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What Technologies Will Drive the Journey to Net Zero
Sameer Soleja, CEO of Molecule, joins other commodities trading industry experts to delve into how companies can achieve netzero with emerging technology.
July 12th, 2022 | 43:15
Summary Keywordscarbon, data, greenwashing, technology, markets, panel, people, industry, commodities,ai, trading, supply chain, question, richard, credits, claims, blockchain, net,consumer, offset
Ben HillaryCommodities People
Mark HankinsDirector of Enterprise Architecture, ADM
Sameer SolejaFounder and CEO, Molecule
Richard WilliamsonCEO, Gen10
Joseph CollinsPrincipal Consultant, capSpire
Ben Hillary Okay, I've had notification that the previous session is now over. So, as we start to welcome the attendees joining us now. Well, yes, we'll get kicked off.
So hello, everyone, and welcome. I do hope you enjoyed the past session. And yes, I'm absolutely delighted to welcome you all to our next panel, delving into the critical question of “what technologies will drive the journey to net zero?”
This is an absolutely enormous subject which we could discuss at length for days. In the interests of timekeeping, however, we're going to be covering three main themes of particular importance to the trading community. Firstly, the wider macro-context driving this change. Secondly, supply chain footprints. And thirdly, of course, the trading technology itself.
My name is Ben Hillary, I'm the Managing Director of Commodities People. And, yep, absolutely thrilled to be joined here today by an exceptionally knowledgeable panel, who really bring a really interesting wide range of experiences to the session. We've got Mark Hankins, Director of Enterprise Architecture over at ADM; Sameer Soleja, Founder and CEO of Molecule Software; Richard Williamson, CEO of Gen10, and Joseph Collins, Principal Consultant of capSpire. Panel, thanks so much for being here with us.
To our audience, we will be keeping time aside at the end of the panel to answer your questions. So, please be posting these in the Q+A box and up voting others of interest. Also, do make full use of the chat channel for any comments you want to share with the panel and the audience or even just to say hello and introduce yourself.
So, right. To get the ball rolling. Let's start with Mark. Mark, I wonder if you could set the scene a little. From your position as a technology leader in commodity trading, what do you see as the most important points for the wider industry to consider.
Mark Hankins So, as I always say on these types of things, it's behaviors that change things, not technologies. And, part of this is going to be – the biggest part of this is going to be about getting people to change their behaviors.
And in particular, if we think about optimization. That we start optimizing, not just for cost or for cash, but we actually start optimizing for carbon, as well. So, there's a need to change our behaviors, both as individuals trying to reduce the amount of travel we do, trying to reduce our own footprint, but also that we, as companies, try and optimize.
Following on from that, then. While there's things like the carbon sequestration technologies and the carbon capture technologies, they can obviously play a big part, as well. But, one of the things that I think is going to be key is the ability to actually understand the impact and really get the data to really understand the impact of what we're doing. And therefore, without that, we can't optimize.
So, a lot of this is going to come from getting meaningful data.
Ben Hillary Panel, any other thoughts on that?
Sameer Soleja Yeah, I just want to echo what Mark said.
I think, you know… if we're on the journey to net zero, we can focus all we want on compliance with rules and regulations. But, I think the companies that do best will be the ones that focus on the spirit of the regulations and why we're going down this path. And, they will probably be able to anticipate the changes better than others.
Ben Hillary And, Richard.
Richard Williamson No, you know, we have the time.
Ben Hillary Yep.
Well, Sameer, going back to you then, as the lone U.S representative on this panel, what do you think is the main differences from where you sit between the U.S, the European, and the global approaches?
Sameer Soleja Well, you know, from what we can see from the European side, there's definitely carrots and sticks. And, on the U.S side, it seems today that we mostly have carrots. So, in some ways, we're a little bit behind. And, I think we see companies in our customer base and elsewhere focusing on trying to make sure to get the carrots in a row because they're as complex… they're complex anyway.
And so, I think the U.S is likely to see a rapid acceleration pass the carrots to the sticks. And, the question is, how will we get there and in what form will the U.S get there? You know, from a policy perspective, the U.S has often lagged other countries in how we, you know, turn the ship. But, when we do we seem to do so in a big way. And so, the question is, what form will that take when we get there?
