The vision of a low-carbon future allied with advances in the information technology sector are set to become game changers that will shift the future energy landscape as technology gives rise to peripheral industries and cross-sector transformations.
The future of energy generation is embedded in the advancement of smart technologies, with developments in energy storage technology, electric vehicles, distributed generation, inter-regional integration, microgrids, smart integrated infrastructure (SII) and smart grids the tip of the iceberg for this sector that continues to face complex headwinds.
Speaking to Engineering News Online this week, a panel from Black & Veatch discussed the latest trends in the energyindustry, agreeing that significant change was on the horizon as smart high-tech solutions – from generation source to end-user – formed the basis of the trends the company believes will shape the future development of the energysector.
Black & Veatch communications director Patrick MacElroy said that, in the past 12 months, the power sector globally had already undergone a massive transformation, with many trends heading to South Africa’s shores on the back of the adaptation to the renewable-energy influx and ever-rising demands from technological developments.
Aside from the growing trends of microgrids, energy storageand inter-regional integration, there are increasing requirements to be more efficient, more cost-effective and more low-carbon-driven by leveraging smart, analytically-driven infrastructure as utilities deal with ageing infrastructure.
“We are at the end of the era of dumb infrastructure,” he explained, noting the drive for innovation to navigate the new power grid landscape globally and allow increased customer participation, as many end-users also increasingly take control of their home energy consumption and servicesthrough remote monitoring systems.
Data analytics, smart grid improvements and systemmonitoring was “absolutely” transforming the industry, MacElroy noted.
For decades, there were like-for-like replacements on ageing infrastructure; however, in recent times, it had become about replacing analogue with digital, embedding smart two-way communications “hooked” into the broader performance operation system, which is then running a data analytics engine on top of that.
Sub-Saharan Africa business development director Webb Meko explained that, in line with this, SII was becoming more common, with the leveraging of data and analytics an essential element to enabling smart utilities and smart cities. This also allows for automation, real-time information, remote operations control, monitoring and vital data analytics.
“We are forced to be more efficient [and] cost effective,” he said, noting that SII enabled pathways to maximise resourcesefficiently.
Black & Veatch South Africa regional manager Joseph Mahendran said it made sense for South Africa to adopt the analytical approach, as cities continue to integrate its critical systems, including water, power and transport.
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