How AI and Automation Are Impacting the Future of Energy
- October 25, 2018
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The fourth industrial revolution hinges on AI and automation technologies, many of which are poised to change the world as we know it. From driverless vehicles to AI-driven customer support systems, AI and automation are going to evolve modern industry — exactly why it’s being referred to as another industrial revolution.
Of course, the global energy industry is no exception thanks to disparate changes across the sector. For starters, consumers have begun to demand clean, environmentally friendly methods that cut down on carbon emissions. This desire presents an even bigger challenge for energy production, as some sources are weather-dependent, like wind and solar grids. Furthermore, there’s growing pressure to mitigate power and energy costs.
AI can help in many ways, from generating accurate forecasting and prediction models to controlling the green and renewable energy solutions at play.
Outage Prediction and Response
Energy demands fluctuate considerably, with peak times demanding a bigger supply of resources. This fluctuation highlights a unique, key issue with renewable energy sources — their inconsistency.
With wind turbines, for instance, if there’s less natural wind, there’s also going to be less power generated. The same is true of solar generation if the skies are cloudy and the sun is blocked out. This inconsistency could mean not enough power for a large grid, resulting in hundreds of homes without power and energy.
The opposite can be true as well. On particularly lucrative days, it’s possible for renewable energy systems to generate a surplus of energy beyond what's consumed. In this case, it’s important for someone to come up with a proper way to conserve and store the energy.
AI, big data and machine learning systems can be used to assess and predict such requirements with incredible accuracy. The idea is that the primary system can measure exactly how much energy is needed while conserving excess or even tapping into backup solutions. This process is referred to as “demand-side flexibility,” where the system might utilize stored backup power to make up for an increase in energy demands.
It can also help businesses manage pain points regarding energy usage and utilities. Imagine improved workflows and more streamlined energy management solutions, especially for meter verification and service-related paperwork.
Cybersecurity and Modern Protections
As the energy sector grows more reliant on innovative IT and technology solutions, the potential for cyber attacks and major vulnerabilities also grows. The last thing you want is a hacker breaking into an official electric grid and taking out power for half a country or more.
AI can be used to build a proper threat detection and response solution for dealing with imminent attacks. It becomes this eclectic task of the technology to support and maintain the entire ecosystem while also protecting it from outside parties. Machine learning can even offer the advanced and efficient support of improved decision-making. Over time, as the AI security solution deals with potential issues and prepares for new ones, it continues to grow, much like the human brain — hence why it’s often referred to as cognitive AI.
One way to cut down on energy consumption and build a more sustainable grid is to inform consumers and help them mitigate their energy usage as much as possible. IoT, or the Internet of Thing, is assisting in this regard, particularly through the adoption of smart home tech. Smart thermostats, for instance, replace conventional thermostats and offer a variety of convenience and efficiency solutions.
Nest and Ecobee thermostats are just a couple of the devices making an impact in this regard. They will learn a household’s habits over time and automatically adjust the air to meet the inhabitants' needs. For instance, it might turn the AC on when they're on their way home from work or shopping while turning it off once everyone is gone for the day.
This functionality can even be taken a step further to tap into the overall grid and consume energy for intensive processes only when prices are lower. Imagine only running a dishwasher or washing machine, for instance, when demand is low and costs are minimal. AI can help in this regard by both automating and controlling various systems. In fact, it’s already being used for devices like Nest and even Amazon’s Alexa to help consumers make smarter, more cost-effective decisions.
It Will Have a Profound Impact, That Much is Clear
AI and automation will also be used to optimize assets, maintenance and energy workflows. Other enhancements, of course, include the roll-out of self-healing grids, more reliable renewable energy solutions and fully scalable networks that can meet volatile demand patterns.
It’s this push, not just toward improved efficiency but toward completely optimized solutions, that forms the groundwork for the fourth industrial revolution. There’s no question about whether or not it will play a role in the modern energy industry, but instead just about how much. If potential solutions and use-cases are any indication, the future of energy requires AI.