Data – the currency of new times: what capital lies in smart energy?
Data, which have been increasingly named as the main currency of modern times in the public domain, have been gradually transforming many established organisations worldwide. Specialists underscore that data in the energy and public utility sectors have been creating many opportunities measured by benefits to both consumers and suppliers.
One of the key breakthroughs in the energy data field will soon hit Lithuania after massive introduction of smart meters and other transformative technologies necessary for the global smart grid. Data stored and distributed within this grid will have a knock-on effect on the development of progressive technologies.
Quality, comfort, efficiency, ecology
The key benefits of technologies developed on the basis of stored and distributed data are “services that ensure higher quality and life comfort, more efficient use of resources, and contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG),” explains Thorsten Heller, CEO of Norwegian company Greenbird Integration Technology, which provides a big data iPaaS, specifically designed for utilities.
The Norwegian company helps organisations to test new products with realistic simulated data in volume to transform services using more efficient and scalable data-driven technologies. According to Mr. Heller, accelerating the use of collected data from smart meters, various IoT sensors and other grid-connected devices including consumption, power quality, events and alarms, allows utilities to make informed decisions and enables innovation for a smarter grid.
Real-time analysis of this grid ensures not only that the energy flow is optimised, but also enables efficient supply-and demand-side management, opening up opportunities to build virtual power plants.
“Another big step in this process will be the introduction of 5G technology, which will cause a digital explosion and create exponential value through real-time data processing,” Mr. Heller claims.
A smart grid means a smart consumer
Gintarė Skorupskaitė, Data Analytics Project Manager at Energijos skirstymo operatorius (ESO), says that despite the fact that the final consumer of electricity cannot directly feel data exchange, the solutions this exchange provides significantly affect consumption habits. Data exchange enables the consumer’s role to transform from passive to active, using data visualisation; for example with in-home displays to promote sustainable behaviour in their decision-making process.
“Data exchange enables the emergence of new products and services that provide consumers with a more appealing form to monitor and plan their electricity consumption and identify saving opportunities, thus forming more efficient consumption habits. Countries that introduced smart meters a while ago have been reporting benefits of up to 5 per cent reduction in energy consumption, which primarily implies direct savings for the consumer,” notes Ms. Skorupskaitė.
According to ESO’s representative, in addition to direct savings, consumers also contribute to reduced carbon emissions and climate change mitigation.
“Yet in my opinion, the major benefit is the overall changing relationship between the supplier and the consumer, which starts acquiring the form of an active dialogue. Residents are encouraged to become active market participants, and opportunities open up for the formation of both a smart grid and a smart consumer,” Ms. Skorupskaitė is certain.
The head of Greenbird says all markets have been waiting for major transformation – new products will change consumer habits in such a way that consumers will eventually choose services corresponding to their lifestyle rather than a tariff (per kilowatt hour of electricity used).
“Smart metering will enable the creation of innovative services that are lifestyle driven based on their generated data or combined service packages, e.g. “21 degrees Celsius of comfort at home, or 100 kilometres of eMobility, or even data-enabled monitoring services that care for the elderly.” Besides, everyone will be able to prioritise sustainable service solutions.
It is also important that these data enable further development of higher quality services for the general public thanks to digitally empowered means to quickly resolve issues related to supply and demand or service disruptions,” says Mr. Heller.
While enumerating advanced solutions that are likely to become popular in the near future, Mr. Heller mentions multi-modal convergence of transport and energy. For example, car parking lots might be free for electric cars whose owners let the parking operator use their batteries as power storage.
According to the specialist, we will also see more micro- and nanogrids and devices operating outside the grid, which will enable various daily services in locations where these have not been possible in the past.
Benefits for the operator as well
Ms. Skorupskaitė states that the data of smart meters have a significant potential in both commercial and operational terms.
“The combination of smart meter features and other technologies, such as energy storage, stimulates the emergence of secondary electricity markets in which consumers may become suppliers to other residents,” the representative of ESO reveals.
Thus the door is opened to a wider integration of smart household devices. These devices may switch off or on, depending on the electricity market price, as well as stabilise service quality.
Therefore, efficient employment of data also provides benefits to the operator: gives opportunities to better control the grid and improve its balance, helps more accurately plan the future demand for electricity, identify the problem areas earlier, thus ensuring better protection of consumers against unexpected disconnection.
“The current electricity transmission grid faces a number of challenges in planning how to meet an increasing need to connect renewable energy sources; therefore, a better operational management of the grid will help ensure easier and more cost-efficient integration of these sources,” points out Ms. Skorupskaitė.
According to her, ESO is facing a major challenge to ensure proper processing, storage and integration of bulk data with other market participants. However, most European countries have already introduced smart meters; therefore, Lithuania is able to learn from others and use their best practice examples.
“We see one big challenge to all public utility businesses throughout Europe – it is data integration. A sustainable future depends on data, and businesses have to solve their integration problems in order to realise any pilot or business idea,” concludes Mr. Heller.