Author: Lucian Anghel, Founder and CEO, EnergyPal-TimePal Romania and Facilities Management Services
Energy efficiency is important for companies in many fields of activity: industrial production, distribution and logistics, construction, and real estate, etc. The performance of energy efficiency depends on the quality of the equipment used, but also on the ability to maintain them in good working order, and here digital technologies and sensors are helpful.
Another important factor, but not least, is the existence of a rational energy management policy that results from the management open to the implementation of specialized energy services with expertise in this sector and, very important, with the analysis of energy consumption processes, indicating and highlighting the deficient points, the distributor – supplier – final consumer relationship.
In 2020, in all remaining sectors, the situation generated by the global pandemic stimulated creativity, digitization, and the creation of new services. So, what can we expect to see in the energy sector in 2021?
#1 Customer focus becomes essential
In an economic environment with a marked evolution of uncertainty, customer focus will be essential to attract and retain customers and, ultimately, to ensure a healthy business. People have become accustomed to high-quality digital services in most other areas of their lives, and their expectations for transparency and flexibility are now much higher. As a result, customers are becoming more likely to switch energy suppliers, especially after the liberalization of the electricity market for household consumers. The needs of all end users are also evolving. For example, increasing the number of electric vehicles, private solar panels, and heat pumps create a need for integrated solutions, products, and services. It is time for electricity suppliers to focus on the customer who is at the heart of every decision and meet them by providing technical support services such as overhauling air conditioning equipment and installing related equipment such as smart homes.
#2 The Internet of Things and the Smart Grids
More efficient operation of electricity supply networks as well as smart grids is a key element in transforming the energy sector. The Internet of Things (IoT) and asset monitoring sensors, inspection drones, or satellites used in this field produce a lot of data. Sharing this data with all stakeholders and using it to find the right answers to efficiency questions will be essential to make networking more resilient, flexible, and sustainable. Also, the use of Data Analytics technology to extract relevant correlations from the huge amount of data generated in the energy and utilities sector brings information related to customer usage patterns. This information enables demand forecasting and efficient energy management, but can also help prevent fraud, reduce losses, improve compliance with regulatory requirements and improve customer service. At the same time, the introduction of Blockchain technology will allow traceability of energy supply and its mode of production from renewable sources. Using data in this way will increase user satisfaction and help companies turn data into money.
#3 Smart Meters – Dynamics between manufacturers and consumers
The interaction between manufacturers, consumers, and network providers is becoming closer. In recent years, the number of people who are both producers and consumers of energy (eg homeowners and industrial installations with roof photovoltaic panels) has increased. Each prosumer is a potential energy manager who has to work with electricity producers and suppliers, and their impact increases with their number. But with an increasing number of “micro-entities” in the system, how can energy companies consider their input when production and demand are still so volatile? Smart meters are showing their value here because they help reduce the gap between consumers, producers, and energy suppliers. Consumers get an overview of their consumption profile and can detect the potential for savings by changing routines or adapting infrastructure. For electricity manufacturers and suppliers, smart meters provide information about user behavior and thus establish the basis for responding to large-scale demand. The backbone of this transformation is a smart grid that “thinks” predictively and provides market-based recommendations on when to store, sell, transform or consume energy. Smart metering is the basis of all energy efficiency projects, and currently, by introducing the mandatory European legislation to install only smart meters, this impact will increase and result in energy efficiency.
#4 Automatic Energy Management and the Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Data analytics solutions provide the real-time analysis needed to optimize operational performance and decision making. Because of the shorter delivery times on the market, the focus on energy management shifts from long-term planning to allowing an almost real-time response to change. This requires highly automated bidding and delivery processes, but also large volumes of data and artificial intelligence for forecasts, both for energy companies and for companies working in energy-intensive sectors. The increasing adoption of cloud platforms in the energy and utilities sector is expected to have a positive impact on market growth. However, the market faces major data security challenges as well as privacy issues. Some energy companies do not have data analytics expertise and are struggling to integrate new software solutions into their legacy IT architecture. To balance these factors and adapt to market requirements, energy companies need to invest and increase their IT skills.
#5 The evolution of hardware and digital technologies
Hardware and digital technologies will begin to co-evolve, both needing each other to provide the necessary impact in terms of efficiency and resilience. Traditionally, energy has been an industry with a strong emphasis on physical processes. Improvements in hardware technology, machinery and equipment, and how to operate them will be just as important in the future but will not be enough to make a difference. Energy companies that want to become more efficient will also have to focus on the digital transformation side. Data analysis with high-performance software will be needed to support future improvements in electricity generation, distribution, and consumption.
#6 Authorized energy service contracts
The appeal to companies providing authorized energy services has shown in recent years its usefulness through energy management and audit adopted at the company level which is aligned with the law of energy efficiency, thus succeeding in implementing, complementing European energy policies. These contracts have led to the implementation of essential measures, such as smart metering, a measure that gives the mirror of consumption and the profile of the final consumer, financing options implementation of efficiency measures, centralized analysis in dispatching monitoring, prevention, and energy management in a way efficient.
To keep up with the continuous changes and technological evolution, energy companies but also large consumers will have to focus on technology and digital skills. They will need to invest, gain knowledge, and join the competition for well-qualified IT experts. The good news is that they don’t have to do everything themselves. Experienced energy efficiency partners such as EnergyPal can help both energy companies and industrial users build a resilient business and thrive in an ever-changing environment.