It appears that after a number of false starts energy companies are firmly transitioning away from fossil fuels and adopting more sustainable forms of energy production and consumption. Renewables’ share of the power generation mix is set to rise by over a third by 2025. Whilst a major catalyst has been the increased customer demand for renewable energy, another has been the emergence of innovative technologies that have facilitated the change. Software, in particular, is playing a significant role in how the industry has been able to build the systems and processes necessary to clean up its act. But what are the key areas and what changes are we likely to see in 2024?
The catalyst to change
On its path to net-zero, innovative software is facilitating everything in the energy industry from providing an end-to-end connected journey, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. However, it is in the areas of solar, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps that it is perhaps being seen the most.
It is no surprise that the solar market continues to scale rapidly worldwide. After all, there are not many IT stack incumbents to circumvent. However, the solar installation process itself is still complex. Therefore, it was necessary for a host of software solutions to emerge to digitise the solar lifecycle from site selection to ongoing maintenance. Central to this has been those that ensure that the solar farms themselves are placed in the optimum locations in the first place.
Rapidly rising in popularity, EVs are projected to represent the majority of new car sales by the end of the decade. Software is already touching every aspect of the value chain, from battery analytics, to charging, to fleet electrification. Yet, in 2024 there will likely be even more solutions launched that build on top of existing charging offerings to provide intelligent billing and payment solutions that strengthen the ecosystem.
The recently announced £10 million that the UK Government is making available through the Heat Pump Ready Programme to support innovation in the sector will drive the sector forward in 2024. Software will be core to this as could be used to facilitate heat pump design, speed up proposal creation, and improve the time it takes for contractors to assess a home’s readiness for heat pumps.
Better forecasting thanks to AI
Like most other industries, the energy sector is increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline mundane tasks and reduce the propensity for errors. The latter is particularly important in the energy industry as the ramifications of an error can be catastrophic.
AI and machine learning is particularly effectively on the forecasting side where huge datasets reside. Whereas with fossil fuels demand used to be the variable, supply was relatively constant. However, with renewable energy it is the other way round. Data breeds insight. This is imperative as
a windfarm is not particularly useful without wind and a solar farm is not especially useful without the sun. Therefore, optimum weather forecasting is imperative so that energy suppliers can make informed decisions and load balance the network effectively.
Data is driving accountability
Data is also driving accountability. In the past, certain suppliers were guilty of using deceitful marketing gimmicks to exaggerate their environmentally friendly actions. However, consumers are remarkably savvy. This has meant those suppliers have recognised the need to leave such ‘greenwashing’ behind and become more accountable.
They have faced difficulties, though. Energy has become increasingly decentralised as it has become decarbonised. Therefore, ensuring complete energy genealogy throughout the supply chain has been difficult. Thankfully, technology such as Internet of Things (IOT) sensors is now being used to facilitate accountability by collecting energy data from a whole host of distributed devices to prove that the energy generated is from the renewable sources it claims.
As data becomes more prevalent and accessible in 2024, energy management solutions will become more precise and amplify the benefits customers can derive from renewable energy. They will be able to save on energy costs, whether by procuring energy from the cheapest supplier or facilitating energy use when rates are cheapest.
The technology will take many forms
The industry’s combined move towards net zero has led to a need for software to both optimise physical asset performance and increase the accountability of the supporting energy ecosystem. So much so, that many legacy oil and gas service providers themselves now view themselves as technology service providers. For example, just last year oilfield services giant Schlumberger rebranded itself as a digital services provider and supporter of cleaner energies.
Whilst the technologies needed to address our energy challenges will take many forms – whether that be using AI to better forecast the weather or using IOT sensors to provide the intelligence to optimise delivery – there is no doubt that it has become the key enabler to the green energy revolution.