Putting Digital into Energy

Today energy needs transforming; it needs to have digital energy solutions fundamentally designed-in.

We are in a new age, the technology age and much needs to be challenged and pushed into the energy systems in significant ways; it needs to transform the way we manage energy.. This is no different from the arrival of the industrial age; it changes society dramatically. One industry that needs a really serious catch-up and becomes better connected is the energy system.

We are dealing with a completely different set of mindsets, skills, procedures, governance, processes and responsibilities. The energy manager has been focused on the physical. The investments in oil rigs, getting coal, oil or gas out of the ground,  in providing the infrastructure, in power generation turbines, in delivering power all are heavy on the physical need and investment returns from these assets.

The massive shift today is less so on getting something out of the ground, it is harnessing wind, solar and water. These are far from asset-light alternatives, but they have a need to be managed very differently.

VER is changing our energy game.

The term “Variable Energy Resource” (VER) refers to any generation resource whose output is not perfectly controllable by a transmission system operator, and whose output is dependent on a fuel resource that cannot be directly stored or stockpiled and whose availability is difficult to predict.

Wind and solar power generation are the primary VERs since the sun does not shine all the time (even during the day, clouds and dust can interfere with solar power generation in surprising ways) and the wind does not blow all the time. In some cases, hydroelectricity without storage (so-called “run of river” hydro) could be considered a VER since its output is dependent on streamflows at any given moment.

VERs are, in some sense, defined respective to so-called “dispatchable” or “controllable” power generation resources, which encompasses fossil-fuel plants, nuclear, and some hydroelectricity (with reservoir storage). (Source of reference)

There is a very different need for the management of energy. Variability with respect to electricity demand is also important. If you think about it, electric system operators don’t really care about variability in demand or in VERs per se – what they care about is being able to match supply and demand on a continuous basis. 

The introduction of variability, in the complexity of power sources, the need to respond to a variable demand where you have limited visibility of the energy grid adds complications.

The cost of energy from all the different sources is also creating a different dynamic, buyers want reliability, security, but at the lowest cost, sellers need to become more effective in managing the efficiencies and managing the numerous losses up and down the energy system.

Today, digital is rapidly becoming the answer. We need to digitalize the whole energy system for a complete line of sight but not just for the provider but for all those engaged and involved in their energy management.

We need to invest in a dedicated Internet of Energy.

To gain from the digital revolution taking place, we need a robust, comprehensive and radical overhaul of much of what is going on within our organizations or they will not survive the current revolution occurring all around us.

The need is to transform many of the existing organizations into radically different forms of collaborative entities that have intelligence, innovation, customer understanding of their real needs, deep connections, global reach in technology and resource capability and access to meet market needs, to scale and scope, delivering to each customer’s specific needs.  This presently can only come from participating or building-specific and unique platforms and ecosystems. This is digitally connected.

Innovation is hugely caught up in this transforming change.

There is an urgent quest in finding different approaches to allow the human side to shape, interpret and extract the value not just in what they want to see but through different lenses and it is through technology that allows this ‘greater’ connection to take hold and finally allow for a new level of innovation activity to occur.

It will be through the effective leveraging of all the different technologies that will fuel the innovation activity but in these new platforms of collaboration and ecosystems required to deliver game-changing or game reversing innovation offerings that will counter the usurper and strengthen the competitive advantage as a community of innovators can require a lock-in of considerable value, uniqueness and power.

What needs changing is the innovation process to accommodate these changes that are occurring all around us. We will need to transform much within our systems but more importantly, to orientate our skills to receive, translate and diffuse new knowledge, in significantly different ways.

The balance in innovation activity is changing, and it is digitally enabling.

Whole new business propositions are emerging, where technology drives the change and many established organizations we know today are powerless to stop as they are unable to adapt fast enough to transform their business model as their energy systems are in such radical change.

The need is to transform many of the existing capturing points that have intelligence, innovation, customer understanding of the real-time energy understanding to drive energy into a new design. Digital needs to be alongside the physical, as an equally valuable partner within the management of energy.

The era of digital energy is upon us.

Author: @paul4innovating

A transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, and digitalization for the energy and IIoT systems

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