Electricity pylons against a sunrise sky with digital imagery

A bit of green energy: Digital trends in the energy sector

The digital transformation of the electricity sector is more far-reaching than that of the other sectors, entailing a potential to change our world. A digitalised energy system can deliver three outcomes: improved efficiency, deep decarbonisation of our energy system and customer empowerment

Digital efficiency

As in other sectors, there is scope to digitalise each aspect of the value chain, improving efficiency, streamlining existing processes and cutting out redundant steps and actors. These changes will unlock efficiency gains, with potential to change the energy landscape. For example, until recently, the most effective traders had the biggest portfolios and the best information. Now, data is accessible, and traders compete on the quality of their algorithms. 

Digital technologies include new sources of data and communications, improved tools to analyse and visualise information and support decisions, and automation and control. The future digitalised system will allow decisions to be taken and executed autonomously, based on a wide range of uncontrolled data sources; and (cyber) security protocols must adapt to this new decentralised and autonomous reality.

How digitalisation is impacting the way we do business

These technological advances mean that parts of the value chain will be opened up to new players, by removing natural synergies or barriers to entry. Digitalisation will provide the tools to intelligently manage demand (and supply) from electrified buildings and vehicles, leading to a proliferation of new business models. In particular, platform businesses are likely to emerge, which connect large numbers of suppliers and consumers, but do not own the underlying infrastructure.

Case study: In power generation, predictive maintenance uses sensor data and advanced analytics to predict problems before they happen, avoiding time-consuming, preventative maintenance and reducing the risk of costly failures. Together with Nokia and Infosys, AFRY is working on the predictive maintenance system KRTI, using RAMS engineering principles to target analysis to adds most impact. AFRY is helping many companies to manage their digital transformation. Our AFRY Digital Use Case Approach allows companies to prioritise and collaborate on their digital initiatives.

Decarbonisation

A fundamental change is underway in the energy sector. Our centralised power systems, developed over the last century, are being decarbonised, which in turn allows for the transformation of heating, transport and process industries. The need for flexibility is growing, as renewables replace conventional power generation. Future networks will not be over-sized but instead managed effectively, with congestion management becoming normal even at distribution voltage levels. Future providers of flexibility will include micro-scale resources which must be integrated digitally.

Author and contact

Stephen Woodhouse

Director, AFRY Management Consulting
Green digital "on" button

AFRY Insights - Winter 2020/21

Introducing our latest edition of AFRY Insights magazine, which focuses on the energy transition and features fresh insights from AFRY Management Consulting experts as well as inspiring interviews with our Head of Sustainability, Marie Trogstam, and Anja-Isabel Dotzenrath, CEO of RWE Renewables