Such innovations can only be achieved through ongoing investment in the oil and gas sector. By optimizing its operations, the hydrocarbon industry can further contribute towards a more sustainable future and play a key role in advancing the clean energy transition. We should not lose sight of this goal, despite the financial impact of COVID-19 on the energy industry as a whole. With the International Energy Agency (IEA) in May forecasting a record drop in energy investment in 2020, the emphasis must be on smart decision making and ensuring the technology we adopt today enhances our ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. For the energy sector, this includes not only 4IR technologies that improve efficiencies and operational capabilities, but also innovations that help reduce emissions and make energy networks more sustainable.
As cities around the world continue the push to lower their carbon footprint, zero-carbon technologies like solar thermal power plants are becoming all the rage. However, cities that receive scant sunlight may find an attractive alternative in wave power. Since ocean waves rarely experience disruptions, electric generators driven by their clockwork push-and-pull can reliably provide power throughout the year. Further, thanks to advances in wave power technology, engineers have been able to move wave power generators farther offshore, where the waves pack the most punch, making the generators extremely efficient: A single Wave Star generator (animated above) is able to provide clean energy for 4,000 homes. In the future, densely populated coastal cities may well combine wave, solar and wind power to meet their energy needs, all while preserving the environment.
In addition, there are production innovations coming down the pipeline that will reduce the amounts of costly materials such as silver and silicon used in the manufacture of solar cells, as well as innovations such as bifacial modules which allow panels to capture solar energy from both sides. The other important innovation is around how best to integrate solar into our homes, businesses and power systems. This means better power electronics and a greater use of low-cost digital technologies.
The Brazilian federal government will invest 1 billion reais ($248,000) in a new program for innovation projects supporting the development of cities over the next two years. The Cidades Inovadoras (Innovative Cities, in Portuguese) initiative was announced on Friday (27) by president Michel Temer, who said the plan is another step towards placing Brazil in the 21st century." "We will invest in projects that will transform our cities. It is an achievement for Brazilian science," Temer said at the launch event. Four sectors be prioritized under the program: urban mobility, including transport and circulation systems aiming at efficiency and reducing emissions; sanitation and water resources, including treatment, composting and use of rainwater; energy efficiency and renewable energies, which will encompass technologies and systems for photovoltaic, wind and biomass energy.
The dual challenge of meeting growing energy demand in the developing world, while working to reduce carbon emissions, is creating a constant stream of ideas with the potential to transform how the world produces and consumes energy. For BP, that represents both a threat and an opportunity. The role of the Emerging Technology team, led by Dan Walker, is to keep focused on what is next and evaluate its potential impact on BP. He explains: "There are hundreds of technologies out there that could impact BP, either positively or negatively, and we're constantly scanning to identify and track these. We have to evaluate these technologies, analyse their strategic fit to BP and then prioritise them for potential action.