The growing areas of digitalization of 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.

Digitalization is about to reshape transportation, and its energy design and consumption need to be redesigned to adapt. The whole smart, digitally-enabled charging devises of electric vehicles where recharging can be more optimized at “off-peak” times

In our buildings, undoubtedly we can predict and respond to changes in weather, occupancy, and understanding the ‘connected’ parts of a building, so our energy consumption can improve operational efficiency in lighting, predicting, and managing heating and cooling.

In industry we can continue to advance our processes through digitalization coupling sensors and analytics to predict potential equipment failure, repair them remotely, allow AI and machine learning to improve productivity through the use of robotics, 3 D printing and provide connectivity both within the plant and to other locations, to manage and monitor production in new digital ways.

Traditional fuel providers are equally applying digitalization solutions

Within traditional energy consumption areas of the oil and gas industry, in coal and the power sector, the value of deploying more imaginative digital solutions can enhance operations, build-out more modeling options on the data gathered, provide a more significant opportunity for automation and predictive maintenance.

Digital assessments of physical plant and networks can reduce downtime and extend the operational lifetime of assets through monitoring and deploying solutions that rely on their digital component (drones, tele-remote equipment, driverless trucks controlled by a control room due to harsh conditions). Applying more digital applications enables these industries to optimize and stay competitive with the alternatives in renewables.

We need to be digitally smart in renewables

The other significant gain from digitally connected systems within the energy system is the new opportunities that the new connecting points between generation and consumption will bring. Smart appliances will enable intelligent demand response; digital can integrate variable renewables  (ones that rely upon the sun and wind) to match energy demand response.

For this integration to happen we need to design a more decentralized energy system that can facilitate distributed energy resources, so we can store energy and have it available on demand. Blending different energy sources needs a different digitally smart energy system to optimize options and provide electricity in more flexible and adaptive ways.

Digital solutions will need to draw more energy than before

As we build out the new energy systems, there will be a need for more data centers, building data networks, and the massive proliferation of all the connected devices. The challenge is, as digitalization solutions consume more energy, we need to continue to drive devise and designs to be more efficient and have higher standby capacity.

As we become increasingly reliant on this digitally connected, the energy-hungry world we are heading towards, it is one that needs managing in new ways as we become more climate aware and expect clean energy to be made available 24 x 7.

The back end of energy consumption is moving to generation

The back-end of energy is undergoing a transformation for tha ability to makes sure their is “line-of-sight” to know the demands of the prosumer in their homes, their electric car needs and much much more. As home owners will become surplus energy generators they will need to return this power back into the grid, so they can benefit in being a power supplier. That changes the way utilities view energy flows, these new consumers and suppliers of energy and know how to utilize it efficoently and effectively. For that digitalization is required to connect all the points of energy flow to know what demand and supply is constantly needed.

The need to see the flow of energy effectively

The ability to “see” the energy flows throughout the engery system from power generation, through different utilization of types of energy, the transmission and distribution as well as knowing when and where to store or move across grid boundaries and knowing the consumption of these prosumers all needs connecting up.

The power of digital for energy is critical

Author: @paul4innovating

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

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