Ben Hillary Do any of the other panelists have any experience in this, sort of, cross-border, cross-regional view?
Mark Hankins I think, obviously, IBM – big U.S company and big in European operations, as well.
From my perspective, I think what we see is that maybe the consumer message is clearer in the… Europe than it is in the U.S. And, as a lot of you know, a lot of stuff is driven by consumer. Then, the European companies tend to have started this journey or push their thinking a little bit further than… potentially the U.S. The U.S, however, are catching up quickly.
Richard Williamson Yeah, I reckon, I mean, in other areas are where you have… it's better be… It's better to get the carrot sorted out before you get the regulations to dictate what you have to do. I think it's different if I take carbon markets, for example, where you can't separate them because you've got different host countries, and they've got their responsibilities.
You need to… you can't count a carbon. You can't go to a warehouse and counter carbon credit. So, it's always… there needs to be at least industry coordination. But, I don't think you can separate out the sticks, the regulatory part of it, to solve some of these problems to be able to measure, “Are we getting closer to net zero or not?”
So, just a little different from other markets, where it's a little bit, you know… it's better if it's Laissez Faire and the markets sort it out. I don't think that can be the case with this one.
Ben Hillary Yeah, good. We'll actually stick with… sticking with you, Richard.
Yeah, you've been in this space for quite some time. How have you seen, and how do you see commodities and carbon markets converging?
Richard Williamson Yeah, I mean, it's early days with carbon 2.0. You know, I guess the… I mean, they ultimately are definitely converging. How long it's going to take to fully do it, you know, I mean, on the commodity supply chains. You know, from the consumer perspective, if it's a pen or whatever, the end product is, knowing what is the impact on the environment of that piece. You know, it starts with the raw materials.
So, we're in the right place to start solving these problems. I think, you know, as, I mean… how we preferred our property management systems is, you know, allowing people to receive quotes for freight, you know, $10 per container or for the cost of the ship or whatever. And, putting a place for them to put in what is the carbon cost of that choice? Now, there are, I think, where… it's going to work to solve the problem properly, I guess. We have to go to the point where, when people are submitting free quotes, it's the cost of… it's the economic cost and then, there's the carbon cost, which is also an economic cost.
If you're talking about, you know, offsetting that stuff. So, you know, there will be the carbon accounting side on the quality supply chains. They're just not there yet, people. That's the scope, three measurements, right? So, the freight company scope one and scope two requirements, you know, they should be busy trying to get that together, but it's not there yet. So, in the meantime, we have to rely on some quite advanced carbon calculators out there. But, it's still kind of averaging stuff, which favors the poor performers and penalizes the good ones. That sort of thing.
But, it's a good first step. I mean, it's better than better than nothing. But, moving to that way. And, you know, I mean, it's going to be a case where, when I'm selling you some cotton or if I'm selling you some oil, some metals or whatever, just like with the airlines are doing today, I'm offering you the opportunity to offset that for an additional premium. Whereby, I can then go to call them, book that I need to go, and buy the credits in order to offset that in the back.
So that, you know, there's a great opportunity for convergence there. And, I don't see how that can be separate, moving forward.
Ben Hillary Right. Any further comments from the rest of the panel on that?
Sameer Soleja I think there's a policy question of, or whether the… let's just say, the instrument will always be credits or whether it needs to take the form of something else. I've been puzzling over that for quite some time, as well.
Mark Hankins I think the calculator point is very well made, as well.
Here, we really need to get the science in the calculators as aligned as we can. And, ensure that the calculators aren't there to favor one particular segment of an industry, or whatever. Because, lots of good reasons why you can't compare across the industry. But somehow, if we have to make carbon into, you know, carbon optimization decisions, we need to find a way that actually… it is more comparable.
Sameer Soleja And, we're starting to see some standardization around that, as well, which is nice. Certainly in the offset side, you can see what Xpansiv is doing with, sort of, high-quality carbon offset credits and providing a standard so that, say, a corporate can come in and just say, “I want something that meets the standard, please give me whatever.”
Ben Hillary Yeah, yeah.
One of the phrases we hear a lot more of in recent months and years is greenwashing. Looking specifically within the context of technology, what would you say are the main risks and challenges related to green washing?
