Over the years, energy consumption has increased across the globe, and there is stress on utilities companies to fulfill them. According to the International Energy Agency, global energy consumption will increase by 37% by the year 2040. For several years, utilities businesses have only concentrated on fulfilling customer demands for water, gas, and electricity in various traditional and proven ways. The fast-evolving technology landscape, deregulation and privatizations, and stringent regulatory initiatives across the globe are challenging the traditional best practices of energy distribution. With a growing emphasis on sustainable energy solutions, the term “smart utilities” has gained prominence. What does it mean? How it is making an impact across the world? Stay tuned to know more.
A Brief Introduction to Smart Utilities
Smart Utilities is a term that implies effective utilization of technology to control and monitor energy flow across an ecosystem featuring producers, distributors and consumers. Nowadays, various smart technologies help ensure sustainable energy supply by minimizing losses, and ensuring high levels of quality, safety, and reliability across an ecosystem.
Drivers for Smart Technologies Across the Utilities Industry
Addressing various challenges and regulatory requirements in the following sectors is driving smart technology investments across them.
- Energy: There is a global demand for reducing carbon footprint by increasing the use of renewable energy, and improving the efficiency of energy distribution.
- Electric Power: With technology-driven innovations powering lives across the world, there is a huge demand for smart networks that can easily manage the power distribution, as well as regular fluctuations in the energy demand.
- Water: Managing water losses due to leaks, evaporation, or system failure, ongoing investments in water conservation infrastructure, and meeting increasing water demands are a few challenges in the water sector.
The various smart technologies produce huge streams of data that allow producers and other role players to identify problem areas and potential risks, mitigate operational challenges, maximize the value of investments, and above all – create better consumer experiences.
Three Trends in Utilities to Watch in 2019 and Beyond
The year 2019 is expected to be another interesting year for countries, regions, and companies that are embracing smart utilities. Here are the trends in utilities to watch across the globe.
1. Coal Usage will Continue to Decline:
As more coal- fired plants are now closing down, or switching to sporadic operations due to high operational costs. Air pollution caused by coal is also a major reason for this change, so coal usage is expected to further decline in 2019. This is why countries like the U.S. and China have already started replacing their coal-fired plants with gas plants.
2. Natural Gas Supply and Demand will Increase:
The natural gas has emerged as a new alternative to various fossil fuels such as coal and oil. The term natural gas is applicable to various gas mixtures featuring methane, which is a hydrocarbon. In recent years, various world governments and organizations have taken immense interest in promoting natural gas as a clean fuel. Their abundance in various regions across the world and availability at low costs are two major drivers for their growth. It has been noticed that countries like South Korea and Japan – after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster in 2011 – are clearly favoring natural gas over nuclear power, owing to several economic and environmental benefits that it offers. This trend will continue in 2019, and in the future, too.
3. Ongoing Commitments to Adopt Renewable Energy:
According to CDP, there are over 100 major cities including Oslo, Nairobi, Auckland, and Vancouver, which has confirmed of generating 70% of electricity from renewable energy sources. There are over 40 cities in the world that claim to utilize 100% renewable electricity, including Reykjavik, Basel, and Burlington. The IPCC 2018 report concludes that there will be bold commitments from corporations, cities, and countries to adopt renewable energy in this year.
Three Disruptive Technologies That Will Shape Utilities Sector in 2019 and Beyond
1. Internet of Things (IoT):
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, almost 30% of the energy is wasted in a commercial building. Thus, IoT technologies are being used to design innovative energy grids that help users use energy efficiently by minimizing their waste. IoT-driven smart meters have become requisites for several utilities companies because they allow users to track their regular energy consumption and make necessary measures to minimize the waste of energy. BI Intelligence has predicted that utilities companies can save up to $157 billion by the year 2035 by connecting IoT devices to their smart energy grids. Similarly, oil and gas companies are nowadays using IoT devices to understand the performance of their oil wells. Thanks to IoT devices, oil production has increased by 283% since the turn of the decade. The use of IoT devices in oil extraction sites will increase by 4.96 million by the year 2020 against 346,000 in 2015. Similar IoT impact has been noticed in the water industry, too.
2. Edge Computing and Fog Computing:
Edge computing in combination with IoT is helping utilities businesses to create new value for their businesses. Edge computing devices are helping utilities companies to strike a connection between their various infrastructure devices including alarms, temperature sensors, and more, as well as manage their data efficiently. They create a data repository locally and analyze the data from various IoT devices before sending to a centralized repository. For example, an oil platform in deep water is usually equipped with thousands of sensors. These sensors produce a huge volume of data, which may be difficult to process. This is where an edge computing technology may help. It utilizes a piece of hardware known as a gateway, which is positioned in the vicinity of IoT devices. This gateway will compile the data from sensors, analyze it with a software application, and send the report to a corporate cloud for storage. In the large smart energy grids, a huge amount of data is produced and it becomes difficult to process, analyze, or store the data in any of the cloud applications. This is where Fog Computing can help. It creates an environment where large data produced by smart meters can be collected and stored before transmitting to the cloud.
3. Real-Time Service Orchestration:
Data-driven agility has become a key driver of growth across all industries, including the utilities industry. As discussed before, a vast amount of data is generated in the utilities industry. However, it is seen that many utilities businesses do not know the right utilization of data, this is where many insight-delivering solutions can help. These solutions are being utilized by oil companies, power generation units, gas production and other businesses to exploit data for their business benefits. For example, the various insight-delivering solutions can be utilized by utilities to identify potential problems in their grids, field assets, and wells before they worsen. Similarly, data from smart grids, IoT assets, and SCADA enriched systems can provide insights in utilities demands. Acting on the information received, these businesses can streamline their back or front office services to address the market demand, and supply conditions.
To exploit the benefits the above-mentioned technologies, it is important that you work with a key market player who has experience, expertise, and resourcefulness to convert them into promising outcomes for your business. We at Bynry are passionate about helping companies in making utilities smarter by developing IoT Solutions for Energy Industry. Ask us how we can help you develop smart energy solutions.