Why data offers a bright spark in the future of the energy industry

IIoT, digital substation, data, IOT asset management, field operations

By Mark Jobbins, Chief Technology Officer, Asia Pacific & Japan, Pure Storage

It almost goes without saying that the energy sector is going through a lot of change. With ageing coal generators being phased out of the market, over 93 per cent of investment since 2012-13 has been in renewable energy sources including wind and solar plant. As the market transitions, this has raised operating costs that have been passed onto customers in the form of rising energy bills.

On top of rising costs, traditional energy providers face fierce competition among agile new players and customers themselves with new technologies such as blockchain being used to decentralise energy generation and distribution. This has allowed consumers to supply or exchange energy among themselves via peer-to-peer energy trading platforms. 

To minimise costs and maintain customer satisfaction, leading energy providers have sought to embrace technical disruption to boost outcomes and innovation through investments that create value to stakeholders from the ground up.

But where will this disruption take us?

The future of the energy industry will have data at its core. With data set to reach 175ZB by 2025, the sector will not be able to escape its rise. The federal government agrees, with an investment of more than $20 million made last year to build ‘an ongoing capability for cutting-edge data analytics that will improve energy forecasting and planning by unlocking the mysteries of Australian energy behaviour as we move towards an energy efficient future.’

The energy industry has much to gain from data. With growing decarbonisation and decentralisation of energy grids, data enables the real-time management of infrastructure and better demand forecasting.

At the same time, data provides the grounds to make accurate predictions when it comes to understanding asset management and resource planning. Many energy providers are now looking towards emerging technologies such as IoT for instance to better monitor and maintain existing assets by leveraging the data and insights generated.

Not having this visibility through data means organisations cannot predict when an asset may fail and thus need maintenance. This reactive maintenance is costly and subsequently impacts customers.

The end-goal is of course improving operational integrity and saving millions (or even billions) of dollars in time and resources. Together, the opportunities presented by data make it one of the most valuable resources to the energy sector.

With the inevitable rise of data – which will continue to grow in variety, velocity, and volume – the energy industry needs to focus on the safeguarding and storage of its most critical resource. Without the foundations laid, organisations in the field will struggle to take advantage of new tools and technologies that drive competitive advantage.

Energy providers must seek to have the infrastructure in place that provides them with operational reliability and confidence, whilst covering basics like reducing capital expenditure. Fundamentals like data compression and speed, alongside the ability to deal with multidimensional workloads and mission critical loads, will be essential to make competitive gains in the future.