Digitizing energy: how data can drive sustainability

The role of data in the drive for sustainability and decarbonisation was highlighted at a conference in London, writes Kelvin Ross

Fifty-four per cent of all energy produced is being consumed by industrial companies.”

So said Christoph Papenfuss, EMEA Regional Manager for software company OSIsoft, which manufactures real-time data technology called PI.

“And that 54 per cent is too much,” he added. “It is really important that we protect our environment. It is important that we, in our industrial companies, work towards a sustainable future.”

He told the OSIsoft EMEA Users Conference in London last month that in order to have any impact on this energy consumption, “we need to do something big”. And that ‘something big’, he said, was the digital transformation.

“People with data in their hands can really transform their world,” he stressed.

Papenfuss explained that “with the advent of the digital transformation, we have seen some major changes. We are now able to collect ever-more data – we are also able to collect it in places that we were not able to before. And we are also able to get more insights out of the data that we already have, using things like machine learning and predictive analytics.”

As an example, he spotlighted the work being done by US drone company AeroVironment. “They use drones, geospatial data and time-series data and mix it all up the keep renewable assets out in wild generating – really cool stuff.”

He also highlighted the work of US utility DTE Energy. It deployed new types of IoT sensors in its network, which resulted in a dramatic drop in power outages.

OSIsoft founder and chief executive Pat Kennedy said that the digital transformation was a “fundamental change in the business process”. He said the digital transformation has two axis: “One is the digitalization of the world, which we are seeing happen time and time again. But the surprising thing is that the digitalization of the world is not necessarily giving you that much value.” The value, he said, “comes is changing the way the fundamental business process works”.

The conference was later told that by 2020 there will be 20 billion internet-connected devices in the world.

Ronan de Hooge, chief software architect at OSIsoft, said: “Back in 2008 we were talking about a world where there was roughly five billion internet-connected devices. Today, we are at around nine billion. By 2020 that’s expected to grow to 20 billion. And the trend just continues to increase.”

And he stressed that all that data came in different forms: “We have a lot more heterogeneous systems. You have data that’s subject to ownership rules; it arrives at different frequencies and there’s latency involved. So it’s going to become much more complicated to take all those data sets and create a system where you can drive insights.”

de Hooge also outlined how currently mobile devices have systems that can store “hundreds of gigabytes. By 2030 we are expecting to see something that can contain up to 60 petabytes of data – a petabyte is about something like 200,000 DVDs-worth of data.”

He added that within the same timeframe, we will see analysis systems able to predict the weather two weeks’ in advance with 99 per cent accuracy.

But he stressed that “it’s not about data storage anymore – it’s about how we reshape that data; how we structure that data so that we can create meaningful insights. How do you bring all that data into one system and contextualize it and put it in a good structure where you can actually drive decisions.”

He also talked about a shift into industry of current home-based technologies. “What we are going to see in the next few years is consumer-based technologies – like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home – start to enter the industrial and enterprise software space. Because the expectations become the same.”

The conference heard from many power companies that have utilized OSIsoft’s technology to achieve significant gains in real-time and predictive asset monitoring.

These included Centrica, Uniper Technologies and Poland’s PKN Orlen.

Italy’s largest multi-utility company is another organisation using real-time asset monitoring software to boost efficiencies.

A2A is the country’s second largest producer of energy, with a mix that includes thermal, hydro, solar, cogeneration and waste to energy.

The company’s IT Production Manager, Emanuele Andrico, told the conference that utilising data has transformed it day-to-day operations.

“We can drill down information in a single portal. Technology helps us every day and supports us everywhere.”

Andrico said the challenge for A2A’s control centre was how to collect and manage data from hydropower plants that were 500 km away and only monitored locally.

“The problem was how to calculate real-time KPIs [key performance indicators],” he explained.

Utilising OSIsoft’s technology, A2A implemented a complete Hydro Portal to provide all the necessary data, KPIs and alerts to all hydropower plant personnel.

The Hydro Plant portal collects data from fields using standard interfaces, asset framework models and analytics and web reporting.

Now, said Andrico: “We can see the status of all our plants without any limits”.

At the conference, OSIsoft – which is part-owned by Mitsui and Softbank and headquartered in California – launched OSIsoft Cloud Services, a portfolio of services for storing, sharing and analyzing data with its PI System technology in the Cloud.

OSIsoft said that Cloud Services will allow existing PI System customers to more readily connect distributed facilities and assets to their existing PI System infrastructure or spin up new uses and applications for the PI System, such as predictive maintenance or leveraging PI System data for regulatory compliance.

Meanwhile, new customers will be able to experiment with collecting, storing and analyzing data with the PI System.

“Our customers are integrating cloud technologies, but they need to do so in a safe, secure manner. Reliability, security and data integrity are paramount,” said Martin Otterson, Executive Vice President of Customer Success.

“These new services are part of our strategy is to give our customers the ability to take advantage of the PI System anywhere – at the edge, across their enterprise, and in the cloud – so they can accelerate their digital transformation.”

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