Sustainable technologies: a greener and more responsible future

Tecnologie sostenibili: un futuro più verde e responsabile

Sustainable technologies, to be properly defined as such, should work by ensuring measurable performance improvement against environmental, economic and social sustainability criteria. Not just storytelling, therefore, on the part of companies. Because one risks practising or being accused of greenwashing anyway. But also quantification of the progress made in the direction of climate change mitigation and adaptation through the adoption of sustainable technologies and processes.

Over the next few years, the obligation to report compliance levels with the EU environmental taxonomy will be progressively extended, starting with companies with over 500 employees in the energy and utilities sector. This will then move on to more industry sectors and smaller company sizes.

Three sectors where there is a lot of talk about sustainable technologies are energy, transport and construction. .

Renewable energy: the key to clean industry

Sustainable technologies for the production, storage and distribution of energy from renewable sources are one of the most important areas of research and development investment, both by large and medium-sized companies established on the market and by start-ups.

Here are some examples related to electrification with sustainable technologies, for which, however, many metals will be needed, starting with the ubiquitous copper.The question then arises as to the sustainability of the supply and processing of the necessary metals: intensification of surface mining, possible development of mining on the seabed, progressive increase in the recycling of metals from civil and industrial waste.

– Lithium ion batteries, but also iron-based batteries, which are much more widespread than cobalt and nickel, for energy storage during the production peaks of photovoltaic and wind power plants

– the gamble, difficult for reasons primarily of economic sustainability, of green hydrogen, produced with electricity from renewable sources, which today represents only 1% of all hydrogen produced globally for industrial and energy purposes.

– Efficient production, storage and distribution systems for energy from renewable sources (as well as fossil and nuclear energy): the contribution of artificial intelligence for smart grids.

– Automation and robotics for the maintenance of wind and hydroelectric turbines.

Sustainable mobility: reducing the environmental impact of transport

For the transition to electric vehicles with the challenge of batteries and electric motors, and related metals, the above sustainability issue is valid: mineral procurement, treatment chain to obtain metals, research and development to find the best combinations in terms of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable technologies.
We also need increasingly digitized control systems, for vehicles that are real computers on wheels. With the geo-economic and geopolitical issue of chips (European Chips Act) and related raw materials for electronic boards and circuits. For example, electric vehicles require on average two to three times more copper than those with an internal combustion engine, although a recent study by Goldman Sachs and CRU Group reduces the estimate of the average requirement per electric vehicle to 51-56 kg compared at 65-66 kg.
There are also biofuels for the internal combustion engine of road vehicles, ships and aircraft. Alternatives to hydrocarbons from fossil sources, they are produced in a short time from biomass, i.e. renewable raw materials of the organic type of agricultural origin, such as corn for example: ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, biobutanol. However, with implications also in this case of environmental and social sustainability of the supply chains, given that the demand in large volumes of biofuels implies the need to allocate large areas of land to dedicated crops to obtain the necessary commodities

Green building: building in harmony with the environment

Sustainable technologies have a wide field of application in buildings. The impetus comes from the fact that buildings in Europe account for one third of Co2 emissions and 40% of energy consumption. The EU has the goal of achieving zero Co2-emission buildings for new construction by 2030, and for the entire building stock by 2050.

Which sustainable materials for green building? Organic origin and recyclable, e.g. wood and wood wool fibre, hemp, flax, straw, natural paints.
What are the design principles and construction techniques? Maximum utilisation of natural resources (sunlight and heat, air and wind, rainwater) and energy efficiency.


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