We'll go with you, Mark. And then, go on to Richard for that question, please.
Mark Hankins I think it's… greenwashing is – obviously, we need to find a way of getting rid of it. And, when we make a consumer claim, it needs to be possible to trace that back.
And, of course, the challenge depending on which commodity you're talking about is actually getting that visibility through the supply chain so that you can show clearly and consistently that, you know, this was how it was sourced. This is how it was manufactured. And, you can have that audit trail so that if anyone wants to pull that claim apart, you can put some solid evidence there.
And, I think that that is going to take a lot of effort. It's going to take industry collaboration, you know. The whole point of commodities is we trade. We trade them between ourselves. And, consequently, we're going to have to start opening up some of that data to each other to ensure that you can actually start to do end-to-end visibility. Not traceability – that's something different – but end-to-end visibility and transparency to enable justifiable claims.
Richard Williamson Yeah, I mean, we should be trying not… there's so many polarized things in the world at the moment. We should really do our best not to try and to polarize the carbon, you know, industry versus consumer or NGO or whatever.
You know, greenwashing would be bad, right? But, don't put the offset markets into that category, you know. Anything can be used for good or for bad. And, I think it is very important that we keep the messaging that you know, “Yes, everyone needs to do their best to reduce pollution in our industry processes or whatever.” But, there are some things that technology just hasn't sold yet in that.
And, if you say that carbon credits are bad, there's all of these forestation projects that are creating employment in Africa and things like that would suffer as a result. So, you know, until technology is… which we should keep a track on. And, I think market forces will push that forward anyway.
But, don't be thinking of, you know, offsetting your carbon footprint with a worthwhile reforestation project in the Panama Canal or the Amazon in Brazil or whatever as potential greenwashing. It really is planting trees. And, you can really see that it's happening with the satellite imagery and the other sort of geospatial stuff that's happening.
So yeah, I try to… not to put too much emphasis on carbon credits as “greenwashing.” I think it's wrong. And, I think it does a disservice to what everyone's trying to do.
Ben Hillary Good, good. Well, I suppose moving on to the supply chain sort of things, moving on to reducing supply chain footprints from the reduced and offset perspective.
So, Mark, what would you – from where you're sitting – what are the most promising technologies that you and ADM are seeing?
Mark Hankins Yep. So, in danger of blowing our own trumpet. But, you know, a lot of people on the ADM. We've invested heavily in carbon capture. I think the last regressor was 3.5 million metric tons. So, we obviously see, and I know we're investing more. They're all publicly announced, so, if you go to our website, you can see that. So, we obviously see a value in that.
I think from an ag perspective, it's still to be proven. And, this is where we get back to this data point. But, there are areas around the general concept of region artifact that can potentially sequester significant amounts of carbon, but also can reduce, whether it's water usage.
One of the things I would say is when we talk about sustainability, we do tend to make sure we focus on more than just carbon. And then, we actually think about sustainability, in the wider perspective. Because carbon is important. But, it's not just carbon. It's also child protection. It's also farmer, grower incomes and that type of stuff.
So, apologies if that was a bit too much of a sales pitch. It wasn't intended.
Ben Hillary It's all good stuff. And anyone else seeing anything that's standing out at the moment?
Joseph Collins Sorry, I was just gonna say – just on the earlier comments – my experience is more electricity market related. And, getting back to something… two points that Mark made, which I think are well said. That’s it's all about the data, so making sure that you can measure things. And then, the whole thing around greenwashing claims like that are more transparent. So, in the electricity sector or power sector, I think that overtime, retailers have done quite a good job in that.
So, claims around greenness are actually quite evident and stuff like that. So yeah. From the agreements.
Richard Williamson Yeah, I think the verification industries… at the beginning of a real boom, in terms of, you know, being able to monitor and prove. I think one thing we have to be careful of is that we're measuring the footprints, as well. Because, if the monitoring, down to the Nth degree, is producing more of a footprint than the footprint that does the monitoring has caused, you know, there is that aspect to it.
But to Mark's point, and to Sameer around what the likes of Xpansiv are doing. You know, yes, we need to try to standardize some of these things because we need liquidity. Because, this could be really, really big if it's… but it has to be done right. We've already had Carbon 1.0. Carbon 2.0. We've had other sustainability drives in the past, but now there is certainly much more gravitas behind it.
