The value of digitalization within the Energy Systems will dramatically evolve in the next few years. The more the operating system and each of the assets become connected up through the application of sensors or other smart devices, the value of the automation, software and new solutions and services combine in new value-adding ways.
Collecting data across the system enables four radically different advanced capabilities to evolve. Data becomes the essential thread to build out the future end-to-end foundation of future energy systems.
The four are
1 Data Transparency– to connect up all assets, you suddenly have open access to your data, you become less reliant on others. That increased level of insights gives a completely different dimension to managing the system. In predicting possible failure, in modelling alternative scenarios, in moving towards predictive maintenance
2. Technological Evolvability.- Technology evolves at a constant rate; by building an Energy System on a platform, you do not need to be locked into technology. You can build in flexibility in design by keeping open standards
3. Business Process Adaptability– Business processes are changing, but they will evolve differently with greater insights. The design process can evolve; it can detach itself from the existing constraints of the system as it can experiment, pilot and simulate the data, often in a digital twin so it can initiate physical change in the system by its ability to be opening in a dual world of separation to plan change but also on the actual world of establishing the best optimization.
4. System Customization.- At any point in time, the design of the system is likely to be unique. As a business or assets change and evolve by having the data captured within a digital platform, you can implement and test without impacting the existing, customize for alternatives and well before making the final physical commitment of new plant or assets. Using your data within the existing system, you can explore and exploit alternatives in new designs and options before any actual investment decision or commitments
The power of data of building an energy digital twin enables a radically different energy system.
You become increasingly comfortable in a data-driven world
When you combine data and analytics, you have the opportunity to explore different disruptive models that can potentially change the nature of your competitive position. These are
Achieving data-driven discovery and innovation
The ability for more radical personalization or uniqueness
Build out even more enhanced decision-making opportunities
Provide hyper-scale real-time matching for managing the dynamics and flows with the system
Orthogonal data sets. An orthogonal model means that all independent variables in that model are uncorrelated, so they can be independently models
Massive data integration.
Those become machine learning possibilities and can eventually have broader cutting edge applicability in many common work activities.
For instance, the outcomes may be in 1) recognizing known patterns, 2) generating natural language, 3) understanding natural language, 4) enhanced sensory perception, and 5) optimizing and planning.
As data ecosystems evolve, the value will accrue for viewing, planning, and integrating the system and giving growing value as analytics and learning grow through human and artificial learning.
Making data run in parallel to your systems today and in the future opens up new business opportunities.
Today many Energy Systems lack real-time data; they are not connecting up all the assets and remain in less than a sub-optimal state, highly reliant on a failure or on established human intervention approaches that only aggregate and generalize performance. Data taken directly from a series of sensors or smart devices calibrated to the asset profile and needs gives real-time or near real-time performance understanding.
Digitalization of your energy assets, designed on a platform, opens up a new age of digitalization of the Energy System to a radical set of new options that provide increased productivity, efficiencies, visibility and simulation that become more future-ready rapidly changing energy mix and its operation. Having your “actual” data and the ability to predict future patterns, designs, demands, and investment options open up the Energy system to considering and investigating new business options and revenue possibilities.
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The more you look around, you see impeding barriers to undergoing the energy changes required. Changing the energy system into one reliant on clean fuels is a monumental task. It is fraught with complexity, greater competition, increasing costs and a constant concern that energy demand is becoming less predictable.
The profound changes need better ways to unlock the value within the energy system. To do this, nearly all of the energy system needs to digitally transform, can it? Will it?
Looking outside the Energy industry to gain insights and value understanding
Digitalization, when we look around many industries, has given a higher level of predictive analytics. Data is informing current and future decisions. The combination of digitalization and automation is extracting cost improvements and actions that provide greater efficiency, transparency and manage these growing complexities.
Recognizing digitalizazion is seen differently within the Energy System
Every part of the energy system needs to make critical investment decisions in its digital future. Oil and Gas operators have growing volatility, Utilities face growing complexity in their power generation mix and grid management.
Refineries need to build an improved network of demand, trade far more across the globe. The renewable players offering wind and solar alternatives have to show the benefits of changing fuel sources, and digitalization gives them access to all the variables to cost and assess.
