HomeDigitalizationAutomationIs AI the key to unlocking a faster energy transition?

Is AI the key to unlocking a faster energy transition?

A new study, published by the World Economic Forum, posits that “artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to accelerate a more equitable energy transition and build trust for the technology throughout the industry”.

Written in collaboration with BloombergNEF and the German Energy Agency, Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) –Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate the Energy Transition reviews the state of play of AI adoption in the energy sector, identifies high-priority applications of AI in the energy transition and offers a road map and practical recommendations for the energy and AI industries to maximize AI’s benefits. 

According to the report, AI could create substantial value for the global energy transition. BNEF’s net-zero scenario modelling shows that every 1% of additional efficiency in demand creates $1.3 trillion in value between 2020 and 2050 due to reduced investment needs. AI could achieve this by enabling greater energy efficiency and flexing demand. 

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Roberto Bocca, head of energy, World Economic Forum, said: “AI is already making its mark on many parts of society and the economy. In energy, we are only seeing the beginning of what AI can do to speed up the transition to the low-emissions, ultra-efficient and interconnected energy systems we need tomorrow.

“This report shows the potential and what it will take to unlock it – guided by principles that span how to govern, design and enable responsible use of AI in energy. Governments and companies can collectively create a real tipping point in using AI for a faster energy transition.”

High priority applications of artificial intelligence can accelerate the transition to a low-carbon energy future 

(1) Identifying patterns and insights in data to increase efficiency and savings: It is estimated that between $92 trillion and $173 trillion investment in energy infrastructure will be needed between 2020 and 2050. Even single-digit percentage gains in flexibility, efficiency, or capacity in clean energy and low-carbon infrastructure systems can therefore lead to trillions of dollars in value and savings.

(2) Coordinating power systems with growing shares of renewable energy: As electrification increases across sectors, the power sector is becoming the core pillar of the global energy supply. Ramping up the deployment of renewable energy will create a need for better forecasting, greater coordination, and more flexible consumption due to the intermittent nature of solar and wind.

(3) Managing complex, decentralised energy systems at scale: The low-carbon energy transition is driving the growth of distributed power generation, distributed storage, and advanced demand response capabilities. Enhanced orchestrated and integrated into networked, transactional power grids will be vital.

Navigating these opportunities presents huge strategic and operational challenges for energy-intensive sectors and energy systems themselves. AI has the ability to identify patterns and insights in data, “learn” lessons accurately and improve system performance over time, and predict and model possible outcomes for complex situations. 

Recent efforts to deploy AI in the energy sector have proven promising but innovation and adoption remain limited. AI holds far greater potential to accelerate the global energy transition but it will only be realized if there is greater AI innovation, adoption and collaboration across the industry. To address this, the white paper establishes a set of principles to help industry govern and scale AI technology in a rapid, safe and fair manner.

The nine principles cited in the report aim to build industry trust in AI technologies so that they can play a greater role in the energy transition. Companies and policymakers must play an active role in governing and shaping the use of AI in the energy sector, establishing best practices for responsible deployment, and creating an enabling environment to unlock the full potential of AI technologies. 

Andreas Kuhlmann, Chief Executive Officer, dena, said: “As dena, we have been focusing on digital technologies for years. Especially with our ‘Future Energy Lab’ we are boosting Artificial intelligence projects AI is an essential technology for the energy transition since it will provide the glue to connect the different sectors (power, heat, mobility and industry) and serve as digital technology to effectively monitor systems and processes. To efficiently control the energy system of the future, which will be very volatile due to renewable energies, such agent-based control will play an overarching role.”

Jon Moore, Chief Executive Officer, BloombergNEF, also commented: “One of the key findings from our workshops was that whilst we could identify many tangible opportunities for AI in the energy transition, there was a real need for a set of common guiding principles to make these opportunities scalable.

“These principles should ideally create a framework that enables multiple stakeholder groups to work together effectively, on a pre-defined set of activities from governance, to design, to enabling infrastructure. They will enable us to move past the many ‘proofs of concept’ projects towards successful large-scale implementation of solutions.”

Access the Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate the Energy Transition report.