But, you know, there are no two are carbon or no two environmental metrics absolutely identical. So, that’s standardization. Having a baseline, we would like, I think, a baseline reference point. But then, the premiums and discounts where we're adding additional premiums because these are the sustainable development goals. You know, creating employment in impoverished areas or cleaner water. You know, there’s 17 of them we can list, right? But, having a base to then be able to defer… they still need to differentiate some of these different projects because they do add other values.
And, to soil, carbon and other regenerative agricultural practices, you have all of these different agricultural policies in different geographies, different jurisdictions. You know, how do you find that level playing field? So that, you know, sitting in another panel. But, it's important, you know. You've got a Brazilian farmer over here – 100,000 hectares. He has to reserve well down in Mato Grosso. So, 30% or more of his land for reserve. The closer you get to the Amazon, it's like 80%, 90% of the land that they have has to be reserved. They can only work on the rest of it. He's still got carbon that he can measure in his soil.
But, when you've got other jurisdictions where you don't have that onus anywhere else in the world, how would you find those level playing fields? And, I think it's going to be interesting. And, no doubt, very political in trying to move forward on this.
Joseph Collins And, that's an interesting word that you mentioned, Richard. Because we… I see it a lot in energy markets and electricity, in particular. Standardization. So, the more you have standardization, the more people can engage with it.
So, transmission system operators or distribution system operators. They're standardizing the way that information and the data is collected or exchanged. And, that loads more engagement, then by, you know, the trading companies or whatever service providers, which ultimately helps more renewables onto the system and partners and net zero goals.
So, standardization is key, different aspects, but it's key in there.
Richard Williamson It certainly helps technology companies, right, as well. And, it's about, you know… the onus on the technology platforms to be able to collect their own data, have the right… Obviously standardized, right, simple futures contract would be good. But, it's not like that. It's very OTC. It's very, you know, bilateral sort of negotiations.
So, having those flexible platforms to help capture these premiums and help with the auditing and the reporting, you know, it's key. More key in these nonphysical sort of areas, authorial carbon, or whatever it is. Versus, you know, bales of cotton you can go and count in a warehouse.
It's going to be, you know… technology is going to be key to making this… a key enabler, let's call it. I guess, it's an enabler, but we still need to change behaviors.
Sameer Soleja Fortunately, we have this new set of technology that's really great for traceability. And, it has powered a whole ecosystem by itself. And I mean, I think blockchain tech is really interesting for this traceability. To Richard's point, you know, when used in a way that doesn't create its own carbon problems.
Mark Hankins Well, I’ll just say one more thing since verification came up. And, you know, the cost of verification. One of the things that I think we're going to have to be very careful about is, do we need 100% accuracy, but we can only verify 50%? Or, can we live with 90% accuracy, but we verify 95%?
And, if we can get, you know, confirmation or alignment around how accurate satellite is for verifying certain things, how accurate certain sensors are, then we can create a much broader verification playing field.
It may not… it probably is not as accurate as having boots on the ground. But, boots on the ground has a huge expense. So, that's going to be an interesting conversation to see how that moves forward.
Ben Hillary Following on quite neatly from that, I'd like to direct the next question to you as well, Mark. And, that's such about the economics of the supply chain. You know, is someone willing to pay for this transformation, and actually, who should it be? Who should be involved?
Mark Hankins So, I can only talk about this from an ag perspective.
If we're not careful, it's the grower that's paying for some of this. And actually, what we need to ensure, as Richard was saying, is that the economics flow. So that, if the grower is having to put in extra work, if they're having to do extra effort, that those economics flow so that they're actually not just rewarded, but actually incentivized to follow some of this.
And, at the moment, that is a very difficult thing to achieve because of the lack of transparency in certain parts of the supply chain but also because the connection. There isn't that feeling of connection between the end consumer and the trust in some of the claims that are being made. So, economics will have a huge impact.
Ben Hillary Yeah. Following on from that then going back to Richard. You know, what on the reporting, the documenting side of things – what technological innovations have you been seeing in reporting and documenting? And, what do you see as the greatest challenges the industry really faces in that area?