Service companies alongside OEM providers, need to remake their models and solutions digitally ready. Their need to build in the digital connecting points into their offerings so the physical gathers the data and can model ’cause and effect’ in real-time of the system itself.
The previous “dumb” station (without sensors or data capturing capabilities) where its effectiveness and reliability came from physical inspection or general experience. It was not based on the actual piece of equipment. Often it was after disruption it was fixed. This post concept cannot work in the future.
Equipping the offerings with data capturing abilities has to have a clear plan, not just collecting the data on one piece of equipment but connecting them up to give the real, longer-term value.
As confidence grows, the digital twin will begin to be valued for what it provides in the predictive modelling or simulation.
It is only once parts of the energy system begin to be connected up or thought about digitally, both in their design and future value the value of the data captured can offer a real business alternative to today’s operations.
Finally, the whole engineering, maintenance, construction, design, and procurements involved in managing energy require more dynamic management and going digital, so the visibility allows for greater leveraging of the systems.
Competitiveness and Collaboration
The inherent energy system was a closed one. It relied on perhaps one fuel source for generation, centrally managed, with a rigid grid and transmission system to deliver through.
Today, the consumer expects clean fuel electricity, generated by wind, solar or hydro, not the “dirty type” generated by the use of oil, coal or gas. That demand, coupled with the Paris agreement on climate, has given a different perspective to decarbonizing the supply.
New technologies that need to monitor and capture are required. These need sensors to track and determine omissions or measure efficiencies.
As different fuels enter the energy market, as energy opens up into a greater, deregulated market, old competitors become partners. They trade energy, combine in fuel purchases or infrastructure projects. Collaboration is changing the points of competitiveness.
Consumers have their own power to generate their energy needs by installing rooftop solar or combining in community cooperatives and generating surplus energy to enter the grid.
New supply sources need to be integrated into the energy system. It needs to be planned and controlled; its final product of electricity needs to accept, evaluate in value, and then re-direct. This cannot be undertaken by human interaction alone; it needs managing in a digitalized system.
Overcoming the difficulties inherent in the Energy System
There are different barriers to overcome. Many of these are historical that have a legacy attached to them; others are existing mindsets determined not to adopt or invest differently than the known and accepted practices.
Recognizing digitalization is seen differently within the Energy Systems
So what is holding holds digitalization back? Here is my take on the barriers
Firstly physicality rules
The sheer physicality of energy operations makes changing Energy operations incredibly difficult. Digital applications have to be on or built into the equipment on-site; The ruggedness of the sensors or data collecting equipment has to contend with many individual and unique challenges of the design, location and needs of capturing “that” data point. The cost of retrofitting established equipment needs revisiting the ROI, which enters a complicated domain of justification.
Energy operators demand high bars of proof that digital will give additional value. Some of these arguments enter the spheres of “safeguarding assets”, changing how they are assessed for their health and capturing real frontline value measuring for the investments.
The fact it is potentially dangerous needs enormous care in safety, energy security and offsetting risk as well as you can. This danger is throughout the energy system. Generating Energy or providing the energy chain requires total reliability and safety.
Regulations dominate, rules are in place, and changes to these take time, understanding, and multiple parties to become involved to assess the risks. Having digital equipment that requires electricity, such as in a potentially volatile environment, needs precaution and expertise.
A culture of being risk-averse dominates, some good reason, some not!
Over time, the culture with Energy companies has been specifically designed to be averse to risk for all the concerns and regulations to protect human life and physical property. Digitalization’s value to control and monitor enough requirements to meet regulatory demands is highly complex and drives efficiency and often cost validation. Reliant on digitalization is a slow, complicated process to make changes that give insights and extract value for the investments required. With the level of change, risk needs to be seen differently- controlled experimentation to explore and ready an organization limits risk. Exploring new ideas needs accelerating, and digital adoption is one of those areas where unique insights give added value to managing in a complex environment.
Finding a comprehensive universally recognized E-ERP system
It was not until we can achieve a reasonably complete Energy Enterprise Resouce Planning system we will get the full benefit of digitalization. As we saw with Enterprise Resource Planning software, it galvanized business organizations when introduced, eventually becoming the productivity tool to drive continuous improvements and evaluate a business in its entirety. At present, we have “apps” for specific needs to solve, but there is gaining a real need to have a comprehensive roadmap of how to connect up the whole system.
