06 JAN 2018
AI the Internet of Things and smart storage Technologies set to disrupt the energy industry
During the past 30 years, companies have sought to improve operational efficiencies and cut costs in all manner of ways, but one of the potentially biggest savings and “quick wins” for businesses – energy efficiency – has yet to be fully exploited.
Energy is one the largest operating expenses for business of all sizes and in all industries. Reducing its cost can help a company’s bottom line and reduce the strain on electricity networks.
Technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI) and energy storage are helping companies improve their energy efficiency and save money.
Energy efficiency is becoming a high priority for business, particularly heavy energy users. In 2016, in the US alone, 190 of America’s largest “Fortune 500” companies saved a total of about US $3.7 billion through energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Internet of Things and “Demand Side Response”
Demand side technologies are transforming how businesses use and deliver energy. The technology works by automatically adjusting the power consumption of equipment on a second-by-second basis to help manage fluctuations in electricity supply and demand. These adjustments have zero impact on a company’s operations but help to build a smarter, more responsive system which supports renewables and the wider energy transition.
Businesses on a Demand Side Response (DSR) scheme commit to reducing or shifting their energy consumption when electricity demand from the Grid threatens to exceed supply. Businesses which can be flexible with their consumption are rewarded for shifting or reducing demand, or by making capacity available through onsite generation, when needed.
United Utilities, one of the UK’s main water companies, is using a “smart box” from Open Energi, a DSR technology company, which allows its equipment to ‘talk’ to the UK’s electricity grid, National Grid.
The company’s motors and pumps automatically adjust their energy consumption in seconds, in response to variations in power frequency. By 2020 United Utilities aims to provide the National Grid with 50MW of energy capacity − allowing the company to reduce its energy consumption while getting additional revenue from the grid.
In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is considering demand side management technology to support its goal of reducing its energy consumption by 30% by 2030.
Artificial Intelligence and automation
AI is poised to revolutionize the way we produce, transmit and consume energy, by becoming the brain of this future smart grid.
The technology could continuously collect and synthesize data from millions of sensors across a city or country to make decisions on how to best allocate energy resources. As AI is more widely adopted, it will become even smarter by spotting patterns and anomalies in large data sets, which further revolutionise both the demand and supply side of the energy economy.
DeepMind, the world leading AI research company, has been working with Google to improve the energy efficiencies of its data centres. By applying its machine learning technology, DeepMind has been able to achieve a 40 percent reduction in the amount of energy used for cooling.
At present data centres consume around 3 per cent of the global electricity supply – with this figure expected to treble in the next decade, putting an enormous strain on energy supplies. By applying AI to data centres alone to make them more efficient could have a major impact on our electricity networks.
Business are using new energy storage systems to improve energy security and generate new revenue streams. They do this by storing low cost energy when demand is low and selling it back to the grid at peak times, when costs are higher.
Alternatively, a business can use its stored energy at its own peak times or to cope with changes in seasonal demand.
When storage is combined with renewable generation, such as solar and wind, business and industry have the potential to be self-sufficient and work off the grid.
At a grid level, energy storage has a number of applications beyond time-shifting energy, which are key for making the grid smarter and more efficient.
Improving energy efficiency is a quick win for business. It allows them to reduce costs, improve energy security and potentially generate new revenue streams. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses and industrial players must begin to invest in technologies and processes for managing energy − a resource which is now a key factor in business success.