IBM’s ‘Green Horizon’ project to help reduce China’s emissions

Posted on 10 Jul 2014 by Tim Brown
Leader of IBM's Green Horizon initiative Dr. Jin Dong, Distinguished Engineer & Member of IBM Industry Academy, Associate Director, IBM Research - China.

IBM is deploying the full force of its researchers in laboratories around the world in a 10-year initiative to support China in transforming its national energy systems and protecting the health of citizens.

Dubbed ‘Green Horizon’, the project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three areas critical to China’s sustainable growth: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry. Led by IBM’s China Research laboratory, the initiative will tap into the company’s network of 12 global research labs and create an innovation ecosystem of partners from government, academia, industry and private enterprise.

One of the first partners to come on board is the Beijing Municipal Government. Through a collaboration agreement, the two parties have agreed to work together to develop solutions which can help tackle the city’s air pollution challenges. The collaboration will leverage some of IBM’s most advanced technologies such as cognitive computing, optical sensors and the internet of things all based on a Big Data and analytics platform and drawing on IBM’s deep experience in weather prediction and climate modelling.

“China has made great achievements and contributed much to the world’s economic growth over the past 30 years. It now has an opportunity to lead the world in sustainable energy and environmental management,” said D.C. Chien, Chairman and CEO, IBM Greater China Group. “While other nations waited until their economies were fully developed before taking comprehensive action to address environmental issues, China can leverage IBM’s most advanced information technologies to help transform its energy infrastructures in parallel with its growth.”

China’s economic growth over the past several decades has raised the living standards of hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens and led to China becoming the second largest economy in the world. However, the resulting environmental impact, particularly air pollution, has become a priority for the Chinese government and a matter of global importance.

According to Dr. Lu Qiang, Professor at Tsinghua University and Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, “the key to tackling environmental problems is not only monitoring emissions but adopting a comprehensive approach to air quality management and addressing the issues at their roots. Initiatives like IBM’s Green Horizon can help by fostering joint innovation across the entire energy value chain.”

Renewable Energy Forecasting

The Chinese government recently announced increased investment in solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy in a bid to decrease its dependency on fossil fuels. To support the objective, IBM has developed a renewable energy forecasting system to help energy grids harness and manage alternative energy sources.

The solution combines weather prediction and Big Data analytics to accurately forecast the availability of renewable energy which is renowned for its variability. It enables utility companies to forecast the amount of energy which will be available to be redirected into the grid or stored – helping to ensure that as little as possible is wasted. It increases the viability of renewable energy, helping the Chinese government to realize its objective of getting 13% of consumed energy from non-fossil fuels by 2017 and enabling the construction of the world’s biggest renewable grids.

Urban Air Quality Management

Global urbanization is creating air quality challenges for all major cities around the world. In China, where cities have been the engines of much of the country’s economic growth over the past decade, the government has launched the “Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan” as it moves to safeguard the health of approximately 700 million people living in urban areas.

The city of Beijing will invest over $160 billion to improve air quality and deliver on its target of reducing harmful fine Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) particles by 25% by 2017. To support the initiative, IBM is partnering with the Beijing Municipal Government on a system to enable authorities to pinpoint the type, source and level of emissions and predict air quality in the city.

IBM’s cognitive computing systems will analyze and learn from streams of real-time data generated by air quality monitoring stations, meteorological satellites and IBM’s new-generation optical sensors – all connected by the internet of things. By applying supercomputing processing power, scientists from IBM and the Beijing Government aim to create visual maps showing the source and dispersion of pollutants across Beijing 72 hours in advance with street-scale resolution.