Digitalisation and energy

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Digitalisation and Energy

One of the pillars of our modern society as well as our economy is energy. As global warming is one of the biggest problems for several years now, we notice that energy is increasingly produced in a "green" and ecological way, this is the energy transition.

This development of the renewable energy sector goes hand in hand with more and more efficient technologies in the production of green energy but also makes what happens on the electricity grid more complex. Today, anyone can be a producer of electricity, which has therefore led to an increase in complexity (multiple and decentralised sources) and a need to improve electricity grids.

Some countries, such as Denmark, for example, use green energy as their main source of energy. This means that more than half of the country's total energy comes from a renewable energy source (60% for Denmark). In order to succeed in their energy transition or even to start it, these countries needed the help of digitalisation to identify producers, consumers, develop new technologies, find network gaps, strengthen cybersecurity, etc.

Digitalisation was unavoidable for the energy sector because producing energy or green electricity is useless if the network is not efficient behind it. Some tasks, which had become too complex, were no longer feasible for humans.

This led to better planning of demand, optimisation of plant maintenance, better management of spare parts, better management of fuel (used when the demand for electricity is lower than the supply in a country essentially based on renewable energy), to reduce losses, to allow everyone to be a producer and a consumer of electricity at the same time.

This is made possible in particular by the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and artificial intelligence (IA).

Benefits from the Internet of Things

IIoT has enabled electricity suppliers and the renewable industry to collect a huge amount of data. Development of smart meters and smart grids equipped with sensors collecting these data on production, consumption, state of equipment as mentioned above. But these sensors do not allow us to be as reactive as possible during an increase in demand, where the deficit is made up by energy storage technologies; artificial intelligence takes care of this. As electricity cannot be stored as such, it has to be transformed into energy in order to store it and then later re-process it (hydroelectric, mechanical, thermal storage, etc.).

The Role of IA

AI will enable data analysis, forecasting models (on meteorological conditions, production forecasts) and autonomous action if necessary. Combined with energy storage systems, this makes it possible to make up for a disadvantage of renewable energy which is the fluctuation of production: it is not always hot, there is not always wind. On a smaller scale, AI allows us to gain in efficiency by optimising and reducing the energy consumption of buildings equipped with sensors.

Smart grids

The Smart Grid is an electricity transmission and distribution network that is made more efficient by digital control, monitoring and telecommunications capabilities. It ensures a bidirectional, real-time exchange of energy and information between the various players in the electricity chain, from the production site to commercial, industrial, and residential users.

Via their connection to smart meters and the use of control tools, consumers have all the information about their consumption and can switch off devices in their houses in case of peak consumption (so electricity price is high). For example, being advised by the control tools to charge the batteries of electric cars at night or at another time when it is economically better.