Hardship has often been the fuel for invention. As the world emerges from the pandemic, the energy industry will be key in restarting economies and helping countries recover from the effects of COVID-19. Here are six innovations for the energy industry that could equip and empower its workforce in the wake of COVID-19.
With the necessary technology readily available and social distancing measures taking a precedence in working life from here on, we now have a bigger motive now to keep humans safe from dangerous, physically taxing or time-consuming jobs by deploying automation to aid in previously manual processes.
One piece of consumer technology that is currently entering the industrial sector is drone technology; these popular consumer technologies have the ability to inspect pipelines, powerlines, and other assets owned by energy corporations remotely, and transmit the data collected to operators.
Some of the other ways robots can cleverly help humans navigate tough times include fixing offshore wind turbines, cleaning large solar PV panels, and inspecting power plant boiler rooms. While the workforce may fear the acceleration towards automation, this transition will also mean the creation of new roles, career paths, and economic opportunities.
2. Enhanced Remote Analytics
Big data was already transforming the energy industry prior to the crisis. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), devices in remote locations help deliver information about equipment – allowing energy companies detect issues and forecast electricity supply and demand. For example, robots patrolling the grid would collect information through sensors and feed them to data scientists to process.
Through IOT, infrastructures can be assessed remotely.
Remote analytics enable electricity utilities to monitor and manage their infrastructure in real-time, through the convenience of a dashboard or tool. With the right analysis and action, data analytics could help reduce downtime, increase efficiency and optimise workforce.
Smart meters are part of this journey. Using these Advanced Metering Infrastructures (AMI), energy companies are able to manage, predict, and prevent energy theft through remote controlling. For consumers, smart meter technology empowers them to monitor and manage home energy usage conveniently; it’s a two-way exchange that benefits both the end-user and the utility provider.
3. 3D Printing
It might once have seemed like the realm of science fiction, but 3D printing is now a growing part of our industrial ecosystem. The era of 3D printing offers pretty exciting opportunities for the energy industry, providing high-quality, lightweight, on-demand parts.
3D printing reduces the supply chain challenges of existing manufacturing, something which has come into focus during COVID-19. It also helps reduce lead times, eliminate waste, and significantly reduce the energy and resource burden of accessing vital parts. These innovative savings will be critical for an evolving energy industry that’s in the midst of slowly revamping the way we source, manufacture and distribute electricity, to a more efficient and robust energy ecosystem.
4. Remote Working Tools
The adoption of augmented and virtual reality technologies was already gaining traction prior to the current crisis. For the energy industry, innovations like augmented reality (AR) headsets equip engineers in the field with detailed technical schematics or virtual support. The AR headset combines a how-to manual, interactive guide, and virtual support team rolled into one tool, helping teams adhere to social distancing guides while maintaining operational efficiency.
Virtual reality (VR) further enhances this experience, offering a virtual training and support environment where engineers can practice essential repairs or techniques. These virtual environments provide a engineers, analysts, and technicians the opportunity to remotely analyse and diagnose problems without needing to access physical sites. To top that off, having aspects such as an automated checklist or error detection system will help eliminate human error in high-stakes jobs, while allowing valuable human resources to be deployed elsewhere.
5. Energy Efficiency Technologies
In the wake of the pandemic, any cost-saving measure or mechanism will prove invaluable to businesses and families alike. Businesses that implement moderate efficiency improvements are estimated to benefit from energy savings of about 10%. Consumers looking to manage their financial spend would also benefit from employing these technologies.
Tools such as Malaysia’s MAEVI smart home device offer enhanced energy monitoring and home automation to reduce energy use. Simple mobile app solutions like allow quick reference to energy consumption. The more consumers know about energy consumption, the more efficient they can be. With our home appliances and personal devices becoming increasingly high-tech, consumers can now track and manage their usage of high-energy devices to be more efficient with their energy consumption.
Other innovations catalysing the energy industry include smart lighting that illuminates only when needed, enhanced building materials that limit heat waste, industrial technologies that reduce fuel consumption and emissions, all contribute to this opportunity.
6. Electric Vehicles And Battery Storage
One of the greatest challenges in unlocking a green energy revolution is managing the intermittent and variable power generated by renewable energy sources. Battery storage could provide a solution to the problem – a solution further driven by electric vehicles. It is estimated that the global rise of electric vehicles will represent a 40 terawatt-hour battery storage opportunity by 2050.
This is significantly higher than the estimated needs of the grid. Electric vehicle batteries could provide mobile power reserves that integrate seamlessly with a smart electricity grid, providing battery storage for a grid increasingly powered by solar and wind. This is a visionary future of a smart city where transport and power generation combine to promote a more sustainable future. While this opportunity would require significant investment to upgrade existing grid infrastructure, it provides a unique roadmap to support a renewable-powered future. More importantly, a flexible and adaptive grid like this will pave the way to electrifying communities that have been left behind during this technological revolution.