When you can harness data, information, and process supported in one system that will demonstrate clear improvements in the organization’s availability or standard operational details and practices, you have a game-changer.
Energy Enterprise Resource Planning’s primary purpose is to track, gather, and evaluate data to allow the sharing and dissemination of information efficiently within the organization and direct this to the appropriate decision points to determine value, action, response, and worth.
The Engineer-driven culture dominates Energy.
The mindset of the engineer is dominant. They are paid to do (or should do) rigorous evaluations and analysis; they relate to big, comprehensive projects and solutions. They build in margins of error to deliver perfect solutions to manage all eventualities. They find rapid assessments, flexibility, and adaptation that needs different thinking as uncomfortable territory.
The engineer dominates at all levels of the hierarchy, for a good reason but not when the need is for rapid change. Digital may seem a threat, but it gives them better oversight and validations if the engineer embraces it. Data engineers and analyzers can complement and balance out one dominating view. Different informed views can better serve any transformation as complex as the energy transition we are undertaking on future decisions.
There is a high dependence on third parties in a highly fragmented energy chain.
Supplier collaboration has a long history. It forms bonds in equipment supply, confidence building, in mutually supporting each other. Third-party management is highly reliant on relationships, often built up over years of managing good and bad times.
Digitalization needs to be embraced by all within that energy supply system. Still, the visibility changes the relationship dynamics, and there is a likely reluctance to disturb that without pressure applied. Digitalization is not connecting up the one; it is connecting up the many.
Global operations have a history of applying a playbook that works.
Digitalization disrupts no question. It challenges well-held positions as data becomes visible and can validate making change. The established career executive found in the Energy system has been managing in well-defined ways a business or operation, introducing new approaches, and deciding on data and not personal experience is challenging. To challenge that accepted wisdom, where the physical, high risk, highly engineered and longer-term evaluations might have different ways to be assessed is (deeply) uncomfortable.
Differently, thorough new assessments centred on the data-driven performance that can challenge and confront, reduce individual judgment, or local quantification need a new way of operating and working. The ‘good and appropriate’ data in the hands of the ‘good’ engineer or technician will, over time, see approaches, methodologies, and processes analyzed and understood differently from the past. The risk gets quantified in sophisticated modelling techniques, and decisions increasingly go up the line to central decision points a different way of managing. Digital challenges local capability, individual experiences, but not to cut across it, but to compliment it. Validation and proof points can be better shown and justified.
Managing all these sets of dynamics is not easy and instant.
Digitalization has to find and navigate a series of complex trade-offs and value-adding points, taking time within the Energy Systems.
Reimagining the Energy System where digitalization can deliver will be an extensive challenge. Digitalization will need to unlock value points, provide improved data and technology insights that demonstrate improved efficiencies and effectiveness. They need to enhance and provide the catalyst for change with the necessary changes in cultures and capabilities built up in managing Energy over the decades to accommodate the significant difference. Digitalization is a potential game-changer, but it is radical in its final design and outcome for all involved.
The ability to overcome inertia.
Inertia, as defined, is “a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless an external force changes that state.”
Digitalization is the external force that, when applied, shows the value-adding power required to overcome friction and the inertia of all the moving parts of a well-established Energy System.
It will take time, care and demonstration to break down all the barriers seemingly in place.
Reference, a great foundation document by McKinsey: “Achieving escape velocity, digital transformation in energy”
The application of digital technologies is firstly widely impacting the end-user, today called prosumers.
Today we are seeing increased sensors and use of devices that are optimizing process controls, providing industrial automation, give us smart thermostats, autonomous cars, and trucks, for example.
We see new services on providing greater security and comfort in intelligent street lighting, occupancy, and personal relationships with our buildings. We are beginning to work through the prospects of mobility as a service, remote control, unmanned drones, shipping, and possibly driverless cars, offering the potential for new business models. All of this comes mostly from digitalization being part of the final solutions to connect “it” to us.
