Advances in the energy industry are not surprising since it was one of the earliest to embrace digital technologies way back in the 1970s. Today, the early adoption is paying dividends.
Guest Column by Anil Chaudhry
The World Economic Forum’s Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact report reveals dramatic predictions for 2025. These include 10% people wearing garments connected to the Internet; the first 3D-printed liver transplant; the first city housing 50,000-plus residents but without traffic lights; etc.
Clearly, digital disruptions are impacting multiple sectors, including energy. Every year, digital innovations are making energy systems more connected, efficient, accessible, reliable, smarter, safer and sustainable. Advances in the energy industry are not surprising since it was one of the earliest to embrace digital technologies way back in the 1970s. This was when power utilities deployed emerging technologies in facilitating operations and grid management.
Today, the early adoption is paying dividends because buildings are responsible for almost one-third of global energy usage and 55% of its electricity demand. In fact, in swiftly-emerging economies such as India and China, electricity demand in buildings grew by an average of more than 8% annually during the past decade. Here is where digitalisation via smart lighting and smart grids, among others, can reduce total energy consumption by up to 10% in residential and commercial structures between this year and 2040.
Worldwide, the shift towards the new era of efficient energy is propelled by the 3Ds: digitalisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation. These three factors are determining how companies are purchasing power, deploying energy and operating in a more sustainable manner. Digitalisation is boosting the complete value chain from power generation right up to consumption, ensuring better efficiency, greater control and higher value from limited resources.
Coming to decarbonisation, it is enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability of operations. Research indicates almost 82% of cost-effective energy efficiency potential remains untapped in buildings. In the case of industry, the figure stands at more than 50%. For energy grids, experience shows the demand side delivers thrice the amount of decarbonisation compared to the supply side. Decarbonisation can be enhanced by tracking the carbon footprints of all company activities and services through a sustainability index. This can help in innovating and creating products and services having higher energy efficiency and, thereby, moving towards becoming a carbon-neutral company.
Decentralisation is driven by deep declines in the costs of distributed generation, distributed storage and other expenses on distributed energy resources, spurring flexibility in demand and greater energy efficiency. Decentralisation opportunities are increasing in solar, smart grids, micro-grids and grid automation. As renewable energy rates keep falling and more efficient storage solutions keep arising, decentralisation will accelerate.
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