Adrian Cronin, research and strategy lead, Ervia Energy networks, Innovation, Technology, Opinion, Climate Change, Technology and Innovation Council

Are utilities bringing the full force of their ingenuity to the climate change emergency? Technology and Innovation Council member Adrian Cronin, research and strategy lead at Irish utility Ervia, reflects on the challenge and opportunity.

“Beep beep!” The horn sounded from a large SUV in central London warning me to get out of its way – in stopped traffic. The diver literally and figuratively going nowhere.

The irony of a frustrated commuter not enjoying himself in two and half tons of metal wasn’t lost on me as I headed on foot to the recent Utility Week-Wipro Technology and Innovation Council dinner. I’m sure his new SUV was packed full of technology and innovation, but what is innovative or technologically interesting about making an individual contribution to pollution in a city that pioneered mass transit?

The encounter put me in a challenging frame of mind for the Council event, making me determined to question just how far we are willing as individuals, professionals and organisations to change today’s norms in order to address the deep climate crisis we know is unfolding around us.

Urgent and BIG action is needed to prevent runaway climate warming and achieve drastic cuts in carbon emissions. Has the scale of the challenge we face dawned on us as individuals, as families or as workers? What opportunities do we have to really make a difference?

I have spent the past 19 years working in the utility sector in gas and water. I have seen first-hand the work done by loyal and dedicated people to get the job done and provide life giving and civilisation-sustaining services to homes, schools, hospitals and businesses around the clock all year long. Getting ‘it’ done is in our DNA as a sector. We have proved time and again we can get ‘it’ done, whatever ‘it’ is. I call on the industry to define this ‘it’ as meeting the challenge of climate change.

We are in pole position to lead on this. We have an installed asset base that is ideal for the adoption of technology to optimise performance; nothing should be off limits from IoT devices to data analytics, AI and machine learning. Blockchain technology is ideal for handling micro generation at a local level. We should get used to placing many bets at many tables. It’s what people expect us to do. It’s an exciting prospect and one we should embrace.

We owe a lot of our freedoms to sacrifices made by previous generations. How do want history to judge us? As a truly great generation or like the frustrated commuter, making a lot of noise with a lot of technology but going nowhere and adding to the problem?