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Real-Life Lessons for Thriving in the Energy Transition

The U.S. is assembling a new power grid infrastructure—and not a moment too soon. The need for dynamic new approaches in the power and utility sector has never been more urgent. New kinds of distributed green energy sources together with an increasing number of extreme weather events are putting traditional systems under increasing strain. And with public sentiment building toward achieving net-zero carbon targets, a nationwide transition to cleaner—and more efficient—grids is underway.

It’s a drastic reimagining of the century-old power sector. Reducing carbon emissions while maintaining reliable power supplies requires no less, and it’s little wonder that the industry has pivoted toward sustainability. In part, these new developments are being incentivized by proactive legislation all over the world.

Support for Greener and More Productive Utilities

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—also called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—is now the single biggest climate policy in history, with the Department of Energy (DOE) funding opportunities to accelerate energy transition. Programs like Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) aim to foster innovation and public-private partnerships for clean energy deployment and grid improvement. Nearly $400 billion in funding has already been released under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, transforming the U.S. energy landscape with forward-looking investments.

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That’s in line with global trends. From the UK and the European Union to Australia and Japan, policymakers are spearheading initiatives aimed at modernizing power infrastructure to meet the dual objectives of environmental stewardship and energy security.

Digital technologies are central to this sectoral transformation. Advanced modeling and simulation software, along with digital twins, are helping optimize and accelerate the design, construction, and operation of renewable energy projects. At the same time, smart grid solutions incorporating hybrid-cloud architectures, artificial intelligence (AI)-enriched analytics, predictive maintenance, process optimization, and other advanced digital technologies enable energy operators to extract maximum value from existing traditional power-generating assets, in terms of lower operations and maintenance costs and greater productivity. Digitalization often results in cost savings, giving utilities an opportunity to redirect money into green investments, further supporting America’s green economy.

Digital Transformation at Work Across America

Across America, utilities and power producers are already unlocking the benefits of this digital transformation.

How Outage Alerts Support Remediation for Minimal Interruptions.An example of this digital transition at work is DTE Energy. Teams at the 12th-largest utility in the U.S. used to spend hours figuring out where grid disruptions occurred and where repair crews were required. Now, with an AVEVA data management platform, DTE has automated fault reporting and has better visualization of where outages occur. Within five minutes of supply interruptions, the system sends email and text alerts to crews in the field with detailed maps and directions to the damaged assets. The result? DTE has reduced outages by 500,000 minutes per year, assuring power availability for more than 2.3 million customers.

Boosting Reliability and Efficiency. Power players must innovate while avoiding risk in a highly regulated industry. Dominion Energy, an electric services company in the southeastern U.S., uses a cloud-based data platform to aggregate and analyze high volumes of historical and real-time high-fidelity data from many sites within a single interface. These insights have improved reliability and efficiency of its plant operations to the extent that 42 potential equipment failures were identified and prevented in just one year. Dominion has also gained a new revenue stream. By providing customers with data on their use of renewable power sources, it enables them to demonstrate their sustainability credentials to regulators and stakeholders.

Integrating Data Sharing to Create a Digital Ecosystem for Solar Energy.Creating a renewable energy value chain is a complex business, involving power producers, purchasers, schedulers, and other business partners—all before the electricity reaches consumers’ wall sockets. In California, energy consulting firm ZGlobal and the Silicon Valley Clean Energy utility have brought these players together within a connected ecosystem around a single digital source of truth. This holistic value chain visibility gives all parties authorized access to the datasets they need on demand, while enhancing security and reducing time-consuming system administration. While the solar facility avoids 315,000 metric tons of CO 2 emissions per year, the digital ecosystem saves thousands of dollars in power purchases annually. Data transparency, collaboration, and trust have increased among all the parties in the value chain.

Digital Solutions for a Cleaner Energy Future

As these examples show, the path to a zero-carbon future is paved with opportunities for those utilities and power producers that are willing to innovate and adapt to new ways of operating—even in the traditional energy business. In December, the global community pledged to triple the world’s installed renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030. The environment in which utilities operate is changing rapidly and to achieve this goal, the industry must adapt to those changes at a historic pace with a new grid infrastructure.

To ensure that supplies are secure and resilient, utilities will increasingly depend on digital solutions. Through strategic investment, innovation, and collaboration, we can build a more reliable, resilient, and cleaner energy future.

Sue Quense is Chief Commercial Officer with AVEVA.

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