Digitalisation is key to a sustainable energy system of the future
By Zheng Hui Jian
With global energy systems undergoing rapid and profound transformation, panelists spoke about the role of decentralisation, data analytics, and blockchain in the energy systems of the future.
The energy industry is undergoing a digital transformation as they strive to achieve the goals of decarbonisation, decentralised energy systems, and energy efficiency. The collection and analysis of data to provide insights will be critical to achieving these goals, as will building the relevant expertise to support digital transformation, said speakers at the first panel session of the Singapore - International Energy Agency (IEA) Forum held on 31 October.
Decentralisation and digitalisation
Mr Wong Kim Yin, Group CEO at SP Group, noted that energy systems will be increasingly decentralised in the future. The emergence of energy storage solutions, which can mitigate the problem of intermittency when it comes to using renewable fuel sources, will further facilitate the development of decentralised systems. A system that is decentralised can feature a number of “microgrids” – as opposed to one nationwide network - where the producers of power are able to interact directly with the consumer.
However, Mr Wong noted that such decentralisation and interconnection require digital technology that enables different equipment and systems to communicate with each other. “Without digitalisation you won’t be able to get the solar panel to talk to the battery,” he said.
The role of data analytics
Paul Maguire, CEO of ENGIE Asia Pacific, said that data analytics can provide value to customers by offering insights into their consumption patterns. These insights can in turn help them become more efficient in their energy use. This data flow is being fuelled by the increasing number of sensors being attached to different equipment and devices.
From an equipment manufacturer perspective, data analytics will allow for better predictive maintenance and fuel consumption efficiency, said Wouter Van Wersch, President & CEO of GE Asia Pacific and Vice-President, General Electric. Digital technology also improves productivity by enabling better production processes, such additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.
As digitalisation becomes more prevalent, however, it is imperative that companies build the digital expertise they require within ranks. Professionals such as data scientists are instrumental to transforming energy systems.
New financing models
Piyush Gupta, CEO and Director at DBS Group, commented that as energy systems become decentralised as a result of digitalisation, the scale and risks of energy projects that need to be financed will fall significantly. This will attract a greater number of financiers as these projects become more bankable. “When you reduce scale… you will find everyone flooding in and participation in these projects will be different,” he said.