Energy Cloud: The Curve of Digital Forwardness



Energy Cloud: The Curve of Digital Forwardness
By Riasat Noor

There is a core paradox at the converging point of the global energy consumption and geopolitical platform: the world is projected to have a total population of 9 billion by 2050, with energy demand up 200%. To continue and sustain the ever increasing pace of industrialization, the Big Oil (the largest oil & gas companies in the world) needs to strategize the delivery mechanism and ensure the maximum energy access over the period.

Digitalization is the avant-garde solution in this dilemma when the energy giants are looking for disruptive changes to meet the growing energy demand around the world. For instance, the revolution of energy cloud can result in around $1 trillion worth of new global investment down the value chain of the energy industry for the next 30 years (or more). In addition, another $1-1.5 trillion worth investment in digital infrastructure and associated services can be attained in the value chain by 2030.

Ushered by the blessing of technological advance, the global power and energy industry has transcended to a dynamic platform of two-way, intelligent grid architecture, known as the ‘energy cloud’. This is an emerging trend in the power and utility industry borrowed from the concept of cloud computing and internet of things (IoT). This cloud network, similar to IT networks, is able to increase efficiencies in solar, wind and energy systems across consumers. The four key trends pushing this movement are: transition from a central grid to decentralized grids, multiple customer choices, increased regulations to reduce GHG emissions, and greater data availability.

Dissecting the Digital Disruptor of Energy

The need for mass energy has translated the technological improvements into newer forms of energy clouds. This disrupting technology includes Shale’s game changing drilling technology, i.e., horizontal drilling, and seismic imaging in South China Sea and IDCOL’s revolutionary Solar Home System (SHS) in Bangladesh to Tesla’s super energy-saving and ecofriendly hybrid vehicles in Germany.

At the heart of the digitized energy could is a changed market structure that is more swift, responsive and transparent. The structure is a combination of five S’s: semiconductors, solar, storage, sensor and software. The combination of these complementing units enables a centralized energy system where energy generation and power consumption become more decentralized and data-driven for the changing landscape. The central core of the energy cloud serves the interconnected interest of power plants and electric system to PV solar and energy cogeneration and natural gas combined plants to industry automation and hybrid vehicles (EV). Some of the key factors of the emerging landscape are:

  • Centralization of emerging technologies: distributed energy resources (DER), virtual power plants (VPPs), and building energy management systems (BEMSs).
  • Multiple inputs and users, supporting two-way energy flows.
  • Multiplex market structures and complex business transactions.
  • Digitalization of the electro-mechanical infrastructure.
  • Market liberalization with adapted regulation for a shifting electricity generation mix.

More to Come…

As the digitization process is blurring the industry boundaries, new consortia are being formed to provide integrated customer solution to the energy industry. The digitization process is a product of continuous innovation, most of which lies beyond our actual purview. Due to its limited application and expensive measurement, the technology is not yet fully optimized even in the most advanced states in the world.

To realize its full potential, concerted and holistic effort should be made from state and regional level. As for an ideal integration of energy cloud, the energy leaders should initiate an engaging vendor ecosystem for the digitization process. At the same time, a unique platform should be proposed for the unified application of the digitized energy cloud. This way, it will be able to help ideate how digitization can be successfully installed and integrated in the everyday life. Only then we will be able to adopt and realize the full potential of the application conducive to effectively meet the global goals.

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