Digital transformation is reshaping the energy sector

Posted Jul 13, 2017 by Tim Sandle
Big data analytics and the Internet of Things are reshaping the energy sector. The biggest gains are with the way power plants operate, in terms of cost savings, and the way assists are managed.
The electrical grid brings electricity from the power source into our homes and businesses.
The electrical grid brings electricity from the power source into our homes and businesses.
Fitrah Hamid, Georgia Tech
Companies in the energy industry are using digital transformation to their advantage. Real-time analytics and a range of connected devices are helping energy providers redefine the way power plants and assets are monitored, managed and serviced, and helping them determine where value and efficiencies can be located.
Power Grid Network
An interconnected electrical grid network for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers.
Doug Waldron
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Energizing data and the IoT
Some key examples of how digital transformation has added value to the sector have been highlighted by Mark Homer, Vice President of Global Customer Transformation for ServiceMax (a GE Digital company). Homer discussed how data analytics and the IoT are impacting energy companies today:
-Increased automation: by applying computer controlled automation to turbines, for instance, through the use of digital sensors then fine tuning can be undertaken with the view of exacting more power out of existing machinery.
-Performance monitoring: The digital capture and recording of information allows engineers to study operations in-depth over time and to make incremental improvements. This can be enhanced through specialized software. Some of this can be automated through smart technology. Knowing the performance of turbines at different points of time allows service schedules to be updated, which can save on engineer time.
-Cloud based IT: Making performance data, of things like generators, more accessible allows information to be responded too faster and the appropriate resources to be deployed. Through data analytics engineers can gain a better understanding of which particular piece of machinery is most likely to fail. This knowledge helps to reduce downtime.
-Managing remote assets: this is particularly important when rural areas are managed by localized power supplies.
Energy companies looking to gain value and efficiencies through the use of new technology should be seeking these key forms of transformation, according to Homer. And you don't have to look far and wide to find industry leaders that are already adopting some of these innovative methods.
Intelligent power
One example of the successful application of improved data analytics is with PPL Electric. The company has reported a 38 percent improvement in service reliability since implementing the new technology.
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‘Smart grids’ are also enabling utilities to gain deeper insights on capacity demand and to vary power consumption more intelligently according to business or consumer. The Oklahoma Gas & Electric company has undertaken a related initiative, taking customer analytics to gain review individual customers’ responses to price signals and using this to run specific marketing campaigns.
Smart Meters are the wave of the future for the power grid. As more people use electrical appliances...
Smart Meters are the wave of the future for the power grid. As more people use electrical appliances and devices, a more efficient system of tracking and maintaing power use is required for the 21st Century.
Courtesy of PG&E media department
These different examples show how utilities are digitally transforming their processes. There remains considerable scope, however, for more activities. According to the Exelon Corporation, less than two percent of data relating to the energy industry is captured, and the data that is collected is primarily done without automation.