Energy System Innovation and Digitalization
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
A successful transition to a net-zero emissions energy system is what it takes to avoid appalling consequences that climate change can bring upon us in the near future.
Do you know where we are in this clean energy transition at the moment?
And what we can do accelerate this clean energy transition?
Now more than ever, energy industry needs to bring its innovation focus even more to the entire system, and not only to energy generation technologies, such as wind and solar.
In my opinion, we have finally come to end of the phase one of the energy transition journey. I am saying it because renewable energy generation technologies such as wind and solar have already gained a foothold in the energy market and are already in a position to knock out unsustainable baseload plants. Phase one has proved that renewables have already become the cheapest source of electricity in almost every country in the world today and still continue to be cheaper and more efficient.
Now, comes phase two of clean energy transition, It would require holistic approach to innovation. Phase two requires to look at a system with all its components, and at all the actors with roles that are necessary to enable large scale use of clean energy. It’s important to understand that only energy generation won’t lead us to a net-zero emissions energy system. I think energy generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption is holding some part of the solution and only when all of these solutions are integrated and fit together then only we can have more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable energy system.
In this phase two, I see digital technologies like big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence that are undoubtedly going to play a large part in the energy sector in the future.
We have already entered into the digital age. Digital technologies are everywhere, affecting the way we live, work, travel and play. Every industry is trying to integrate digital technology into all areas of their businesses in order to fundamentally change how they operate and deliver value to customers. I am very optimistic and think of digital technology as an immense opportunity to create value for both industry and society.
Thanks to the digital technologies that finally our energy systems around the world are on track to become more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable.
Data is, of course, king in the digital world. Therefore, Digitalization of energy is impossible without access to large, representative and good quality datasets. My research has shown that the availability and use of energy system data in many countries has historically been poor, owing to fragmented and siloed datasets and a lack of sectoral experience in managing large and diverse datasets.
Therefore, I think before going too far in the digitalization of energy journey. We need to answer some important questions about availability, accessibility, and quality of energy datasets.
Questions like what data do we need and how, where, and why should it be managed and shared?
If we can get the digitalization thing right for energy then that enhanced collaboration between with industry, regulators, grid operators, consumers can improve the safety, productivity, accessibility and sustainability of energy systems. But as everything else digitalization has a cost too (i.e. new security and privacy risks). The best way to mitigate security and privacy risks associated with digital energy systems is by urging policy makers to include security considerations in all publicly supported technology research and design programmes, and in product manufacturing through standard-setting.