WattTime, a non-profit subsidiary of the Rocky Mountain Institute, just announced they will be using satellite imaging to measure the air pollution coming from power plants and making all of their information public. Power plants are notorious for gaming their emissions data with limited accountability due to poor monitoring capabilities. Air pollution already accounts for 5 million early deaths, is the fifth largest global mortality risk and will increasingly present a critical public health problem. WattTime utilizes infrared imaging to identify heat and algorithms that detect emissions from visible smoke to provide more comprehensive coverage. WattTime's CEO also says sensors that track NO2 are currently being developed to supplement the other technologies. Google is backing the massive project: the startup recently won their AI Impact Challenge along with a $1.7 million grant.
Accountability and transparency are the major roadblocks to addressing the problem but armed with accurate data, governments will have much greater leverage to enforce restrictions on energy companies. An independent third party can also be pivital to rebuilding trust in reporting data. Recently though more pressure has been applied from the general public and this directly empowers them, offering a tool for much more tangible proposals and evidence. Automated Emission Reductions will also be able to be scaled further and work anywhere in the world, allowing for developers and grids to maximize emission reductions.