Can quantum computing help us achieve a net zero future?

20 December, 2023

The environmental challenges we face as a society demand ingenious and transformative solutions. To this end, technology and innovation are essential catalysts. Quantum computing is a paradigmatic example of ingenuity and technological development that can be key to achieving carbon neutrality and moving towards sustainable development.

What is quantum computing?

This technology is based on the principles of quantum physics to process information and perform various computer operations. Its main difference with classical computing is that it does not use electrical impulses to transmit information through bits (a unit of measurement that can be 0 or 1 in binary code language) but uses subatomic particles such as electrons or photons, which have the capacity to adopt multiple combinations of 0 and 1 at the same time, giving rise to the so-called cubits or quantum bits . This quality is known as quantum overlapping and allows computers to perform calculations more efficiently.

Quantum computing makes it possible to operate with large numbers at a level that cannot be described by currently available systems

We often understand this concept of overlapping as doing one thing and, at the exact same time, doing something else.  Do you have any idea of the potential to solve problems that are practically impossible for classical computers? 

Quantum computing makes it possible to operate with large numbers at a level that cannot be described by currently available systems, which is already impressive in itself. And by doing so, we could simulate complex systems to optimise processes and address critical issues such as climate change.

 How could we use quantum computing to achieve net zero?

Achieving a balance between human greenhouse gas emissions and the absorption capacity of our planet as a carbon sink is key to combating climate change. To achieve a net balance between the two, it is necessary to develop practices such as carbon capture and storage or emission offsets (through reforestation, for example).

To achieve a net balance between the two, it is necessary to develop practices such as carbon capture

Quantum computing and the concepts that define it can contribute to the achievement of net zero in different ways. Examples include:

  • Optimisation of energy processes. The ability to perform faster and more complex calculations could enable more efficient management of renewable energy generation, the design of sustainable materials or the simulation of cleaner industrial processes.
  • More accurate climate simulations. Quantum computers would significantly improve the ability to perform climate simulations with many variables to better understand patterns, anticipate changes and develop mitigation strategies with greater impact.
  • Improved logistical efficiency. Quantum processes can be applied to complex logistics problems, such as route planning and supply chain management. By reducing these complexities, processes could be made more efficient and associated emissions could be reduced.

Emission reduction is a complex issue, involving economic, social, environmental and other factors. For example, during the transition to a sustainable model, a company may have to make decisions that affect its employees, the communities in which it operates, its suppliers, or even its customers or investors. This is where quantum computing could make a difference thanks to its potential to simulate complex systems and optimise processes. In theory, we could know all the implications of a decision in a more precise and detailed way than with a classical computer.

Quantum computing in the energy sector

The energy field has much to contribute to achieving net zero. And it is already doing so with renewable technologies, energy efficiency, smart grids, optimisation of system maintenance outages and a lengthy et cetera.

Quantum computing can open a new avenue for improving the energy sector’s contribution to the environment and reducing emissions:

  • Optimising network management in energy systems to reduce consumption and, consequently, emissions associated with energy production and distribution.
  • Simulating complex systems to accurately model materials that improve the efficiency of solar panels, electric batteries, electrolysers for renewable hydrogen production or carbon capture technologies.
  • Increasing the security of energy infrastructure through quantum cryptography to ensure the integrity of communications and protect critical facilities from threats such as cyber threats.

Quantum computing opens up a wide range of possibilities for the future. As this technology develops, it is expected to contribute to addressing the energy and environmental challenges on our path to net zero. All with the aim of achieving a cleaner, more efficient and stable energy future.