities for technology and service providers to develop systems for environmentally-friendly businesses, and that's demonstrated by the growing list of climate tech startups in Australia and New Zealand.

Gartner research vice president Annette Zimmerman says if the world's climate is to be protected, sustainable businesses must be a global priority.

"The transition to a net-zero economy will be as disruptive as the industrial revolution or the digital revolution, requiring new technologies, business models, strategies and processes."

So what makes cloud sustainability, carbon footprint measurement and advanced grid management software so important?

Cloud Sustainability

Cloud sustainability is looking at the sustainable operation and delivery of cloud services by a cloud service provider, as well as the sustainable consumption and use of cloud services.

"Public cloud services offer great sustainability potential with their ability to centralise IT operations and operate at scale using a shared service model, resulting in greater computing efficiency," says Zimmermann. 

"Public cloud providers also have a unique ability to invest in sustainability capabilities, such as moving cloud data centres to be physically located near renewable energy sources."

Gartner says that cloud providers will come under increasing pressure to have a transparent climate strategy and clear roadmap over the next three years. It predicts that by 2025, the carbon emissions of hyperscale cloud services will be a top-three criterion in cloud purchase decisions.

Carbon Footprint Measurement

Carbon footprint is defined as the amount of emissions generated by human activity. The carbon footprint of a given technology product or service encompasses three emission scopes:

  1. Direct emissions from owned or controlled sources
  2. Indirect emissions from the generation of purchases energy
  3. All indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.

Gartner says scope three emissions are the most challenging to measure, but they can account for over 95% of total emissions for some companies. 

The report estimates that carbon footprint measurement technologies will see significant adoption as organisations broaden their focus to all three emission types and increase reporting transparency. 

Gartner says the growth of such tools will be supported by the proliferation of IoT-enabled environmental sensors that increase the quantity, quality and timeliness of data collection.

 "Ultimately, every organisation will have to invest in carbon accounting tools," says Zimmermann. 

"Software solutions which provide transparent carbon measurement and actionable advice are seeing rapid adoption, and Gartner expects continued growth as integration capabilities progress."

Advanced Grid Management Software

Advanced grid management comprises supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), utility energy management systems and new operationalised real-time capabilities that use physical and machine learning models. 

Electricity system operators use this software to monitor and control energy resources across the electricity grid to maintain system stability and defer capital investments.

Gartner estimates that around 5-20% of organisations are invested in advanced grid management software today, and that will grow substantially over the next one to three years. By 2026, over 60% of the capital programs of the largest energy companies will focus on low-risk renewables investments.

"The main challenge of grid network operators is to manage power flow variability and energy profile volatility," says Zimmermann. 

"Advanced grid management software will support the energy transition by enabling electricity utility companies to become active network managers as they balance the instability created by increasing volumes of intermittent renewable energy."

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