Richard Williamson Yeah. I mean, there will be, you know… it's all very nascent in terms of what you need to report, when you need to report it by, and who you need to report it to and stuff. But, there's a lot of data though. Data around the projects. Are they valid? Are they being verified on a regular basis? Can we do with satellite imagery and drones and stuff like that to reduce the expensive boots on the ground?
I think, you know, in a way, it's sort of… the song remains the same from a technology perspective. There's a lot of data there. It needs organizing. It needs workflowing. It needs to help make sure that, you know, you have the documentary trail. You know, that documentary trail can be, you know, a block on a blockchain. It's still documenting what's happening.
You know, I guess with the… when you have the whole network, when you have the whole supply chain on these new promising technologies around the blockchain, etc. You know, cool. We can't wait for that to happen. Sounds like you're making some good progress there, Sameer. But, there's a lot of stuff on monitoring people's people's impact. The stuff on monitoring, the projects that are trying to address the balance. But, this missing middle bit – which is where our focus is right now – on making sure the culture.
So right, that you're taking into account, you know, correspondence. Your host country approvals and everything on your credit to make sure that they will be worth something tomorrow. Making sure your contracts are correct, and you've got all of the optionality for replacements and stuff like that if something goes wrong. You know, that's sort of our focus.
And then, that granular inventory management, of bringing it through so that when somebody says, you know, “You've made this claim. Show me.” And, you know, whether it's through blockchain or it's just bilateral sort of sharing that data through the supply chains, as we've been doing the last 20 years, that's the practical stuff that's happening today in order to address it. So, it's happening. It's technology, data management and data sharing.
Ben Hillary Excellent. Well, I'd like to now move over to Joe.
Moving on to the trading side, and particularly looking into power markets, we're seeing an absolute plethora of new assets, new products. What does that mean? How does that all translate for the systems we use?
Joseph Collins Yeah. So, when I think of a trading system, then I always… you know, at a high level… It really reflects the structure of the company and the internal processes they have. So then, if you think of a company that's engaging in physical short-term power markets, whether they be supply or demand.
What we're seeing in particular, over the last 10 years is that there's an awful lot more players participating in these short-term markets. There was a lot more renewable and variable generation. And, the unpredictability associated with that, we're seeing incredibly dynamic supply and demand stacks. And, what that immediately translates into – or transmits into – is very volatile market prices.
And, the other complicating factor for peak participants, is that there's a number of trading opportunities. So, not only can you trade and Day-Ahead Markets, but there's intraday, continuous. You've got ancillary services, balancing markets. So, it's a complex environment that participants are now engaging in, compared to 10 years ago. And, what you see or what we observe is that the trading systems are changing to reflect these more complicated environments.
And, the one thing I would say is that, if we're taught when we're talking about net zero, we're going to need a lot more renewables on the system, a lot more battery capacity. And then, trading systems and technologies we use, the digital technologies, they're going to have to continue to evolve at that pace, I would say.
Ben Hillary Any panelists have any thoughts on that?
Sameer Soleja I would agree that the battery technology seemed to be critical, right? Just because of the shock absorbing nature of what they do. And, we're seeing that come online in a big way in the U.S.
Joseph Collins And, I think the whole context of this discussion, you know… We started off talking about carbon capture and related stuff. And, I think that's right – the perspective. So, we need physical assets and physical infrastructure to actually, concretely get to net zero.
We need that monitoring, financing of these assets. But then, the other component, which follows on, is the digital solutions that help us accommodate more of these things on the system: how we capture that data, how we manage how we interact with the markets. And, that's a particular area of focus for me.
Ben Hillary Sticking with you, Joe. Another question I'd have for you is, you know, what are the data processes, models and so on which will really allow participants to engage in, thrive in, this dynamic – to say the least – environment?
Joseph Collins Yeah, I would say, it's really like building a house for those who have had the joy or the pain of building a house. Right? So, the foundations. What are the foundations here? That is something that Mark touched upon. It’s getting the data in house; that's absolutely critical. So, getting the system-wide data forecast: wind demand, market prices, data for your own portfolio. Making sure you have those nuts and bolts in place, those foundations, so that subsequently you can do stuff.
So then, what are the walls of this house? I would say that, it's really having tools that can assist… that humans can make simple decisions. So, whether it's visualization tools or simple reports that you or I can look at it, and go, “Yes, I should. Wind is coming down. I need to participate in that market.”
