Professor Eva Pongracz

Harnessing Energy Efficiency for a Sustainable Future

At a 6GESS event earlier this year, Professor Eva Pongracz, a luminary in sustainability, shed light on the intricate role of energy in sustainable development. The concept is defined as: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, but without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” While this perspective is widely accepted, it has faced scrutiny for not setting clear boundaries on economic growth and its somewhat veiled stance on environmental matters.

Addressing these concerns, Pongracz painted a comprehensive picture, juxtaposing human needs against those of ecosystems. She charted a hierarchy of human necessities, ranging from fundamental physiological requirements to loftier societal aspirations. Conversely, she underscored the imperatives of ecosystems, highlighting essentials such as sunlight, water, and biodiversity.

The Challenge of Energy in Sustainability

Emphasising the pivotal role of energy in achieving sustainability, Pongracz aptly stated, “All of this requires energy. Every system, industry sector, and service depends on it to operate.” This statement gains even more significance when contemplating the staggering number of individuals worldwide who still lack reliable access to adequate energy sources, underscoring the urgent need for equitable energy distribution and accessibility.

She explored the concept of ‘planetary overshoot’, a measure that reflects our rate of consuming a year’s worth of resources. Disturbingly, Pongracz emphasised that for over fifty years, we have been operating at a deficit, consuming more than the planet can replenish, all while the global population continues to grow. This stark reality accentuates the urgency for our consumption patterns to evolve towards sustainability.

Digitally-Enabled Systems: A Path to Sustainable Behaviour

Venturing into digital systems, Pongracz explored their potential in steering human behaviour towards sustainability. She contended that such systems should not merely cater to user preferences but actively promote sustainable actions. The longevity of the components in these systems, coupled with opportunities for upgrades or repurposing, was another focal point of her talk.

Pongracz’s insights were a profound exploration into the multifaceted world of sustainability and energy efficiency. Her discourse underscored the imperative of a harmonised approach that weighs both human and ecosystem needs in equal measure. Moreover, she spotlighted the transformative potential of digitally-enabled systems in fostering sustainable behaviours, laying the groundwork for a greener future.

As the horizons of 6G technology expand, Pongracz’s insights emerge as a beacon. They underscore the symbiotic relationship between technological progression, sustainability, and energy efficiency. As we navigate this journey, her wisdom serves as a compass, guiding us towards a future that seamlessly melds technological prowess with sustainability and equity. She concluded with a powerful reminder, “Sustainability as a concept is an absolute, which means it’s indivisible. You cannot be almost sustainable. If we are sustainable, it means everybody everywhere is sustainable.”

For a deeper insight into the role of energy in sustainability and the sustainability of energy itself, check out Professor Eva Pongracz’s speech on energy efficiency of digitally enabled user-centric systems.