As we mark Earth Day 2015 today, consider:
- Global energy use is projected to skyrocket 53 percent by 2035, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
- The EIA also reports subsidies for renewable energy sources could reach $250 billion by 2035, with half of the new capacity on the grid expected to come from clean energy.
- Meantime, the average energy bill will jump by a whopping 400 percent by 2050 if smart grids aren’t deployed — or by 50 percent if they are, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.
Energy and utility organizations need to transform and rethink how they best use their operations and networks. They need to assume the role of energy integrator by effectively joining traditional and alternative energy sources, while delivering an engaging mobile and social customer experience. Smarter energy systems could cut billions in operating costs, slash the need to build more capacity, help detect and respond to problems more quickly and integrate electric vehicles and renewable energy more effectively onto the grid.
Some utility companies have already started using analytics to unlock the patterns and correlations hidden in the data to apply new insights to improve their operations. By applying advanced analytics to smart metering, asset management and operational data, utilities can develop forecasting models, have better insight into asset health and risks, and deploy their workforce faster to address issues.
Analytics delivered on the cloud can help energy companies capture what their workers know and augment that knowledge to generate conclusions and recommendations based on data.
By using built-in analytics, utilities can see comprehensive information about each of their assets, such as history, maintenance records and operating condition data. This information can be combined in new ways to provide insights to help improve planning, construction, operations and maintenance practices. Such innovations will help utilities shift from traditional and costly time-based asset management, where network repairs are done on schedule regardless of how much useful life is left in an asset, to a more informed reliability-based approach of making repairs when they are actually needed.
While not obvious to a casual observer, the utility industry has always relied heavily on technology. In fact, utility and energy companies were some of the early pioneers in use of the Internet of Things, communications networks, and large-scale customer information and billing systems. Use of big data and analytics to lower costs and provide better customer service means that applications that were once impossible to imagine are now possible to provde.. The trend of using big data is only the beginning of further transformation for utilities and energy companies.
Brad Gammons is General Manager of the Energy & Utilities Industry at IBM.
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