Project NN2NZ: Using Digital Twin Technology to Achieve Net Zero

Posted December 6, 2023 | Technology |
Project NN2NZ: Using Digital Twin Technology to Achieve Net Zero

North Northamptonshire, England, UK, with a population of 350,000, is a mixture of large market towns and more than 100 villages with a strategic growth plan through 2031 for 31,100 new jobs and 35,000 new homes. The aim of the NN2NZ project was to create a cost- and risk-adjusted road map for North Northamptonshire to achieve an equitable transition to net zero ahead of 2050.

The initial challenges were:

  • Determining how to create a holistic view from hundreds of data sets

  • Deciding which interventions to prioritize

  • Determining how to link intervention to impact on a data and evidence basis

  • Determining how to forecast scale and impact over time against the greenhouse gas (CO2e) gap

  • Determining how to interactively engage a diverse set of stakeholders ranging from policy makers to the general public

The digital twin incorporates data from thousands of low-carbon projects, technologies, and behavior initiatives, along with the carbon-saving impact of the interventions (see Figure 1). It might consider, for example, what if:

  • Every south-facing roof had solar

  • Every parking structure had solar and wind

  • People gave up their second cars

  • No one drove to work

Figure 1. The NN2NZ project brings together disparate data to explore scalable  solutions for reducing CO2
Figure 1. The NN2NZ project brings together disparate data to explore scalable 
solutions for reducing CO2

In this project, the role of the digital twin is to:

  • Aggregate data from diverse source for evidence-based decision-making. This includes land use, traffic data, building energy performance, social and demographic indicators, census data, and 3D data like roof shapes.

  • Analyze and simulate potential interventions to understand the trade-offs between impact and timing of interventions so that location-specific quick wins can be considered.

  • Interpret and communicate through visualizations, such as heat maps, red/amber/green (RAG)-rated infrastructure, and interactive 3D models.

  • Optimize multiple constrained objectives and give all stakeholders (planners, city councilors, developers, and the public) the ability to “optioneer” net zero futures, regardless of their analytical expertise or lack thereof.

  • Monitor and respond to the positive or negative impact of interventions in real time.

[For more on the project, see: “Accelerating the Journey to Net Zero with Digital Twins.”]

About The Author
David McKee
David McKee is CEO, CTO, and founder of Slingshot Simulations; a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellow; and cochair of the technology and open source working groups at the OMG Digital Twin Consortium. His expertise spans simulation, smart cities, digital twins, dark data, and responsible computing. Mr. McKee has been building digital twins across automotive, aerospace, and cities since 2013. He is a guest lecturer at the University of… Read More
Tim O'Callaghan
Tim O’Callaghan is a Project Consultant at Electric Places, a community interest company that supports organizations, places, and people transitioning to net zero. He has extensive experience evaluating the impacts, user adoption requirements, costs, and carbon savings potential of new energy generation and flexibility management technologies. Mr. O’Callaghan’s area of focus is on the latest solar, battery, wind turbine, and flexibility… Read More