“To implement sustainability in line with expectations of citizens around the world, we have to look at sustainability as part of our core business model. it has to be loaded into everything we do, with the idea that we will produce a better outcome,” said the Global Managing Director of IBM Energy, Environment & Utility Industry Brad Gammons at the Conference of the Electric Power Supply Industry (CEPSI) 2018, which was recently held in Kuala Lumpur.
industry could leverage tools such as blockchain for renewable energy credits
Currently, some 200 solar power prosumers – producer and consumer of electricity – in the New York City residential area are using blockchain – the technology allows for the trading of cryptocurrency – to trade the excessive energy they generated with their neighbours.
Gammons explained that the advance of technology happening today reflects the societal desire for sustainability and better environmental quality. He highlighted that the industry could leverage digital tools such as blockchain for renewable energy credits or green token for the acceleration of the renewables deployment.
According to Gammons, this requires data to be shared, used, accessed, and processed in a way that meets the sustainable needs and business needs.
Several keynote speakers in the conference also shared a similar view that big data will be driving the decision-making and enable cost savings.
To illustrate, Jonathan Woetzel, Senior Partner of McKinsey & Company, used the example of a power plant that collects 30,000 data points every minute, and such big data analytics could help utility companies optimise their spending, save cost across the value chain, and provide better customer care.
How can technology help businesses help the environment?
Indranil Lahiri, President & CEO of Siemens Malaysia, also pointed out there will be 50 billion generation points, which are assets connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, but this huge amount of data is not being fully tapped into; “what we analysed is only 0.5% of the data that we had.”
For example, he said, the company saved about 7 billion euros by using data on Siemen’s IoT-platform EnergyIP, analytics, energy production, asset typology, asset monitoring, and so on.
Besides opportunities enabled by digitisation, the rapid decline of the prices of solar and wind power technology also drove up the global deployment of renewables. Woetzel said the cost of renewables would reach its tipping point in the next five to ten years, while the capacity of solar and wind will increase by 70% globally.
The demand for electricity will be growing but demand for primary energy will be shrinking, he added.
Dr. Ken Koyama, Chief Economist & Managing Director of Institute of Energy Economics-Japan (IEEJ), said that electricity and transportation will account for 75% of global energy demand in 2050.
He said the global commitment to decarbonisation under the climate accord provides a big opportunity to the power industry, especially in the mobility segment, as some countries such as France and United Kingdom are set to ban internal combustion engines for cars.
Dr. Alexander Kotouc, Head of Product Management BMW i of BMW Group, gave the example of the latest hybrid car developed by his company, which allows owners to have good motion experience but emits less carbon dioxide. However, he shared the reality check that despite the sales of electric vehicles increasing rapidly to 100,000 units in 2017, it was still small compared with the global car fleet of 2 million the same year.
While the increase in renewable energy deployment could help reduce CO2 emissions, Lahiri warned of the challenge faced by utilities to balance the load swing, the difference between the peak and base system loads over a given period of time. Germany, a pioneer in energy transition, experienced a huge load swing of 10GW to 53GW, he said.
The intermittent nature of renewables is also said to have caused instability in the power grid. Energy storage system could be one of the solutions.
renewables and battery allow the grid to perform better.
Tesla’s storage system, for example, has expanded rapidly in scale and flexibility. The company’s ambitious energy storage projects in South Australia have already shown that renewables and battery allow the grid to perform better. Its batteries also have the flexibility of having its capacity upgraded, without having to lock-in the technology with a 20-year contract – a costly standard for some power generation infrastructures.
Indeed, there are a plethora of platforms that could be used by utility companies to ride on the trend of low-carbon energy transition, but the value of environmental sustainability must be incorporated into their business model. The technology to drive forward sustainability is already present, but to be able to really take off, everyone in the energy ecosystem will need to be onboard.