Finally, the roof of this house, I would say, this is really an iterative process in that, how can we assist humans or individuals to make more intelligent decisions? And, that's really where, you know, your modeling team, in conjunction with your traders, can start asking the questions that are pertinent to their business used in historical data to say, you know, are these hypotheses or conjectures correct?
How predictable are these areas that we're investigating?
And, from that then and those questions and that iteration of process, you can start using predictive analytics, statistics, or algorithms. People can say AI and machine learning, but it's ultimately statistics and algorithms in our daily businesses.
So, I'd say start off with the nuts and bolts or the foundations, have the information in-house, once you're comfortable with that. Then, you can think about the walls and the roof in your building.
Ben Hillary And, we've got a panel of specialists in data in different guises. Does anyone else have a thought on that, perhaps even outside of the power context?
Mark Hankins Again, from an ags perspective, it's exactly the same. You've got to start… we've got to start getting the data. And, you know, one of the things that we're gonna have to solve is privacy. Because some of the data particularly in ags can be referencing back to a specific farm or specific farm holder.
If I'm trading some of my stuff to the competition, do I really want to have that sort of data over? Or, can we find secure ways of exchanging the critical part of that data so that we can get that transparency, and we can really, truly understand the carbon intensity or the impact of what we're all doing?
That's going to take some very clever people, but it is possible.
Richard Williamson Yeah, completely agree.
And, that's where it would need to, ultimately, be you. Just need to know that, in order to get it to the next stage that this guy has been validated to some degree or whatever. And, that you trust the certificate.
And again, people have been doing that for donkey's years already. But, it needs to be, you know… digital. It will make it more scalable and easier to get those dashboard reports in front of Joe's teams. But yeah, on that premise, I think, completely agree.
Ben Hillary Good. Good. Well, Sameer, I'll direct the next question to you.
You know, you work with a wide portion of the industry? What are the specific interfaces and models that you see as being asked for by clients?
Sameer Soleja Yeah. So, some of the models that we see are pretty obvious. They're things like managing credits and managing their lifecycles, managing their expiries, etc. But then, some of these things are getting harder, right? Managing eligibility and, I think, managing potential eligibility, managing actual usage of eligibility.
And then, I think some of the things that have come up on this panel are interesting, too, which is things like modeling. Sort of, triple bottom line impacts of each of the different things that that people are trading. And then, interconnecting it with the credit eligibility and credit meaning are probably a next level thing.
Just referring to the last question, you know, if the industry could get its head around a common digital or communication standard for all of this, right – everything from the triple bottom line carbon impacts to modeling the eligibility in a consistent way and the credits in a consistent way. I think that would go a long way to helping the whole industry move forward.
Ben Hillary Richard, we’ll now shift over to you.
How are you seeing the data ecosystem developing within the net zero context, particularly in terms of collection tracking and and reporting?
Richard Williamson Yeah, I mean, it's about companies today that are involved in this. They have a need to scale very fast or they need to have a scale… I need to scale yesterday. And then, you've also got, you know, the expertise in the marketplace. The people who understand what's going on to dry like this. You know, you might say the software, it's only a database. You still need the expertise or whatever.
So, in acknowledging those two particular challenges that people who are trying to scale now and finding it difficult, you know, we've put together NetZero OS. So, it's specifically for trying to solve these problems so that you don't necessarily need to… not everybody needs to be a carbon expert in order to be part of your carbon desk.
So, you know, it's helping to train and onboard new employees. These are the steps you need to go through to get a good contract. These are the steps you need to go through in order to retire credits, etc. And, these are the buttons you press to get to your dashboard or whatever it is. So, that's really interesting to us. And, I feel like, you know, that is that first immediate need that we're trying to solve in trying to, you know, productize that carbon expertise or into some workflow processes. Understanding what data we need to collect along the way, which are other technologies around that, you know with your APIs to make the most use out of everything.
So, obviously, not everyone's trying to reinvent the wheel and end up with that monolithic situation, like we've been through on the CTRM side of things. You know, a lot of lessons learned there, I think, in the industry.
