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article imageElectricity sector can unlock trillions by going digital

By Tim Sandle     Oct 10, 2017 in Business
According to a review by the World Economic Forum the complete digital transformation of the electricity industry could unlock $1.3 trillion of value.
The World Economic Forum analysis finds that types of building blocks of digitization that the electricity sector can use include service platforms, smart devices, the ‘cloud’ and advanced analytics. Focal points should include making the asset life cycle of infrastructure more efficient; optimizing electricity network flows; and innovating with customer-centric products like home smart meters. Five examples of digital transformation are outlined below.
Cloud computing
As an example of making use of the cloud, General Electric recently announced it is to work with the company AWS to host more than 2,000 of its apps on a cloud platform operated by Amazon. This includes the services offered by the corporation's utility arm GE Power.
According to Chris Drumgoole, Chief Technology Officer and Corporate Vice President at General Electric this collaboration is designed to allow for the formation of a "secure, scalable and flexible platform onto which to migrate critical elements of infrastructure."
Asset management
Asset management can be made more reliable through automation, to increase accuracy and to decrease monotonous tasks.
The electricity sector is starting to uncover the possibilities, and this month Schneider Electric announced a partnership with MaxGrip, designed to create a comprehensive asset lifecycle management system composed of assessment services and risk-based maintenance capabilities. The platform allows a review and benchmarking of HSE (health, safety and environment), cost control, resource allocation, use of OT/IT systems and asset utilization.
Smart meters
Many customers of electricity companies have concerns about costs and monitoring expenditure. There is also a shift from companies to consumers about 'controlling' energy use. This is one reason why smart meters have become popular, and those energy firms offering this service are showing economic growth.
An example is with EDF Energy, which offers meters that allow customers to monitor energy use and energy cost in real time. Energy companies can also use the collected data to offer individual customers different packages and rates, through analysis of usage graphs to highlight peak energy usage times.
Smart turbines
Some energy technology providers are playing a key role in digitizing the industry. An example is with suites of smart turbines and panels. Smart turbines are useful for providing electricity to remote areas. The turbines are 'smart' because they adapt to function when energy use is required and have storage capability. An example is with hydrokinetic turbines, which works like wind turbines underwater.
Grid optimization and aggregation
The process of grid optimization and aggregation concerns real-time load balancing and network controls. This can be enabled by connected devices plus advanced monitoring capability.
Through this technology electricity companies can receive usage information from customers and customers can be sent up-to-the-minute pricing signals and tariffs. Artificial intelligence can be used to automate these procedures.
An example of this process is with German utility company RWE, which recently unveiled one of the world's first virtual power plants, made up of nine small hydro facilities networked to deliver power to the transmission grid.
Although these innovations demonstrate how the sector is changing, the World Economic Forum assessment indicates there remains a long way to go for the "maturity of digital initiatives in the industry is varied."
More about Electricity, digital transformation, Power