The introduction of electrical electricity as a widely available energy source during the latter half of the nineteenth century was instrumental in setting the foundations for the world we live in today. It brought about sweeping changes in industry, enabled the production of a range of new products and services, and completely transformed our lifestyle. It is difficult to conceive of what life would be like without it.
It is no surprise that numerous intelligent individuals are exploring more effective ways to generate and utilise energy, as there is considerable potential for development in this area. We are still heavily reliant on outdated and polluting power plants, our wasteful energy consumption is fuelling climate change, and our energy requirements are continually growing.
Given the current technological climate, it is only natural that scientists are turning to modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain to find solutions in the energy sector. These developments have the potential to revolutionise energy production, system maintenance, power grid management and residential consumption, by combining all of these factors together.
Let’s take a look at how they all influence the energy industry and pave the path for more efficient production, distribution, and consumption.
The use of AI to the energy industry
The incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the energy industry is a logical step given its increasing prevalence in other sectors. Energy operators, distributors, and consumers can all benefit from the potential of AI-powered platforms to gain insights into their own behaviour and the practices of others, potentially leading to a number of changes in the industry.
There are a few that stand out in particular:
- Efficiency in energy generation: The utilisation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the energy sector holds many potential advantages and there are already numerous examples of this in practice. For instance, the oil and gas industry could benefit from AI-driven adaptive controllers, which are capable of making optimisation recommendations based on an analysis of both historical and current data. Additionally, Chevron is already utilising AI to determine the most attractive locations for future well development. Furthermore, some AI programmes are in the works to help the wind and solar power industry by providing precise weather predictions, which could increase output in situations of lower wind or cloud cover.
- An Improvement in dispersion: Grid operators are now making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms to evaluate the various factors that influence electricity supply and consumption. These algorithms are able to predict energy demand, spot potential problems across the grid and generate recommendations to mitigate any weaknesses in the distribution line. In doing so, the algorithms take into account fluctuating demand, changing weather conditions, equipment failures and end-user energy input.
- Reduced wasteful use of resources: In recent times, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been employed to monitor and analyse energy consumption in homes. Verv’s energy-saving solutions go beyond existing smart meters and are designed to identify domestic appliances with the highest energy consumption and their associated costs. By making appropriate adjustments, Verv customers can potentially reduce their energy use by up to 10%.
- Better planning for scheduled upkeep: It is true that many industries have adopted the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for predicting equipment breakdown or failure that may occur due to normal operation. The energy industry is no exception, as AI can be used to generate improved maintenance plans by analysing data gathered from sensors placed strategically across the production and distribution network. Through this process, preventative maintenance can be undertaken on any part of the grid, thereby increasing its useful life and decreasing the risk of costly power outages.
- Independent manufacturing: It has been predicted by experts that eventually wind and solar farms could be constructed and operated without the need for human intervention, which would be a revolutionary application of Artificial Intelligence in the energy sector. This process could be further expedited, and the farms managed around the clock, if self-driving cars and AI robots were employed.
The Energy Industry and the Internet of Things
The term “Internet of Energy” (IoE) is often used to refer to applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the energy sector. This technology has the potential to enable greater efficiency and reduce wastage in energy systems worldwide. To realise this potential, IoT sensors and devices need to be strategically deployed throughout the electrical system. Two of the most promising areas of improvement are:
- Instantaneous response to fluctuating consumer demand: The issue of excessive energy waste across the electricity grid is a major concern in the power industry. To better monitor changes in energy usage, power plants could install Internet of Things (IoT) sensors in the distribution lines, as well as in residential and commercial properties. By doing so, they will be able to adjust output in advance of peak energy demands and avoid wasting energy from renewable sources, or risk causing power outages.
- Demand and supply in energy balance: As the Internet of Things (IoT) technology continues to evolve, more and more devices are being released with the potential to reduce energy consumption by users. Smart thermostats can be programmed to detect and adjust to a user’s preferences, while appliances like washing machines can be designed to only run when certain energy sources are available on the grid. Furthermore, modern refrigerators are capable of monitoring their own power consumption and alerting users when a set threshold is exceeded. All of these features work together to create a more efficient and stable energy demand from end users.
It is clear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions would not be achievable without the extensive use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. The data that is gathered from the sensors placed throughout the manufacturing and distribution processes, as well as in the devices used by the end consumers, is essential to the analysis that produces the AI-based enhancements. This emphasizes that more intelligent energy systems are created when a variety of cutting-edge technologies are incorporated together, rather than simply added together.
Using Blockchain Technology in the Energy Industry
Despite some people’s dismissal of blockchain technology as a trend which will eventually pass, and the perception of it as a complex technology which has no practical applications in the energy industry, a recent research report estimates that the value of blockchain applications within the sector could reach $25 billion by 2024 – a five fold increase from its present value. This demonstrates the potential for the energy industry to benefit significantly from the adoption of distributed ledger technology.
When we focus on the following, it’s easy to see why:
- Energy network security concerns: As the digitization of the nation’s power infrastructure grows more complex, energy providers are increasingly turning to blockchain technology as a way of managing the influx of data generated by the proliferation of IoT devices and Artificial Intelligence solutions. Utilizing blockchain’s distributed and encrypted ledger, providers can ensure that their collected data remains secure against any form of theft, alteration or tampering. This makes sense in the current digital climate, where providers need to be able to trust the security of their data.
- Development and deployment of microgrids: Microgrids are small-scale electricity networks that connect consumers who generate their own electricity from renewable sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, to the larger power grid. By leveraging blockchain technology, these microgrids could make it easier for those customers to recoup their investment by selling any excess energy, as well as providing quicker, more secure payments. The aim is to stimulate the uptake of renewable energy sources and the gradual decentralisation of the electricity sector.
- Advocating for renewable energy projects: Blockchain technology could be a game-changer for the energy industry, providing a range of benefits for businesses and investors alike. It could facilitate the development of more environmentally conscious projects, as well as create a platform for business owners to network with potential investors. For those looking to invest in renewable energy projects utilising blockchain technology, Greeneum offers an excellent option. Its primary goal is to ensure that worthwhile initiatives receive the funding they require, while all financial transactions are conducted transparently and with integrity.
- Commerce of refined goods has advanced in recent years. The complexity of reconciling the numerous transactions associated with trading oil and gas products requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders. This process can be significantly expedited if all agents had simultaneous access to a blockchain-based ledger, allowing for rapid and accurate reconciliation of information such as volumes and pricing. This, in turn, would result in more efficient supply chain management, allowing for improved operations.
Finally, a few words.
As the consequences of climate change become increasingly apparent and global population growth continues to drive up energy demand, there is a growing need for a more efficient energy system. In response to this, businesses are investing in advanced technology to improve their manufacturing and distribution operations, while consumers are being encouraged to alter their behaviour in the home.
As advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technologies are increasingly being harnessed to address the challenges we are currently facing, a range of exciting concepts and innovative ideas are coming to fruition. Whilst some of these concepts and ideas may still be in the early stages of development, it is clear that technology has the potential to provide solutions to even the most pressing issues, such as the global energy crisis.