So, yet… and that needs to be solved so that they can then talk to blockchains. You see what I mean? It can't all be there. And, it's also, you know, it's not addressing the immediate needs. So, that's where, I think, that the focus is now and it's certainly our focus.
Ben Hillary Very good. Any of the panel have any additional thoughts? No? That's fine.
Well, my next question – I had one around AI, but looking at the audience Q+A, I think I prefer Paul Helice’s question on AI. This also had a number of up votes. And, Paul, good to see you again. So, I'd like to direct this question firstly, to Joe and then anyone else who wishes to answer.
The question is, in which areas does the panel see the most significant contribute of AI in the transition towards net zero? Real-time algo trading is there already, I suspect.
Joseph Collins Yeah. So, I've talked about the electricity in America because I do a lot of work there. So, I think we need to be slightly careful when we use the word AI – as in, it is not a magic button. And, when we think about AI, I always think of it really in terms of, again, statistics and algorithms. And really, it's about the people, the traders, remodeling team asking the right questions, and it's really data out of process.
Now, I think it's absolutely critical that getting that right given the volatility in America prices, the amount of additional assets you will have in your portfolio. I think that process is critical to participants’ businesses and stuff. But, there isn't a magic solution that you can just deploy out there. It's continually changing and evolving. And, people need to be working on it regularly and continuously.
Ben Hillary Thank you, anyone else can contribute to that one? Around AI and its role?
Sameer Soleja Yeah. So, AI and machine learning models seem to do well when there are large amounts of data, larger than a human can easily process, right? And, if we think about the evolution of the commodities market from let's say, 1970s oil to 2010s electricity, we're rapidly approaching a situation where there's more data than a human can easily model.
It would seem that carbon, if we view that as the next big commodity, is there. If you include all the traceability aspects to it. If you include locational differences, quality of farms, quality of plants, etc. There really may be something there for – again, back to the point about triple or double bottom line impacts – for AI to more accurately judge double or triple bottom line impacts of certain types of transactions or certain types of commodities. I think it's a really interesting question.
Joseph Collins The final thing I'd say on that – following on from Sameer and to answer Paul’s question – in my view, without significant contribution from AI, statistics, machine learning, deep learning, I don't think we will get to net zero actually. I think it's exactly that the amount of data managing the system is becoming much more complex, how people manage the physical electricity system. And, it's a critical… without advances, it won't happen in my view.
Mark Hankins Yeah, just building on that. I think there's a very practical end of AI, if we can use it to optimize the production process, if we can use it to optimize the transportation process, and we reduce, therefore, our consumption. That will have a huge impact. And, that's something we can all start doing relatively easily.
And then, it's getting that data – that huge volume of data that says these are the practices – whether it's in the electricity, whether it's in running a data center, whether it's in farming. And, using AI to really help optimize some of those… that hopefully – we better all hope – will really start to see us either sequester carbon or reduce our consumption of carbon or generate more for, you know, more for the same.
Richard Williamson There is an element to consumer intelligence. I don't know if that's maybe, maybe I got myself in trouble there. But, you know, turning the skybox off or not throwing off your food in the bin. You know, there's some consumer intelligence that will create so much of more of an impact immediately, then trying to get hold of all of this data so that AI can run its magic.
Mark Hankins Yep, absolutely. Don't get me started on hybrid cars.
Ben Hillary Well, we're nearly out of time. Oh, we did have one audience poll. So, I'd like to just just throw out there to get a beat on the audience right now. You should see this popped up right now. Investment question. We spoke a lot about investments earlier. Have current fuel energy prices changed yours and your core businesses behavior and investment patterns?
And, while everyone keeps voting away on that one, I would really just like to say a huge thanks to all of our panel for their insights today. And, to you, the audience, for joining. It's been a really interesting session. This panel recording will be sent out via email within the next two days. If you find it of interest to do please share with your colleagues and your wider network. If I, or particularly if any of the panelists here have piqued an interest, do drop us a line or even easier, connect via LinkedIn.
And yeah, do join us tomorrow for day two of the online event. We'll be kicking off at 2:30 UK time with a deep dive into carbon markets. So, yeah. Again, many, many thanks. Audience, panel, you've been fantastic. And yeah, wishing you all an excellent day, or evening ahead. Thank you. Thank you, everyone.