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Data-driven decisions reshaping utilities

February 24, 2024 11:36 pm

Data-driven decisions reshaping utilities
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In this sea of data, the real challenge lies in extracting meaningful insights that enhance how we generate, distribute, and consume energy.

The power sector has more data than ever on nearly every process in its value chain. New technologies are helping make sense of all those details to provide competitive advantages. It is not a moment too soon, says David Thomason, sharing an insight into the sector with EPR Magazine.

Renewables now have a larger share of generation

Power has an essential role in today’s world. Renewables share of global electricity generation will exceed one-third by 2024. Depending on weather conditions, next year may be the first in which more electricity worldwide is generated from renewables than coal, according to International Energy Agency forecasts.

Meanwhile, emissions regulations are tightening and pressing power companies to make operations more efficient and improve reliability, resiliency, and safety in line with global net-zero commitments. Power majors have widely adopted smart grids, Internet of Things devices, advanced sensors and digital twins. With these tools, power plants are highly sensorised, continuously collecting and storing vast amounts of data daily.

However, aggregate data volumes are growing faster than ever. Scaled up, data from every industry and consumer process will reach 180 zettabytes by 2025, up from 64.2 zettabytes in 2020, according to Statista.

In the 21st century, data is the new gold

Yet, in this sea of data, the real challenge lies in extracting meaningful insights that enhance how we generate, distribute, and consume energy. Data needs to be mined, refined and moulded into shape like gold before it yields its true value. McKinsey research shows that just 20-30 percent of available data is being used in the power sector.

Now, advanced technologies are crucial in making sense of this data. From statistical analysis to machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, these tools and capabilities are helping power companies process, analyse, visualise, and interpret data efficiently for better decision-making.

Lay down a solid data foundation

The power sector understands data is key to overcoming and tackling complex market challenges. Cloud-based data management systems can help organise, archive and contextualise data from various sources. Such systems complement the physical infrastructure and serve as a foundation or single source of truth for all operations data. With access to this single digital thread, users across an organisation can analyse extensive operational data in context from edge to enterprise.

Detect and correct anomalies across the value chain

Reliable, on-demand power requires a stable grid, but pressures for more sustainable practices are rising. Predictive analytics solutions can put operations data to good use. By leveraging historical and real-time data, predictive analytics algorithms help anticipate future demand, supply fluctuations, and potential grid instabilities. This enables utilities to take proactive and preventive measures to ensure reliable supplies. The technology also supports predictive maintenance practices, so equipment failures can be detected in advance, slashing downtime, optimising asset management and using fewer resources, leading to improved cost and sustainability impacts.

Get a holistic view of enterprise operations

Different types of data are being collected across the power and energy sectors. Besides engineering and operations, such data can come from financial and enterprise sources and external suppliers and partners. Modern technology solutions such as a Unified Operations Center (UOC) can integrate these sets into a holistic picture for complete end-to-end visualisation and unlock faster returns on investment.

Leverage insights for competitive advantage

As the power industry continues transforming at many levels, operators must become more resilient, reliable and efficient. The value of insights becomes even more critical in these situations, empowering the power sector to adapt to evolving challenges, such as climate change, increasing energy demand, and regulatory requirements, while paving the way for a greener, more efficient, and interconnected energy future.

Data-driven insights can be a competitive advantage that helps companies navigate the rapidly changing market with agility.

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