“GE Digital introduced its Remote Operations for Oil & Gas and Chemical Industries, a software and appliance solution that provides employees with more secure remote equipment control for essential equipment monitoring and control functions. GE Digital began offering Remote Operations earlier in 2020 in the Power Generation industry and already has many worldwide industrial customers using the solution
With distant upstream facilities and harsh operating conditions, the Oil & Gas industry faces challenges in providing safe and cost-effective equipment monitoring, maintenance, and emergency response. At the refinery or plant, the global pandemic and economic pressures are triggering both Oil & Gas and Chemical companies to re-think their strategies regarding contingency operations, worker location flexibility, and on-site staffing. Continue reading “Remote Operations”
We are on the cusp of a new digital era in energy. Digital technology though has been involved in the energy system for decades.
What is new, is the pace of digitalization occurring through technological innovation, providing solutions that enable the energy system to be transformed? It is not any more islands of data it is moving towards entire energy systems being connected up and driving energy intelligence.
Digitalization across the energy landscape is determining the system-wide changes of connectivity; it is linking, monitoring, aggregating, and controlling assets to cause a fundamental “blurring” between who supplies and who consumes energy. Continue reading “The Digitalization of Energy”
Digitalization gives choices to all within the Energy System to build out more robust business models. Data changes the conversation
Not only does the digitalization of the energy system provide “data understanding” and the potential for real-time information and insights, but it can also give the building blocks to validating and scenario building required to narrow the gaps between demand and supply.
To achieve this you need “line of sight” and having a fully connected digital energy system can give real-time potential and the ability to improve predictability and the different “switching” opportunities to respond in fat more timely and focused ways. Continue reading “Digitalization gives Energy choices”
Digitalization can become the catalyst for engagement and connectivity within the energy system.
Its value is to provide safety, productivity, accessibility, reliability, transparency, resilience and offer sustainability and growing confidence that ‘our’ power is readily available 24 x 7. The digitalization of the energy system provides the background in the new architecture of the energy system that interconnects and drives our energy solutions.
As more and more deployment takes place, providing new connected technology, we see autonomous cars, home systems, and connected smart buildings offered as new end-user solutions. It is the data that is allowing AI and machine learning that are giving us this new form of digital intelligence.
The application of digital technologies is widely impacting end-use.
Today we are seeing increased sensors and use of devices that are optimizing process controls, providing industrial automation, give us smart thermostats, autonomous cars, and trucks, for example.
Digitalization is shaping our industries, our transport systems, and making our buildings more intelligent. Having greater knowledge through data insight makes us smarter to manage what we have.
Digitalization Of Energy
The goal needs to be that the digital technologies we introduce need to help us become more connected, intelligent, efficient, by having, resilience, reliability, and sustainability built into the energy system we are designing.
Energy systems are changing significantly; we are all becoming plugged into a progressively digitally renewable world. The internet of energy is way overdue to manage the changes in much of our energy transformation to reduce its complexity.
Digitalization brings us closer to the end-user – knowing your grid edge and how to respond makes it that smarter grid for all to benefit in response and greater relationships between users and providers.
The closer in proximity to end-use (homes, business, vehicles) is the grid edge as the hardware (things we can touch and see) such as solar panels, meters, energy storage systems, thermostats, appliances, and building controls. These “things” are being designed to connect and combined with grid edge software that triggers demand and optimization.
We are achieving through software the ability for greater data analytics or planning information that allows for a new form of aggregation. This gives us all a greater engagement in managing our energy consumption and begin to sell surplus electricity through the management of their own personal energy system. Continue reading “Digital brings us closer in Energy System Understanding”
What is changing within the Energy Transition? So much is underway, we are in the early stages of a very radical redesign. A move away from central fossil fuel dependency into a distributed system having renewables at its heart.
The diversity of fuels as we undertake the transformation needs managing. This management is increasingly coming from the ability to digitize everything. To know in real-time what is happening, in demand generation, in supply, in the distribution of energy requires very different management, it needs the internet of energy. Continue reading “Digitalizing the Energy System, building the why”
The whole energy system is awaking to the significant impact that digital is having on its transition towards a different level of energy management.
The industrial internet of things (IIoT) has been accelerating in its use and recognition of what the digital enterprise is meaning. They recognized that organizations that deploy data and technology are recognizing the advantage of continuously evolving all aspects of their business model in its efficiency, effectiveness and value impacts.